Launching our 2nd Community Call Out!

A Community Call Out is what we use to hear from the community. 
In 2021 we discussed with our community how the law centre should best be responding to their needs as a result we’ve been able to develop as a law centre and in 2023 we need to hear from our community so we can continue growing with the community we serve. 

What is a law centre?

“Law Centres have existed since the early 1970s and work within their communities to defend the legal rights of local people. Specialising in social welfare law, they have an in-depth knowledge of the issues communities face. They use this knowledge to help people save their homes, keep their jobs and protect their families.” 

What is South West London Law Centres? 

The first law centres in south-west London were founded in 1974, by local people with a shared vision that everyone should have access to legal advice and justice – regardless of income.
In 2004, four law centres in Battersea, Croydon, Kingston and Tooting joined together to create South West London Law Centres. Since then our team has given vital legal advice to many 1000s of residents. Our current office spaces exist in Croydon, Merton and Wandsworth, and you can also find us in community spaces across south west London. 

As we approach our 50th year supporting the south west London community we want to ensure that we are fighting injustice where ever possible and working with the community to make this possible.
Please would you share your views and ideas with us.

If you would like to know how we have and continue to put into action all the things that were shared with us in our 2021 survey you can click in this link.:

We are grateful for views and ideas shared with us to help increase the community access to justice. 
If there are any sections you feel are not relevant to you, please skip that question. Thank you. 

What you told us and we’ve created together

My name is Rhi. I am currently (2023) the Community Engagement Manager at South West London Law Centres. I started as the Community Engagement Manager for South West London Law Centres in July 2021, this was the first time the law centre had this type of role and it came from the law centre wanting to be more embedded in the community it serves in the ways that is needed by the community.

I had wanted to work for a law centre since I was a teenager and although had worked in the free legal advice sector for many years and worked closely with law centres this was the first time I was working within the law centre movement.

It is outrageous that so many of us are living in substandard situations and that we pay for the priviledge to endure them. We may pay to endure these situations through the taxes we pay that fund the systems that harm us, through the rent we pay that funds the housing that harms us or the servitude we give.

Access to justice is critical to push against the injustice that bind us.

At the end of 2021 the Law Centre asked our communities what they want and need from us. We called this a ‘Community Call Out’. It allowed us to ask different communities questions about whether they had heard of us, what the legal need was as they saw it in their community and how we as a law centre could respond to that need – beyond the 1:1 legal advice and representation that remained at the core of the law centre.

The top 3 things that the community wanted from us were:

Legal Education (informing people of their rights)

Know Our Rights Workshops

Leading Group Cases to Bring Change

As these were the top priorities identified by the community we set about putting these into action.

We worked with BPP Street Law and the community to select legal education and these workshops were delivered every few weeks based on what the community wanted to know their rights on. The sessions ranged from ‘our rights with stop and search’ to ‘our rights as renters’.

For the ‘Know Our Rights‘ workshops we devised a workshop that the community could request. As part of the workshop the Law Centre would ask the group that were requesting the workshop what are the main legal issues that are raised from the community. Sometimes this would be that people don’t want to open post, sometimes it may be severe damp and mould or once when the session was being delivered in a school an issue was school exclusion. The workshop helps people work out how to build and escalate their case.
By asking the community group what are the top issues it has also grown our understanding of how to respond to the need.

Leading group cases to bring change, there has been a lot of work going on in the background around this one. We’ve not only been partnering with other solicitor firms who are taking on group cases we have identified, we have also been working with Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) who have expertees in this area. We know this is a priority for our community and as we are establishing more ways to respond to this priority we look forward to bringing more systemic change.

When asking the community what they saw as the top issue impacting the community ‘housing’ was given the majority of the time. Temporary housing was also given as a sub issue. At the law centre we had also seen lots of people making requests to us for assistance that were in temporary accommodation. From identifying this need we were able to establish a temporary accommodation campaign project.

The latest forced poverty crisis has been called the ‘cost-of-living’ crisis. To respond to this constant crisis a project was created within the law centre where emergency advice and case work is offered to people who need supprot with bills and benefits. We also deliver ‘Know Our Rights’ workshops, campaign, lobby and influence decisions. We’ve been developing outreach locations across south west London to reach people in their areas and at the services they use such as Commonside Trust and Croydon Carers.

These are just some of the ways that we’ve been putting into action what you told the law centre you wanted last time we asked. So we can continue serving, please would you tell us how best to do that.
You can tell us by answering the questions found here.