In the first week of June, it was Volunteers Week 2021. We asked local Law Centres around the UK to spotlight the work and experiences of their volunteers. Law Centres rely on volunteers to staff their receptions, help clients fill in forms, give advice (with supervision) and campaign with them for changes to policy and law.
From local councillor at Vauxhall Law Centre, Diane Roscoe (who helped to create their successful bereavement support service) to students like Hoejong Jeong at Greater Manchester Law Centre (who works with them on their Access to Justice campaign), a wide range of people volunteer at Law Centres.
"As a law student, I strongly feel that campaigning for access to justice with GMLC is a way to achieve an accessible legal system for a fair and equal society. GMLC has ignited my passion to help others." - Hoejong Jeong, Greater Manchester Law Centre (GMLC)
Clare Rothwell was a newly qualified barrister when she started volunteering at Law Centre Northern Ireland, and now she works there as a Legal Officer in the social security team.
"I volunteered with the Legal Support Project at the Law Centre NI in 2014-2016, representing clients in social security and employment tribunals. I was a recently qualified barrister and volunteering gave me great client care and advocacy experience. I was mentored by passionate and supportive staff. This was the start of my journey in the social justice sector. I wanted to continue with this meaningful work for organisations providing free legal advice and representation to the most vulnerable people in society. Volunteering played a huge part in helping me find my career path.” - Clare Rothwell, Law Centre NI
Ilnta Tzepetziou also went on from volunteering to secure paid work at a Law Centre in South West London in their Immigration team.
"The experience I've got by volunteering has been really beneficial. It’s given me much more confidence in talking to people and dealing with clients. The work can be challenging, and you never know what situation you’ll have to deal with when you answer the phone, but it’s been hugely valuable and a great opportunity to learn from the team, who’ve really taken the time to explain things. I don’t think the same opportunity would have existed in private practice." - Ilnta Tzepetziou, South West London Law Centres
Roger Howard had just retired from working in the voluntary mental health sector when he joined the Greater Manchester Law Centre (GMLC) team. Greater Manchester Law Centre say: "His dedication, compassion, hard work and his willingness to go above and beyond for all his clients set him apart."
"In 2016, I started volunteering at GMLC form-filling for people with issues with their benefits. Filling out a long form is a daunting task, particularly for people with health needs. My experience has been very positive. I like the social contact and celebrating wins with clients. I've learnt a lot, and the team are really friendly and supportive, and knowledgeable about the detail of the benefits system, so I can always go to them for help." - Roger Howard, GMLC
Dan Scrase also volunteers at Vauxhall Law Centre, helping them to streamline their volunteer recruitment process, assist with their debt service and call clients for feedback. Vauxhall Law Centre say: "His positivity and attention to detail has helped improve many aspects of our services for our clients."
"Joining a team so passionate about community justice has been inspiring. The thirst for change and improvement has been encouraging and I feel I can genuinely make a difference." - Dan Scrase, Vauxhall Law Centre
Thank you to all the volunteers across the Law Centres Network for your continued hard work!
You can find out more about volunteering opportunities at your local Law Centre here.