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Volunteer to Help People in Court

Oct 6, 2016 | VCS

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Going to court alone can be terrifying. The Personal Support Unit (PSU) is there so that people don’t have to. Their trained volunteers give practical and emotional support to people who are going through civil and family court proceedings without a lawyer. This new service is open at West London Family Court, Feltham.
Overview:
The charity began 15 years ago, with just three volunteers in one court in London. Now more than 550 volunteers help people in 19 courts across England and Wales. In the last year, the PSU has helped people more than 44,000 times.
At the start of 2013, the PSU was helping people 1,000 times a month across the country. Since then this figure has quadrupled, as more people find themselves in court and unable to afford a lawyer. Legal aid for civil and family cases, involving divorce, arrangements for children, housing and employment, is now largely unavailable. Without a lawyer, most people are confused by the court system and feel at an automatic disadvantage.
That is where the PSU comes in. The volunteers are there to give one-to-one assistance, helping each person to represent themselves to the best of their ability.
There is a real need for PSU volunteers at the West London Family Court, where approximately 70% of all private law children act cases involve at least one parent who does not have the benefit of any legal advice. Volunteers can help people without an appointment, free of charge, every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9.30am to 4.30pm in the West London Family Court, Feltham. The volunteers help in many ways without giving legal advice: describing what might happen in court, helping to complete (or find the right) forms, sorting through paperwork and supporting clients to prepare it for a trained legal eye, guiding people around unfamiliar court buildings and sitting next to them in court to steady their nerves.
District Judge Middleton-Roy, is very supportive of the service and said “Having a PSU volunteer in Court hugely assists in aiding the understanding of vulnerable Court users of the complex legal system and its processes, empowering them, helping them to feel less disadvantaged, reducing the prospects of disrupting the process and assisting in facilitating that party in engaging effectively in the dispute.” 
The PSU is the only organisation providing this service in the civil and family courts on a daily basis. It opened its doors in West London on 18th October, helping four people on that day alone, including accompanying an individual to his very first hearing.
The PSU Manager in West London is Klara Slater and she can be contacted to arrange appointments, discuss volunteering opportunities or for general enquiries on 020 8831 3573 or wlfc@thepsu.org.uk Website: www.thepsu.org.uk
 
 

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