The rules on legal aid funding are changing dramatically in April 2012. After that date there are very tight criteria on who can be funded for family proceedings such as divorce, children’s matters and financial matters. One of the criteria for getting funding is that you have to be able to prove domestic abuse. There are strict guidelines on acceptable evidence and we need to be aware of the impact that the changes will have on people suffering domestic abuse.As a result of this we are now in the process of developing McKenzie Friends. These are volunteers with some legal knowledge, who can support people in preparing for court, assist with the relevant paperwork and advise in court. They are rarely able to speak for the client but can advise them.
To begin developing the service we are now taking law student placements and offering them the opportunity to support service users, working within our team of staff at the Hope Centre.We are looking to develop this service more as the funding constraints start to restrict legal support and funding. We would welcome volunteers who have a good legal background knowledge, to support us in this programme, particularly as we develop the Family Centre. Please go through the volunteering link for an application form.