Help & Advice2nd April 2014

Legal Services for Deaf people: A New Era?

With RAD's Deaf Law Centre closing, it is important that someone provides culturally aware legal advice to deaf people

by Rob Wilks

It has been well publicised in recent months that the Royal Association for Deaf people’s Deaf Law Centre – which was established in 2010 – has closed. 

This was due to the reduction of the scope of legal aid that took effect on 1 April 2013 as a result of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, which meant that RAD Deaf Law Centre could no longer advise Deaf clients in the wider areas of welfare benefits, housing and debt. 

The Legal Aid Agency also decided to end RAD’s contract to provide the webcam version of the Civil Legal Advice helpline with effect from 30 September 2013, despite this being RAD Deaf Law Centre’s main source of funding for the provision of legal advice services. 

It thus became clear that as there was no funding for legal advice, there was no longer a need to have a Director of Legal Services and Solicitor working for RAD, and I left RAD as a result, which meant RAD Deaf Law Centre had to close. 

Nonetheless, mindful that D/deaf and hard of hearing have traditionally had poor access to legal advice services, and having practised as a solicitor for 7 years and provided quality professional employment and discrimination services to hundreds of clients, I decided to become self-employed so that I could provide an enhanced professional personal legal service to D/deaf and hard of hearing clients across England and Wales, I have set up Law Wilks as a Consultant Solicitor.

Law Wilks is now the only legal advice service for Deaf people in the UK, providing legal advice, assistance and representation prior to and up to any Court or Employment Tribunal in discrimination, divorce, family or employment matters, a will-writing and business support service, and advice on general contract law principles and terms and conditions for BSL/English Interpreters, Translators and interpreting agencies and services.  I aim to provide 95% of these services through webcam/video conferencing or text chat, the only such service in the UK to do so, which means that clients can receive legal advice without having to step out of their homes, although we are still willing to meet clients face to face in their own homes or at a mutually convenient place.

I will be writing regular articles on a range of legal topics for SL First Magazine, so watch this space!

Article by Rob Wilks

posted in Community / Help & Advice

2nd April 2014