I am a 37 year old trainee solicitor working in Housing and Asylum Support for an annual salary of approximately £28,000.
Today I got in and the first thing I did was check my emails. It became clear that Migrant Help had ignored my first stage complaint. I had helped my destitute client to get a positive decision on a section 4 application. It had taken 5 weeks for the Home Office to give us a decision. The decision letter said he would be told when to be at his pick-up address at which point he would receive access to the accommodation and support he was entitled to. The decision was made more than two weeks ago and still my client has received no housing or support. I drafted a second stage complaint to the Home Office and the Political Ombudsman.
I moved into dealing with a section 8 possession hearing against a private landlord which is in court tomorrow. We intend to defend the claim and also counter claim under the Fitness for Human Habitation legislation as a result of a pre-existing flea/bedbug infestation in the property which is severely impacting my clients’ lives. I called the council, which confirmed all rent arrears had been cleared by a Discretionary Housing Payment we had applied for as the family are in receipt of the benefits cap. I called the landlord, who does not have his own lawyer. He refused to provide updated rent figures, shouted accusations down the phone about myself and my client and refused to discuss what his intentions are for the hearing tomorrow. I had to end the call as a result of his aggressive shouting. I then saw the client and tried to prepare him for court based on the limited information I had from the landlord.
Next I turned to the 11 emails I had received from a mentally ill client in the last 2.5 days. She needs help to be rehoused. Her mental health is deteriorating and I am very concerned about a lack of support from health and social services. I am also becoming concerned about her capacity to conduct legal proceedings. I have asked her to come in tomorrow so we can discuss the next steps in her case face to face.
It’s 12.30 and I am in the bus to our outreach service where I will run a drop-in legal clinic. My colleague is off work today so I will probably see 6-7 clients on my own.
I have significant debt as a result of paying for my GDL and LPC. I had to get a loan from my salary to pay for an annual travel pass which I am paying off monthly. I also have deductions from my wage for tuition fees from my bachelors degree which I graduated from 12 years ago. Today I am still only paying off the interest. I am a single parent. I cannot afford to live off my income despite a recent pay rise as I am about to qualify as a solicitor. I run a project on my own as well as my legal aid housing work. I had to ask for my pension contributions to be paused to give a tiny a bit of breathing space. I have attempted to argue for a larger pay rise due to the level of responsibility I have, my 7 years’ experience and the amount of money I bring in through grants and legal aid billing, but this has been refused.
Legal Help in housing pays £157.00 for up to 9.5 hours work. This is unsustainable for most practices and has led to massive housing law deserts across the UK. There is intense pressure on the few lawyers who continue to provide this work.