Our charity

 

Who we are 

We are an award-winning charity with over 600 dedicated volunteers, we operate across England and Wales with the aim of helping people facing civil and family courts alone. Last year our volunteers helped people on over 50,000 occasions.

Why we are needed 

Every year, thousands of people in the UK face court alone. Often through no choice of their own, they must represent themselves at a moment that could have life-changing outcomes such as loss of access to children or homelessness. They may find themselves up against a party with legal representation. They are instantly at a disadvantage, often scared, confused, and overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges they are up against. In a legal system that was not designed with laypeople in mind, amid rigid, complicated procedures and complex terminology, they are surrounded by legal professionals who have years of training and experience in the law. Clients’ anxiety about the frightening potential outcomes is compounded by this bewildering and intimidating environment. This can prove to be too much for people alone in court, leaving them desperate for somewhere to turn.

How we help people 

We provide a safe space, with volunteers who listen to each client’s individual story. We help people to get their thoughts in order, problem-solve and decide next steps, source relevant and reliable legal information, explain complex procedures, complete court forms, and clearly present statements. Our practical and emotional support alleviates clients’ concerns about the complicated legal system. Last year 96% of clients last said that our volunteers helping them made procedures clearer and made them feel better prepared. Our partnerships with legal clinics and third-sector organisations enable us to source complimentary specialist support for clients, such as domestic abuse or homelessness charities, and legal support if it’s available.

The difference our volunteers make 

Support from our volunteers not only makes a person's experience less stressful but can also have a direct impact on the outcome of their case. Last year's feedback showed that 96% of clients thought they had a fairer hearing due to the support given by our volunteers.

Our close work with HMCTS and the judiciary, also enables us to provide a more holistic support system for litigants in person, who are often overwhelmed and up against short deadlines. Everyone has a right to access justice. No one should have to face court alone.
 

Why people face court alone

There has been a huge increase in the number of people facing court alone. This has particularly been the case since the significant restriction in the breadth of legal aid provision over many years and the other is the reduction in funding for advice agencies which has decimated provision. This means that a significant proportion of court users now cannot afford legal representation and must navigate the complex procedures involved unaided. Some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised members of our society have been hardest hit by the changes. Legal troubles are often compounded by additional disadvantages such as unemployment, language barriers, and mental or physical disability. The burden of having to represent themselves can lead to relationship breakdown, mental health problems, financial difficulty, and even job loss. It can be a downward spiral, leaving people in a worse situation.

A cost-effective model

We have low overheads as the courts and universities in which we operate donate our office space and utilities. Our reliance on volunteers to deliver our core activities allows us to keep staff numbers low, ensuring we can support one person at a cost of £32 to our funders. Please note, that our service is FREE at the point of access.                   

The future 

We continue to believe that no one should face court alone and are looking to develop ways to support more people through the civil and family courts. Please contact fundraising@supportthroughcourt.org if you would like to get involved. 

What people have said