Students at the University of Sussex have helped more than 600 people through a partnership with a local Citizens Advice service.
Law students at Sussex have helped clients with issues including debt, homelessness and relationship breakdown, through a volunteering project that is the first of its kind in the South East.
The scheme allows Sussex students to attend a two-week training course, instead of the usual three‑to‑four‑month training period, before helping clients at Central and South Sussex Citizens Advice (CASSCA).
Eleanor Schamroth, a student volunteer in Worthing, said of her experience: “I’ve really enjoyed training to be a level 2 adviser with CASSCA, and it’s been an insightful and highly valuable experience.
“The cases that have stuck with me have been where I’ve helped clients who are elderly, or who suffer from mental health issues. It’s been rewarding to be able to help them access the services they need.”
Students have helped 667 clients at centres in Crawley, Shoreham and Worthing since the scheme began in September last year, dealing with complex and sometimes emotionally challenging issues.
In one employment advice case, a student adviser worked with a client who had been suspended following an allegation at work. The adviser was able to inform the client of their rights, as well as giving them practical help with preparing for a disciplinary agreement.
In another case, one of the students helped a client who was experiencing problems with bailiffs. The creditor agreed to take back the debt, allowing the adviser to draw up a payment plan with the client and alleviating a great deal of anxiety.
Jason Mather, client services team leader at CASSCA, said: “The students have been with us now for a full academic year and they have made a fantastic contribution to our service.
“I’ve been so impressed with their commitment, their skill level, and the way they’ve dealt with the clients, who are sometimes vulnerable individuals.”
The Citizens Advice project forms part of the Clinical Legal Education (CLE) module within the university’s law degree, which offers students the opportunity to undertake volunteer placements in the community.
The CLE module also sees students providing free legal advice on employment, family and housing issues, and assisting people during court hearings.
To find out more, visit: www.cassca.org.uk