Mark Patterson, Project Caseworker with Citizens Advice Edinburgh In-Court Advice Project, writing on why we are walking to raise money for the Access to Justice Foundation in the 2015 Edinburgh Legal Walk.
Access to justice is about much more than simply having a right to take someone to Court. It is about trying to overcome the barriers which individuals face in realising or enforcing their rights. These barriers come in many shapes and sizes, and will vary between individuals. For some, Employment Tribunal fees might deter them from seeking unpaid wages from a rogue employer. For others, complicated and technical language might make Court paperwork inaccessible. A lack of free and accessible information on legal rights or routes of redress can also be a major barrier.
Without recognising and helping to remove these barriers, more and more individuals will be unable to exercise their legal rights, and, in turn, they will be prevented from accessing justice. Through the hard work of our fantastic volunteers and staff members, both in our bureaux and various outreach projects, Citizens Advice Edinburgh helps individuals to overcome these barriers on a daily basis. One of our advisers might help a client who does not have a computer to access and complete forms which are only available online. Another adviser might draft a consumer complaints letter with a client who does not have the literacy skills, knowledge or confidence to write a formal letter unassisted.
In my role at the In-Court Advice Service I assist clients in small claim or summary cause matters raised at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. I do this by providing information and advice, carrying out negotiations (sometimes helping to avoid the necessity of raising Court action), and by supporting clients through the court process.
I will be joining fellow staff-members and volunteers of Citizens Advice Edinburgh in the Edinburgh Legal Walk on Monday 12th October 2015 to raise awareness for charities and organisations who provide free legal advice and help improve access to justice. The walk is 8km in length and has been arranged by the Access to Justice Foundation, an organisation which aims to help improve access to justice for the most vulnerable in our society.
Without the generosity and skill of our dedicated volunteers and staff, many individuals would be unable to pursue their legal rights. It is for this reason that I will be helping to raise awareness of Citizens Advice Edinburgh’s work by participating in the Edinburgh Legal Walk on Monday 12th October 2015. You can sponsor us by clicking on the web-link below, and any support is greatly appreciated. By sponsoring us you can help Citizens Advice Edinburgh continue to make Scotland a fairer and more empowered society for all.