Dalston pop-up advice shop to offer free legal help to Hackney residents

Credit cards HCLC

Dalston pop-up advice shop offers free legal advice on consumer and debt issues. Photograph: Hackney Community Law Centre

Free legal advice is available for debt-ridden Hackney residents, courtesy of a new  Dalston pop-up debt and consumer advice service.

The launch of the service, run by the Hackney Community Law Centre in collaboration with BPP Law School, coincides with National Pro Bono Week, which encourages lawyers throughout the country to put their legal skills to good use.

Miranda Grell, development officer at the law centre, said there are two major issues with legal aid: “People in the community who never faced serious debt issues are now seeing these, thanks to rising rents, falling wages and under-employment. At the same time, cuts to legal aid funding mean that there is heavier demand on us as lawyers to help more people with fewer resources.”

Residents who call the service will be able to speak to students from BPP, who will ask them detailed questions. “We want the new generation of law students to realise that it’s not just about working in corporate law: ordinary people need proper legal representation, and we want to encourage more fresh talent to get into legal aid work,” said Miranda Grell.

“If even two of the twenty students volunteering for the new service decide to qualify in legal aid, we’ll be happy, because more ordinary people will benefit later on.”

Volunteers at the centre will classify debt issues into two categories: priority and non-priority. “Priority debts are those where you risk being jailed over non-payment. These include things such as rent,” explained Ms Grell.

Non-priority debts may include credit card bills, which may not carry the same penalties for non-payment.

If a resident’s inquiry cannot be dealt with over the phone, an appointment will be made for them with a professional lawyer. “Lawyers from large corporate firms are putting in pro bono hours to review cases of people approaching us,” said Ms Grell.

The service is not only offering advice on debt problems: Hackney locals can also ask for assistance with consumer issues.

Residents in need of debt or consumer advice can call 02076334531 to leave a message and a law student will ring back during office hours.

For more information go to Hackney Community Law Centre.