The Kingston Law Centre fundraises to keep local support available for Kingston residents
The Law Centre has been in Kingston for some twelve years, from a very small start – a room and a solicitor upstairs in Siddeley House where it has remained. It was an extension of the Tooting service set up by Bob Nightingale MBE who went on to found the London Legal Support Trust. There are other branches now of South West London Law Centres in Wandsworth, Merton and Croydon (see SWLLC website).
In Kingston we must help over 300 people each year (like Mrs S, whose story we share below), who have problems with public authorities and with private landlords. We help tenants to defend themselves against repossession and we help people who are homeless to succeed in their applications to the local Council for suitable accommodation. None of these people can afford private legal advice and assistance, some of them are society’s most vulnerable; and few would win their cases without us.
Maintaining a separate service in Kingston is increasingly difficult due to cuts in legal aid funding. As Bob has said “It's just impossible for fundraising or volunteering by lawyers to overcome all of the damage done by the funding cuts” nevertheless all who work in this sector are determined to keep the services going and we are looking for grant opportunities and donations to support Kingston. We need your help. Please get in touch if you would like to make a donation or if you can help us organise a fundraising event or activity.
We want to ensure that when people in Kingston need help, be it next week, or in a few years, our service will still be there to support them.
Mrs S story
Mrs S was born in Sri Lanka, had lived in France and exercised her EU Treaty rights to work in the UK. She had setup a textile company but had had problems and became homeless and was placed with her three children in emergency accommodation.
Working with Citizens Advice Kingston, our Housing Solicitor Janet managed to overturn the decision by the council that Mrs S was “intentionally homeless” after falling into rent arrears at her last tenancy in the private sector. Additionally, she had been found to be ineligible for housing benefit, partly due to a complication over her self-employed status and not having English as a first language. The Law Centre questioned the council on the affordability of the private tenancy and the ability to manage financially when the housing benefit, upon which she relied, was withdrawn. Citizens Advice also took the case to tribunal and a Homelessness Review Officer overturned the original decision and accepted a duty to provide Mrs S and her family with permanent settled accommodation. The news came just before Christmas and Mrs S was overjoyed and grateful to all who had helped – the best kind of Christmas gift!