Public bodies in the UK have certain duties to provide health and social care support for disabled children. The research evidence suggests that disabled children and their families experience considerable difficulties in accessing these rights.
It is against this background that Cerebra’s research programme has been established at Cardiff Law School. Lizi Azadegan, from the Cardiff School of Journalism, tells us how the scheme is also benefiting students at the University.
“The programme established at Cardiff University Law School, with funding and technical support from Cerebra, is a service designed to provide legal guidance to the families and carers of disabled children. The programme offers free legal advice when families experience difficulties accessing their rights to healthcare and social care services. Research by Cerebra found parents and advisers are often in need of legal support when dealing with the statutory agencies.
The law students acting in the scheme provide legal guidance and advice under the supervision of qualified staff, firms of solicitors and other disability organisations. It targets a very niche group whose issues are very specific and complex.
Students have the opportunity to identify accessible and effective procedures and these enable disabled children and their families to maximise the benefits of their legal entitlements. The programme works alongside a number of national solicitors and barristers practices who assist with the drafting of legal advice documents that parents can refer to when dealing with local authorities.
Kate Millar, who is an undergraduate law student, has been involved in the scheme since it started in September 2013. She has seen the programme develop and speaks very positively about it: “Families can get legal advice which they might not have been able to access via other means due to finances. The programme means we can offer specific legal advice for their child’s particular case and cater for the complexities of each individual case”.
All the students praise the scheme and feel it is a much needed service, given the current social and economic climate. “With the government service cuts, it is important that the people who are affected have the means to challenge services they are being refused and that these families are in need of” (Olly, postgraduate law student).
The outcome of the programme means families attain well-rounded and specific legal opinions, while students are able to learn about how to meets clients’ needs and service the community. Kate Millar said, “As a student, you don’t always have an opportunity to use the skills you have to participate in society. The scheme is great as it not only provides a practical element to our legal studies, but it gives us the chance to support the community and use our professional skills to give something back to society”.
Other students on the programme are equally positive: “It feels great to be able to apply what we learn in Law School to day-to-day activities. It gives us students the opportunity to apply legislation to a worthwhile cause and give help to someone to who doesn’t have that knowledge…the scheme helps students to engage with the fun side of law which can sometimes appear quite boring”.
“A lot of effort and planning goes into each case and producing each legal opinion draft. The final result is very rewarding for Cardiff Law School, the programme and the parents”.
“We’ve got a great team and the diversity of its members gives us a well-rounded team. Our mentor, Luke Clements, is not only an expert in his area, but a great teacher, helping support our learning and development”.