‘Achieving peace and justice for families’ – National Volunteers Week Law Clinic series

In recognition of National Volunteers Week 2022, this blog series shares insights into the work of our students who are involved in pro bono activity at the University of Bristol Law Clinic. In this series, we will look at the scope and impact that these vital projects have on the local community, on the development of our students and on our alumni’s commitment to give back.

In 2021, a family reached out to the Law Clinic on behalf of their non-verbal child who had profound and multiple learning difficulties. The family were seeking advice for an upcoming Best Interests Meeting which they hoped would lead to improved care for their child. In an interview as part of the latest Law Clinic Annual Review, recent LLB Law student, Cora Danieli was one of the case workers. Cora explains more about her involvement in this project in her blog post below.

“The planned Best Interests Meeting (BIM) was one that would determine whether the ongoing inadequate care the family’s child was receiving in their care home would be sufficient to determine the current placement unfit. In that time, their child was living in poor conditions with their basic care needs not being met. They had been left unattended on countless occasions, there was no sufficient sensory training (which is seen as a necessary component of emotional stimulation) and, on the worst end of the spectrum, the family had been denied access to their child and left uninformed when their child was rushed to hospital from epileptic fits.

At this BIM, the family would be in the company of experienced medical professionals, social care workers, an independent mental health advocate (IMHA) for their child, and individuals from the care home. Our job was to adequately prepare the family for this daunting meeting and put together a list of recommendations (from highest to lowest priority) which would support their claim. Thiscame with many challenges, not least due to the inherently emotional nature of it for all those involved.

Our preparation involved conducting legal research into the Mental Capacity Act, Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (MCA DoLS), the Care Act and BIMs themselves. Having familiarised ourselves with this, we were given the opportunity to review extensive medical documentation and liaise with health and social care professionals.

“This case really highlighted how important the work of every single student and member of staff in the Clinic is. Whilst it is a wonderful learning opportunity for us as students, our work is often the only hope for clients that come to the Clinic to achieve justice and that makes a real difference.”

We wrote numerous medicolegal advice letters based on this information, and further used these as a foundation for advising our client on the complaints process for the relevant healthcare bodies. As a university student, this was both extremely challenging and highly rewarding and I am very thankful to have been involved.

My case partners and I successfully supported the family in securing a positive outcome at the BIM and securing a long-term better quality of life for the family’s child. We are overjoyed to have been a part of this success and wish our clients all the best for the future. We also hope that the complaints we helped to raise will come to fruition in the near future and help them, and any others in similar situations, to achieve both peace and justice.”

Further information

Find out more about the work of the University of Bristol Law Clinic and the pro bono activities our students and alumni get involved in by reading our National Volunteering Week 2022 blog series.

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