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Law Society President Andrew Caplen visits HCLC!


Andrew and Diane Hackney Community Law Centre (HCLC) would like to thank Hackney Community Law Centre (HCLC) would like to thank Andrew Caplen, President of the Law Society of England and Wales (pictured above left) for visiting us on Thursday the 26th of February 2015 thus becoming the first ever serving Law Society President to visit a UK Law Centre! 


Andrew, who became Law Society President last July, was accompanied on the visit by his Law Society colleagues Rebecca Wilkinson, Pro Bono Advisor and Barbara Mackintosh, Practice Advice Solicitor.


In October 2014, HCLC's Diane Morrison (pictured above with Andrew) won The Law Society's prestigious 'Law Society Excellence Award - Solicitor In-House' award, making her the second HCLC solicitor to do so. During his visit to HCLC, Andrew congratulated and praised Diane again for her achievement. Hilton speaking As well as talking to Diane about her work as an employment solicitor and the Pop-Up shop legal advice service she runs in Hackney Central Library every Monday,


Andrew heard from other members of the HCLC team about what's been happening in the areas of law they work in since the 2012 introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act.


Hilton von Herbert, HCLC's Senior Immigration Caseworker (pictured above with Andrew and Law Society colleagues Rebecca and Barbara) told Andrew that he had expected there to be a decrease in immigration cases after LASPO came in, due to the Act removing many areas of immigration from the scope of legal aid. However, what had in fact happened was that immigration solicitors in private practice were redirecting people to HCLC who couldn't afford to pay for immigration advice privately.


As a result, Hilton - who is HCLC's sole Immigration Caseworker -  has had to restart a weekly immigration drop-in, hoping it can help plug some of the gap in immigration advice provision. Hilton also told Andrew that HCLC Patron Louise Christian has been volunteering with the Centre for the past year assisting him with immigration cases. Hope talking


Andrew then heard from Hope Olugbola, HCLC's Senior Debt Caseworker (pictured right). Helping people to cope with debt as result of them having taken out loans with "pay day lenders" now accounts for over a third of Hope's work.


Hope told Andrew that the situation for people in debt remains desperate. People are having to use one debt to pay another. HCLC Chair Ian Rathbone informed Andrew that Hackney has one of the highest number of betting shops in London due to lax national planning laws. Nat and Hatice HCLC Senior Solicitor Nathaniel Mathews (pictured centre) and new


HCLC benefits caseworker Hatice Saglam (pictured behind Nathaniel) told Andrew about the benefits work HCLC has been undertaking recently. Hatice has noticed a large increase in the numbers of people approaching HCLC for benefits advice as a result of being 'sanctioned' by the Job Centre.


Ian Rathbone informed Andrew that in the last year alone 4 new food banks have opened in Hackney. Nathaniel Mathews had won an Employment and Support Allowance case at the first tier social security tribunal the day before. The client, a war veteran who had been conscripted into the Kurdish army aged 11 and could not read or write due to not having attended school, had lost a leg due after stepping on a landmine and had been officially diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


Despite his obvious disability, the Department for Work and Pensions had originally told the client that they considered him "fit for work" and said he should use crutches to move around. Without HCLC, the client would have had no help to lodge - and ultimately win - his appeal. Tayyabah talking Housing Solicitor Tayyabah Ahmed, who runs HCLC's Waltham Forest housing service along with HCLC Development Officer Miranda Grell, told Andrew that she and Miranda saw anywhere between 12 and 23 clients in the two hour period in which HCLC's Waltham Forest Tuesday morning housing drop-in service takes place in a local Waltham Forest library.


HCLC has been delivering the Waltham Forest service pro bono - with no external funding from the local authority or any other grant making body - for the past two years. Due to lack of support and lack of external funding, HCLC will not be able to continue delivering the Waltham Forest service after Easter of this year, leaving a huge gap in the borough, as HCLC is currently the only organisation providing free and independent housing law advice in Waltham Forest. Tayyabah and Nathaniel also told Andrew about the two housing cases HCLC is currently fighting in the Supreme Court (Saba Haile v London Borough of Waltham Forest and Edward Ajilore v London Borough of Hackney). Andrew with Humairaa and Nargis


We also felt that it was important that Andrew meet our current HCLC interns Humairaa Fatima and Nargis Sultana (pictured above with Andrew, left and right, respectively) and hear about their HCLC internship experiences.  Both interns told Andrew that they were pleased to be doing an internship with HCLC.


Humairaa has already been to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court to assist Nathaniel Mathews and Nargis told Andrew that her HCLC internship has opened her eyes to the importance of social welfare law. Team Photo with Andrew


Commenting on his visit to HCLC, Andrew Caplen said: "People need advice from day one not when they arrive at court with a bag full of papers. We need to concentrate on getting people advice right at the beginning of their problem. It is really special for me to come back to Hackney Community Law Centre as President of the Law Society. What HCLC is doing is so worthwhile and I thoroughly support the Law Centre (and all Law Centres') work. The difference HCLC is making to people's lives is incredible".

*Thank you again for visiting us, Andrew,

and making access to justice one of your priorities.

We wish the rest of your Presidency every success!*