This September, the Greater Manchester Law Centre is hosting its Annual General Meeting, celebrating how far we have come and the team we have built. We have reclaimed over one million pounds which had been falsely denied to disabled claimants, we now have a full time housing solicitor, we have supported local campaigns at the forefront of welfare and housing issues, and we have fought for the reinstatement of Legal Aid.
Please read below the introduction to our Annual Report 2018 by John Nicholson, GMLC Chair, about all the work we have done over the past year. You can download the full report here.
Our existence and progress is a triumph, but we need your support
There is so much more to do and we are grateful to our patron, actor Maxine Peake, for supporting our standing order and donation appeal at this time.
“This is about tackling the brutal victimisation of the most vulnerable within our society. So, we need to get behind the Greater Manchester Law Centre. We need to set up a standing order, we need to donate money to help them continue their tireless and fearless work.”
– Maxine Peake
Your donations pay for our vital services, from the frontlines where we compassionately address the concerns of people who come into and contact the centre, to our caseworkers who support and represent people through to the end of their benefit appeals. Click here.
Your donations allow us to keep our premises, which welcomes distressed and confused people in legal difficulty and from which our dedicated volunteers carry out their tireless work. Click here.
Your donations give us the power to support community campaigns against injustice in welfare and housing policy, including challenging evictions of Universal Credit claimants, submitting our findings on the brutal benefits assessment process, and fighting for legislative change to prevent homelessness. Click here.
Your donations allow us to continue this work whilst also demanding Legal Aid and free access to justice for all. Click here.
“As a society, we cannot call ourselves democratic if the most vulnerable within our society cannot gain access to justice, and Legal Aid is essential.
The Greater Manchester Law Centre are fighting hard and tirelessly to reinstate Legal Aid, which is one of the last forgotten pillars of the Welfare State. This encompasses people being able to get access to disability benefits, it encompasses homelessness.
So, we need to get behind the Greater Manchester Law Centre. We need to set up a standing order, we need to donate money to help them continue their tireless and fearless work.”
– Maxine Peake
Introduction to the GMLC Annual Report 2018 | John Nicholson, Chair
In 2015, after the closure of South Manchester Law Centre, we said that if enough people wanted a Law Centre, there would be one.
In 2016 we opened the doors of 159 Princess Road to the public.
There was one.
In 2017 we decided to move forward by developing “strategic litigation” – or “legal campaigning” – making legal challenges that could help many people as well as the individuals we support anyway. As part of this, in 2018 we have gained legal aid contracts, in housing/welfare/debt and in “public law”, which will hopefully enable us to take judicial reviews in this way. We have also appointed a Housing Solicitor to expand our services in housing and homelessness and drive campaigning which arises from this.
So for 2018-2021 we look forward to building on what we have done and planning how to do more. Our successes continues – we have law students going to appeals with people who have lost their benefits and winning those appeals; the students themselves have gone on to get places as trainee barristers and they take the message of the Law Centre with them. They will become part of the next generation of social welfare lawyers.
We have had volunteer advisers, week in week out, helping people to avoid the loss of their Employment Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payment, similarly winning the appeals on a regular basis. Nearly £1 million has been reclaimed for people in Greater Manchester who were deprived of their entitlements by the DWP.
We have front-of-house volunteers who welcome people into the Centre, listen to them (often that is exactly what no one has done before) and try to help them find a service, which may be able to deal with their problems. And we have sessional solicitors, lawyers giving up their own time to give specialist advice, especially in employment.
But people remain in vulnerable circumstances. Vicious benefit sanctions continue. The inhumanity of “Universal Credit” is being “rolled out” to add to the misery. While the Mayor of Greater Manchester has made clear his commitment to ending homelessness, there is a long way to go before there is enough affordable housing for people in need here. We demand justice for all those who have been affected by the revelations of the Windrush scandal – just as we have done for the residents of Grenfell Towers, the Hillsborough families and the Orgreave miners – and we are demanding that proper action and compensation is taken to for people we have been trying to support in Greater Manchester.
In other words, we hope to be able to continue to do what we said that we would this year – FIGHTING TOGETHER FOR FREE ACCESS TO JUSTICE.
This is our essential message, this is our purpose, and this is what we are all about. We know we cannot do it all on our own, so we will keep developing the work with other campaigns, calling for the restoration of legal aid and a new generation of social welfare lawyers, and demanding that anyone in need can come to ask for our free advice, with “walk-in” access, to receive face-to-face help, provided by trained and high quality advisers.
Even more than this, we say that this is access not just to the law, but to justice.
So thank you, everyone, and lets together keep up this fight!
You can download the full report here.