Total raised £1,030

 
Gift Aid
+ est. £45.00
£20,000 target 26 days left
5% 4 supporters
Support
Flexible funding – this project will receive all pledges made by 13th June 2024 at 2:08pm

Poverty levels continue to grow in Norfolk. Our project aims to help people find a way out of their ongoing financial problems.

by David Powles in Norwich, England, United Kingdom

 donated match funding
Aviva Community Fund is providing live match funding

“I can't thank you all enough, you've given me hope for a future.”

“Thank you for being the good in an otherwise awful situation, I will forever appreciate the help and kindness shown by everyone involved in the process, from the original phone call to the meeting itself.”

“The service was excellent the people I dealt with were helpful, informative and very friendly. You should all be very proud of yourselves and the service you provide.”

“I would like to take this opportunity to once again say thank you to the family team for your help, support and attendance in these court proceedings - it has been a major help for me.”

These are just four of the many positive testimonials received by Norfolk Community Law Service in the past few months.

The impact of what we do is proven. We make a real difference to the lives of those we help. However, more people than ever before need to access our services.

In the past year NCLS helped give life changing advice, guidance or support to 4,512 people across Norfolk.

Finding the funds to keep up this work is proving increasingly tough - and that's where we need your help!

Could you donate a few pounds to help those Norfolk families struggling to be heard, represented and supported during the toughest moments of their lives?

David Powles

CEO, Norfolk Community Law Service

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What we do?

Two thirds of the UK population don’t know how to get legal advice, and there are still 14 million people who live in poverty and can’t afford it.  NCLS exists to help such people in Norfolk to have their voice heard. 

Legal problems can happen to anyone.  They might have been unfairly dismissed from their job, had their benefits cut, are not being allowed to see their children, or are being harassed by a former partner.  

Legal Aid was slashed in 2013, leaving anyone unable to pay for a lawyer to navigate the system alone and to represent themselves at court or tribunal.  This is challenging even for a highly educated and confident person; for a vulnerable person it can be impossible.  Even when someone in very specific circumstances does qualify for Legal Aid, so few firms in Norfolk now offer it that there is not enough capacity to meet demand

Norfolk Community Law Service (NCLS) is a registered charity which has been operating in Norfolk for over 40 years. We aim to provide access to justice and equality and work with partner agencies to identify gaps in provision and develop free social welfare legal advice services to meet that need. We particularly target our services at disadvantaged & vulnerable groups e.g. those on low incomes, people with physical disabilities and mental health issues, offenders, ex-offenders, migrant workers, other BAME groups.

Our services include -

  • free legal initial advice - employment, family & general issues  
  • debt advice for vulnerable clients
  • welfare benefits advice and representation at appeals Tribunals 
  • legal advice for victims of domestic abuse  
  • immigration advice, including EU Settlement Scheme  
  • family court support service for cases concerning child contact  

For the last few years, we have seen increasing numbers of clients affected by the cost-of-living crisis, zero hours contracts, low incomes, welfare benefit cuts, high rents, etc, meaning that many do not have enough income to live on. Many of our clients have complex needs and are increasingly presenting with multiple issues, so require a lot of support. 45% of clients have a disability and/or a long-term health condition and 20% report mental ill health. 

In 2023/24 we helped more people than ever before. Our latest data shows that 4,512 clients were supported by NCLS during that time, an increase of 15pc on the year before. Since 2020/21 we have seen a staggering 71pc growth in client numbers.

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How your money will help?

This project  aims to help clients to manage their finances, reduce their debts and maximise their incomes. Our qualified, dedicated and experienced staff also help people to access benefits they are entitled to, thereby reducing their risk of food and fuel poverty, rent arrears and homelessness as well as offending and re-offending. The provision of early legal advice helps avoid problems from escalating, so improving clients’ health and wellbeing as well as reducing pressure on public services. 

In 2023/24 our debt, welfare benefits and immigrations teams helped more than 1,200 people in a variety of ways. Your support will help us to continue to offer that support and look for new and innovative ways to help the most vulnerable in the county.

Our specialist Debt Service provides advice on budgeting, income maximisation e.g. benefit entitlement, identifying priority debts, negotiating with creditors. We assist clients to implement their chosen debt remedy e.g. pro-rata payments, debt relief order, or bankruptcy. In 2023/24 we succeeded in having £700,000 of debt written off or renegotiated on their behalf. The average debt of those clients now stands at £14,000 per person, which is an increase from around £4,000 in 2020/21. People’s debts are becoming more complicated to pick apart. In 2023/24 we were able to employ a third debt advisor to increase our work, including a pioneering project with St Martin’s, a homeless charity, to provide debt advice to those people living on the streets.

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Our Welfare Benefits Service provides advice, casework and representation at Tribunal for clients who wish to appeal against a refusal or loss of benefit, or to challenge the amount they have been awarded.  In 2023/24 we supported 515 benefit clients, representing at 139 Tribunal hearings. Some 78pc of benefit decisions appealed by NCLS were overturned and this resulted in £3.2m worth of benefits, previously wrongfully denied, being put into the pockets of the people we supported.

Our Immigration Service provides specialist advice around issues of residency status and entitlement, as well as representation for welfare benefit appeals, challenging DWP and Home Office decisions. There is no Immigration legal aid provider in Norfolk. We advised a total of 812 clients in 2023/24 and this is a figure which has risen every year for the past 5 years, mainly due to lack of alternative support for the people we help. 

Case Study - How we made a difference

Mrs P had asked the DWP for a review of her Personal Independence Payment [PIP] award as the disabling effects of her overall condition had worsened. Mrs P is severely disabled, suffering from arthritis in her ankles, knees and hips.  She also suffers from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in her hands so cannot grip a walking stick and uses a disability scooter as she is unable to walk.  Additionally she has been diagnosed with cancer, resulting in permanent use of a Stoma bag and needing substantial help and support from her partner throughout the day, every day. 

The DWP Decision maker assessed Mrs P and decided to reduce the award to Standard Rate for Daily Living and Standard Rate for Mobility.  Mrs P came to NCLS for help.  Our adviser requested a Mandatory Reconsideration and (after a wait of a year) represented the client at her Tribunal hearing. The Tribunal awarded Mrs P Enhanced Daily Living and Enhanced Mobility, taking the award back to when she had asked for the review, and made the award permanently.   Financially, this meant a benefit gain for that year of £18,390 to include £10,390 in back-dated benefit, and £8,158 annually going forward.  In addition the award enabled the client’s partner to claim Carer’s Allowance, and gave the couple access to a Motability vehicle.  

 

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