Award win for dementia legal clinic led by Manchester students

A pioneering legal advice clinic led by students from The University of Manchester for people living with dementia has been recognised in the 2017 Manchester Legal Awards.

The service – the first of its kind in the UK – is operated by the University’s Legal Advice Centre in association with Making Space, a national charity and leading provider of adult health and social care services.

It was established by Neil Allen, a barrister and Senior Lecturer at the University, who has been a trustee of Making Space since 2009. In 2015, he set up a pilot programme with the charity when the Government was launching the latest phase of its ‘Dementia Challenge’, and the success of the clinic quickly led to it becoming a weekly fixture within the Legal Advice Centre’s wider practice.

Under Neil’s supervision, Manchester law students advise on cases over Skype video links to Making Space ‘hotspots’. This enables them to speak to clients in a comfortable, familiar and dementia-friendly environment, with the right people there to offer support. This makes justice much more accessible for the clients.

The clinic takes a holistic approach to client care – as well as looking at the legal issues a person faces, it can offer communication and wellbeing support through its partnership with Making Space, as well as a fast-track to the Admiral Nursing Service which can give expert practical, clinical and emotional support to families living with dementia.

In addition to the regular training that students must undertake to work in the clinic - which covers areas such as interview skills, professional ethics, and drafting advice - all students who wish to take part in a dementia case undertake separate specialist training. As well as becoming Dementia Friends, this training – provided by people living with dementia, lawyers and co-ordinators from Making Space – gives students a much greater awareness of the sensitive issues, as well as an understanding of how to deal with vulnerable clients.

The clinic’s success has also been thanks to the commitment of volunteer lawyers from local firms, who supervise the students – they are playing a key role in the clinical legal education of the next generation of lawyers.

I am delighted that the clinic has won this award. There can be no doubt that it meets a growing need - hardly a day goes by where dementia related issues do not appear in the media, and it is a hot topic for research, including within our university. With people living longer, advanced planning for one’s old age is becoming much more common and this is becoming one of our biggest practice areas.
Neil Allen

“The simplicity of our model means that it can be replicated across any number of areas to help various sections of the community. This is something that we hope to do in the coming year by establishing a specialist clinic in partnership with the Deafness Support Network to help members of the Deaf community.”

​For more information about the clinic, click here.

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