Clinic consultation

RGU launches law clinic to help low-income students

RGU has launched Scotland’s first holistic, student-run clinic in Aberdeen to provide free legal advice to low-income people across the city.

The Grampian Community Law Center will operate from Torry Medical Practice on Oscar Road and will become the first of its kind to be integrated into a medical practice.

It will aim to address the root causes of issues that can contribute to mental and physical health difficulties while providing students with first-hand experience.

An event to celebrate the launch took place at the university yesterday and included speakers involved in driving the project from the university, the NHS and the community.

Calaum Graham, Student Director, took the stage to talk about the student experience. Photo by Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

Lady Carmichael, chair of the Scottish Civil Justice Council’s Access to Justice Committee, welcomed the launch of the clinic, describing it as an “innovative” initiative giving people access to justice they otherwise would not have may not have had the opportunity otherwise.

Hannah Darnell, who runs the Grampian Community Law Center and is also a practicing lawyer, believes there is a “moral responsibility” to look out for each other.

She said: “It’s about closing the gap in access to justice and basically giving something to a community that’s going to benefit during a cost of living crisis, but also more broadly. .”

“It’s a double-edged sword”

The student-led team will work on issues such as social and private housing rights, consumer rights and help with legal documents such as powers of attorney.

They will help people facing other problems that may arise due to the cost of living crisis and refer people to other services that may help them.

Ms Darnell said: ‘I think the community clinic also benefits the students. As a lecturer, I give them theoretical knowledge, but it’s good to give them practical skills as well.

“I went to a very traditional university, and when I graduated I didn’t have any practical skills. Turns out I didn’t need it because I joined the police. If it turned out that I wanted to go into private practice, I would have been pretty overwhelmed.

“I wanted to make sure the students didn’t have that feeling, that they understood what they were getting into. We basically equip them with modern skills for today’s world.

“It’s a double-edged sword – it helps the community and the students when they need it most.”

Hannah Darnell hopes the legal clinic will “close the access to justice gap” for many. Photo by Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

Ms Darnell spent time policing the Torry area, learning to love the community spirit and resilience of the people.

She said: ‘People in Torry are resilient, but there comes a time in everyone’s addiction where maybe they just need to reach out and say ‘I need a little support’ and that’s where we come in.

“Particularly at a time when we are all feeling the pinch of the cost of living crisis, and people who may already be feeling that pinch are going to feel it more, so I guess it comes at just the right time to be there for the people.

The university will also launch Scotland’s first climate clinic later this year, designed to provide support at grassroots level during the climate and biodiversity crisis and focus on issues ranging from planning and development to environment and animal rights.

“Absolutely priceless”

Dr Adrian Crofton, director of the River Dee Medical Group, which operates the Torry’s medical office. attended the event to provide perspective on how legal aid can improve health and well-being.

He explained that people in Torry suffered from chronic illnesses much earlier than the rest of the city.

Torry Medical Office, Oscar Road.

Patients come to the practice without access to telephones, unable to heat their homes and with sleep problems.

According to Dr Crofton, the quality of accommodation is poor, with patients suffering from damp and noise pollution preventing them from sleeping at night.

The doctor hopes that the clinic will help patients with problems that the practice staff cannot solve, and thus improve their health and well-being.

He said: ‘Having a clinic that will speak to you vicariously, but you don’t have to pay for it, it gives you an authoritative guide through the process – it’s really invaluable. It makes a big difference to the quality of a person’s care later in life in all sorts of ways.

“It gives people a sense of agency and the ability to shape what’s going on around them. People quite often underestimate their ability or think they don’t have the skills to shape their environment or their future and again I think that will also make a small contribution to that.

“At the heart of what we do”

The student-led group will also establish a base at the Bridge Center on Balnagask Road.

Community Center Manager Chris Hood explained the importance of having a space where the community can come for legal advice without worrying about the cost.

Chris Hood thinks it’s important to provide a space for people to access help. Photo by Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

He said, “We are really excited to work with Hannah and the students who have this opportunity to develop their ability to work with people in the community.

“But for the people of Torry to access it and not feel alienated from the rest of Aberdeen, but actually people really want to see their lives improve – that’s at the heart of what we want to do.

“And I can see that’s the core of what the law clinic wants to do, so it’s really exciting to work with them.”

“There are great people in Aberdeen”

Lord Provost David Cameron was also present at the event at RGU and hailed it as a “fantastic idea”.

He explained that he was captivated by the speeches given at the event, in particular by Dr Crofton who explained how legal advice can improve health and well-being, and that

He said: “It just proves that human nature isn’t all bad, that there are wonderful people in the world and in Aberdeen.

“People in Torry support each other and this particular health center project is going to make life so much easier for a lot of people.

“It’s not just about being able to deal with debt issues or other issues like that, but it has to have an effect on improving mental health as well.”

Audience in the Sir Ian Wood building listen to the informative event. Photo by Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

The Lord Provost said allowing students to gain first-hand experience like this is “phenomenal” and believes the project will help people maintain their dignity.

“One of the other aspects of that, and this project seems to be empathetic with that, the vast majority of people don’t want donations, they want their dignity, and I think this project does that in the same way that keeps them -eat rather than food banks. gives people dignity.

“Some people wouldn’t go to the lawyer, that would be the last place they would go, but they need that advice and they will get it with empathy, and in a way they will always retain their own dignity – for me it is really important.

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[RGU launches law clinic to help students on low income]