In the works: the Autism Law Service

In the works: the Autism Law Service

Legal Advice Centre reception

Malvika Jaganmohan, BPTC student and Development Assistant for the Autism Law Service, explains the need for this new scheme, upcoming events and long-term plans for the future.

The Nottingham Law School Legal Advice Centre is always on the lookout for new initiatives to better support the local community! From the launch of our Business and Enterprise Centre, to the creation of drop-in clinics over the summer holidays on a range of legal issues, the Advice Centre is bursting at the seams with new ideas.

So what do we have in the pipeline at the moment?

Well, we are in the (very) early stages of developing our new Autism Law Service.

Autism is a lifelong, developmental condition which affects the way that individuals interact and communicate with other people, and how they perceive the world around them. The National Autistic Society estimates that some 700,000 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum.

Our volunteers over the Advice Centre’s many projects often work with extremely vulnerable individuals, from clients with severe disabilities challenging their welfare benefits entitlement with the support of the Free Representation Unit, to prisoners hoping to appeal their convictions through the Miscarriages of Justice Project. The idea for the Autism Law Service arose out of the need to provide bespoke support to cater to the specific vulnerabilities of our clients.

The autistic community often struggles with legal challenges, ranging from managing workplace discrimination, to securing entitlement to welfare benefits, to accessing high-quality education. People with autism may need help with fully articulating their wishes and needs, or with processing information and understanding exactly what is being asked of them. So, as a provider of legal services, we need to ask ourselves: how can we adapt our approach? How can we tailor our interviewing techniques? How can we best elicit the information that we need from our clients?

At this stage, the goals of the Autism Law Service are two-fold: firstly, how can we improve the services that we provide in order to make them more accessible? How can we adapt our training, our premises, our language and our marketing materials in order to make them more welcoming to individuals with autism?

Secondly, what services can we provide specifically for people with autism? In other words, is there a particular demand from the autistic community for a type of legal service that we may be able to provide?

We’re launching our journey this Friday 23 June 2017 with an introductory training day for a selection of staff and students, held in conjunction with the National Autistic Society. The training will be on the subject of ‘Understanding the Autism Spectrum’, and will have us grappling with a number of issues, from what autism is and the evolution of our understandings of autism, to anxiety in autism and the effect of autism on families. This will contribute to our understanding of how autism affects individuals differently, and how we can effectively support our clients who are on the autism spectrum.

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