The Aberdeen Law Project (ALP) has two primary aims. First, to bridge the access to justice gap by offering free legal advice and representation to those that need it most. Second, to reduce the justice gap through efforts on law reform and a programme of community outreach initiatives that educate individuals and third sector organisations on the law.
Those involved with ALP, the only organisation of its kind in the area, volunteer their time to give a voice to those who would otherwise go unheard and hope to those who would otherwise feel hopeless. ALP provides an essential service to the local community as well as a fantastic opportunity for law students at the University of Aberdeen to develop their skills.
This academic year has seen ALP expand its online services while creating new initiatives. Our client work remained very successful and saw, due to the lockdown, a rise in the number of housing queries. This year was also marked with numerous cases won in new areas of the law such as inheritance and equality laws. Our community outreach initiatives have performed equally as well.
We have continued to provide online services to pupils through our online ‘So you want to be a lawyer’ events which have reached more than 100 students this year. We have continued to reach out to community members in spite of restrictions through providing informational posters and leaflets on scams, hate crime, renters’ rights, and homeless individuals’ rights.
This year was also marked by the creation of multiple partnerships with third-party organisations, including Aberdeen Cyrenians, Aberdeen South Foodbank, APEX Grampian and GREC – expanding our network and the opportunities for ALP within the community. We helped Aberdeen South Foodbank to launch their ‘Befriending Project’ where members help tackle the social isolation caused by the pandemic through phone calls and food deliveries.
Other highlights of the year thus far have included: further developing our pioneering partnership with the Scottish Social Services Council to provide its registrants – of which there are c.130,000 – with representation in fitness to practise hearings; securing the highest award that the Royal National Institute of the Blind is aware of for a guide dog discrimination case; the soon-to-be-announced launch of a new initiative to provide homeless individuals with formalwear for their interviews; and an innovative partnership with openTenancy in which we provide information on renters’ rights.
We have also recently launched our ‘ALP Summer Scheme’ for currently enrolled diploma students in response to the lack of opportunities available to law students due to the pandemic. Students will work within our community outreach projects over the summer gaining insight into ALP’s work while further developing their skills and employability.
The funding the Development Trust provided allowed us to continue to serve the people of Aberdeen and the surrounding area. It covered a variety of core costs, including those of our professional indemnity insurance and website, through which we get a significant number of our clients. Without it, ALP would not have been able to operate at capacity and many people would have gone without the assistance they so desperately needed leaving those reliant on our services hugely disadvantaged. Also, our members would have not been able to work remotely, provide the community with legal assistance, continuously provide the community with vital information on their legal rights, nor would they have been able to organise webinars for the pupils and students.
The Development Trust’s funding has contributed directly to our successes over the academic year. It is no exaggeration to say that the funding is the reason ALP has been able to save people’s jobs, keep people in their homes and champion people’s rights across Aberdeen. Some of our expenses have been delayed due to the pandemic, several initiatives will be launching which – without the funding provided – would never have seen the light of day.
ALP’s work has also enriched our volunteers’ experience at the University of Aberdeen and given them a one-of-a-kind opportunity to develop their skills.
We are very grateful to the donors that make the Development Trust’s work to support local initiatives and organisations possible.
We see the difference our work makes for people – who are often in the most difficult of circumstances – and we are fortunate to have enjoyed your support over the years and this year especially.
Please accept our warmest thanks for your generosity and for all you have done for ALP and, through it, the community.
Archie Mitchell Whyte, Treasurer, The Aberdeen Law Project