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Our mission

Plumstead Community Law Centre has been providing free legal advice to those living, working or studying in and around Greenwich since 1979. 
Our main aims are:

 

  • To provide free, independent, responsive and high quality legal advice services

  • To develop strong partnerships and tackle social welfare issues through policy work and campaigning

  • To provide specialist advice to other local agencies to enable those agencies to advise their clients generally or make appropriate referrals to Plumstead Community Law Centre or elsewhere for specialist advice


We have overcome significant challenges in recent years, such as substantial public funding cuts and the reform of the legal aid system, and proven that we are resilient, adaptable and proactive. We have a dedicated team of skilled and experienced staff, trustees and volunteers, capable of maintaining quality services in the face of challenges and during periods of considerable change.

Our mission statement

To empower and educate the local community through providing quality accessible advice services in social welfare law
 

Our values

  • Independence

  • Equality of Access

  • Community Based

  • Professionalism

  • Prioritising the most vulnerable

  • Collaborative working and decision making

Our organisational objectives

To support and benefit the local community by providing accessible quality legal advice and representation services in social welfare law.
We provide:

  • A Casework and Litigation Service

  • One off specialist advice  

  • A  second-tier Advice Service


To influence and inform decision-makers about issues and policies that affect local people by undertaking policy work and participating in campaigns for positive change.

We achieve this by:

  • Tackling social policy issues and producing social policy reports

  • Networking with local and national stakeholders

  • Contributing to national initiatives, campaigns and consultations


To enhance and maintain our reputation as a provider of independent, quality advice services by maintaining our standards and ensuring we are robust and sustainable.
We continually work towards this through:

  • Development of joint funding initiatives with partner organisations

  • Sound governance through an effective Management Committee

  • Business Planning and Risk Management

  • Compliance with internal and external quality assurance standards

Charitable objects

  • To relieve poor persons resident in the benefit area by providing such persons with legal services which they could not otherwise obtain through lack of means

  • The advancement of education among persons resident or working in the benefit area

  • The advancement of such other charitable purposes as are beneficial to the community for persons resident or working in the benefit area

  • For all purposes, the benefit area shall be the Royal Borough of Greenwich and surrounding areas

Legal status

Charity Registration. No. 1043070
Limited Company Registration. No. 1778148

 
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Our history

Plumstead Community Law Centre (PCLC) is an independent, specialist legal advice agency, which was set up in Plumstead in 1979 and relocated to Woolwich in 2015.
 
The Law Centre is genuinely independent from its major funders and from other professional and non-professional interests and able to provide services free from any pressure which might seek to prevent the Law Centre from acting in its clients’ best interests.
 
Plumstead Community Law Centre historically undertook legal aid work in in the areas of welfare benefits, housing, employment, immigration and education and received a grant from Greenwich Council to provide both generalist and specialist advice, advocacy and representation for the residents, workers and students in Greenwich borough.


In 1999 PCLC set up Thamesmead Law Centre (TLC) as satellite office. In 2007 TLC became an independent limited company and a registered charity in its own right, later moving to Erith and becoming known as Cross Street Law Centre until it closed in 2014. The other local Law Centres in Lewisham, Bromley and Greenwich also closed in 2007, 2013 and 2014 respectively. This has left PCLC as the sole remaining Law Centre in outer South East London.

Since November 2011  PCLC has been funded by Greenwich Council to provide only specialist legal advice in the areas of welfare benefits, employment and immigration.

Following enactment of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) in 2013 almost all the work that PCLC undertook was removed from the scope of Legal Aid and PCLC has had to rely on local authority funding and other grants and service level agreements. This in recent years  included funding from the London Legal Support Trust, Advice Services Transition Fund, The Big Lottery, the Access to Justice Foundation and Trust for London

PCLC also seeks to raise awareness of welfare benefits, immigration and employment problems as a social issue and promote better social welfare policies at both a local and national level. We are involved in a number of local and national policy and campaigning bodies. PCLC seeks to improve access to legal advice and other avenues of support by providing training and consultancy to local community sector organisations and public services.

In recent years PCLC has adapted its services to adjust to an increasingly complex and challenging funding environment for not-for-profit advice providers. Our services now concentrate primarily on the provision of specialist advice, casework and litigation  and we employ experienced solicitors and caseworkers to ensure our clients have access to a full range of legal services, from initial advice through to tribunal representation.

Despite a heavy emphasis on specialist legal advice we have not lost sight of our charitable purpose or our focus on the needs of the local community. We provide free second-tier advice to other local groups and provide talks and seminars to raise awareness of local services and improve understanding of the issues affecting local residents, workers and students.

 

 
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Recent achievements

Changes to the Legal Aid Scheme, the squeeze on public sector finance, welfare reform and a raft of other legislative and policy reforms have had serious adverse effects on our clients and on the not-for-profit advice sector over the last few years.

Despite these challenges we have adapted and maintained a focus on quality and client care by:

  • Reorganising our staff team and recruiting volunteers to cater for an increase in demand for all our services

  • Maintaining a casework success rate of more than 85%


During 2019/20...

  • Money was recovered for clients in lump sum payments for backdated benefits

  • Additionally clients were over  better off weekly with additional benefits awarded during the year. 

  • Clients assisted by our employment solicitor benefitted from  awards and out of court settlements

  • Annual salaries  were retained for clients following PCLC’s intervention advice, advocacy and representation

  • Immigration clients were assisted to benefit from  fee waivers when applying to extend or regularise their rights to remain

  • Anumber of families also had the Nil Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) condition removed from their visa conditions. We do not know the value of the benefits that were subsequently awarded to these families, but as NRPF is ordinarily only removed in cases of extreme hardship, the total financial gain would have been significant

 
In total, PCLC benefitted our clients to the sum of £ 1,040,418 in 2020/21. Thus for each £1 of funding received, PCLC has generated over £6 for our clients and therefore indirectly the local economy.

 
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A day in the life...

of a volunteer at

Plumstead Community Law Centre

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I arrive at the Law Centre at 9am on Monday and there’s already a person standing outside waiting to be seen at the Employment drop-in clinic that starts at 10am. He tells me ‘…I’ve been here for an hour already…’, showing just how much people rely on this essential service.

I make myself a coffee and prepare the paperwork for the upcoming session. Once that’s ready, I’ll catch up with the solicitor, to see if there’s anything she’d like me to get on with in between clients. This can be anything, from researching developments in current legal issues such as zero-hour workers status to producing factsheets on areas including maternity rights and whistleblowing.

 

Then the clinic starts. My role is to talk to clients first to understand key facts about their case – what’s happened, what they need help with, and to check any time limits that might affect their ability to bring a claim. I’ll relay this information to the solicitor so she can maximise her time giving advice and help the client take their next steps.

 

I’m always shocked at the number of people coming in with unpaid wages claims – it’s astounding what some employers try to get away with! We can only see five people per session due to time and budget constraints, so it’s difficult having to turn people away when we’re at capacity.

 

In the afternoon, I’ll crack on with any follow up work from the morning’s clients, such as working out how much someone is owed, or organising any documents they’ve brought in. I’ll also finalise the tasks from the morning and send them to the solicitor to review before heading home.