Project: Empower is a legal pro bono project based in London. Our mission is to positively influence people’s lives and to promote a rights-based approach to access to justice. We do this by providing free and independent legal advice, delivering public legal education workshops and acting as independent legal observers. We firmly believe that communities that are represented know of their legal rights and have their voices heard on the legal issues are empowered, and can participate greater in community and civic life. We very much see access to legal help as well as legal education for vulnerable communities as a route out of poverty.
- Improving Access to Justice: By educating and informing people about their rights and responsibilities they will be better equipped to identify when they have a legal problem. This will enable them to seek professional help and where appropriate, seek redress. By enabling access to justice, Project: Empower will help people move positively between any of the four stages of Surviving, Coping, Adapting and Thriving. For example, by providing employment legal advice, such intervention will not only offer a practical resolution to their legal problems but shows them how to avoid problems in the first place. An inability to deal with affairs because of mental illness can result in eventual job loss, family problems, housing and benefit problems, increasing unhappiness and stress and creating a downward spiral of events that can exacerbate the mental illness.
- Harness Community Power: Educating and informing people about their rights and responsibilities is a practical and powerful way to increase public understanding of the law. Therefore, they can work together to overcome their socio-economic hurdles. For example, by acting as independent legal observers during the Notting Hill Carnival, local residents can work together holding the police accountable for any unfair use of their powers.
- Promoting the Rule of Law:Educating and informing people about their rights and responsibilities creates empowered citizens who understand and value the rule of law. The current low levels of public understanding and appreciation of and for the importance of the legal system have undoubtedly made it harder to galvanise public support for legal aid. Legal education workshops and access to free employment advice may instil more considerable sympathy for protecting access to justice in the future.
- Social mobility:Demonstration of the law will also help to attract more diverse talent to the legal profession. Practically, where Public Legal Education workshops are delivered at the secondary and sixth form/college level, a greater understanding of the role of the law in protecting citizens will encourage young people who may not have otherwise considered a career in law, to do so.