Institute for Social Renewal

Our Students

McKenzie Friend Project

What happened?

Newcastle Law School, in partnership with the National Centre for Domestic Violence (“NCDV”), has re-established the McKenzie Friend Project in Newcastle Law School as a pilot in 2015. Backed by Jenny Johnstone, Law students will work pro bono, quickly and efficiently, to obtain urgent non-molestation orders for those in need.

Background/Context:

The NCDV was established in 2002 to address the concerns of those in abusive situations, particularly those seeking a non-molestation and/or occupation order. It aims to ensure clients are in court and having their application heard within 24 hours of initial contact, and so always acts with a sense of urgency. The McKenzie Friend Scheme works within the NCDV to provide a much needed opportunity for women and men in abusive relationships in the North East to file a relevant court order when they cannot afford to pay for legal advice. 

Primarily, the role of the Newcastle Law School NCDV McKenzie Friends students is to take witness statements over the phone.  A unique skill set is required by these students to ensure that they obtain all the information needed to support the application for an Order while retaining empathy and understanding. 

Outcomes:

Importantly, Newcastle Law School is keen to ensure a balanced approach by encouraging both male and female students volunteers, reflecting an increase of domestic violence towards male victims. An increase in male participants will help meet a specific need within the community. The students themselves will be invigorated by the worthiness of the project, and procedural safeguards will be implemented vigorously to ensure the smooth running of the scheme, and the time-management and good health of all the students involved. Additionally, in some cases there will be the opportunity for the students to attend court with the client to offer support as a McKenzie Friend. 

Reach/significance:

Newcastle Law School is the only academic Law School actively engaged in this project in the North of England. Given the increasing number of calls the national helpline is receiving from victims in the North East, this project will be able to meet an urgent and important demand within the local community. In this way, the University is leading by example and upholding the ideals of the civic university in the North East.

Street Law Project

What happened?

Newcastle Law School's Street Law project is a pro bono initiative which works with children and young people in the region to raise awareness of, educate, engage, and encourage participation in issues surrounding children’s law and children’s rights.

Law students from each stage of study at Newcastle University are recruited and trained each year to become Street Law Ambassadors. They deliver interactive sessions to groups of local children and young people, on legal issues such as police powers, access to legal advice, rights at school, street drinking and transitions to adulthood.

Background/Context:

This is set in the wider context of an understanding that it is important and empowering for children and young people to know their rights. Jenny Johnstone from Newcastle Law School worked to establish this project to harness the research strengths within the Law School and the enthusiasm of the Law School students.

Outcomes:

The project has developed positive relationships between the law school and the local community. Young people within the North East have welcomed the information and guidance. Furthermore development of topic areas for the Street Law project has been informed by the young people who they have met, and so the project has become responsive to real need.

The students who volunteer to be part of the Street Law programme have deepened their understanding of how law needs to be explained and applied in real life settings, which is so valuable for their professional development and for their career potential.

“I found my participation in the Street Law scheme as an invaluable and rewarding experience last year. It surpassed my expectations and allowed me an insight into the real application of law in day-to-day life, for various vulnerable members of the community. I feel like this is an insight most Law students don’t get the opportunity to have, to be able to distinguish between what we read in black and white, and what happens in real life. “- Lynsey, Street Law Ambassador

But the students also gain a great sense of personal achievement and pride in working with the young people

“Being involved in Street Law has been really rewarding- it has allowed me to meet some great people, both within the university and in the youth groups we work with. Not only that, it is a great way to improve legal research skills and being able to present the law in an accessible, interactive way is something which the whole team has enjoyed. What appeals to me most about the Street Law project is being able to give something back to the local community. I can honestly say we have learnt as much from the young people as they have learnt from us, and I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to get involved to do so!” - Amy, Street Law Ambassador

“The project is an amazing opportunity to raise awareness through different youth groups. It is great to see how valuable the sessions are for young people, who usually are not aware about their rights…The best feeling is when it is visible that the group is interested in the topic and can use the information provided in real life”. - Magdalena, Street Law Ambassador

Reach/significance:

The Street Law project is an excellent example of the civic university approach which is actively engaged with its wider community and relates this to it sense of purpose and it applies it to it sense of place (in this case the local region). By harnessing the research skills of it academics, the commitment and dedication of it students, Newcastle Law School has been able to undertake a transformative demand led project.

The Street Law Project won a national award in 2012 (Alistair MacQueen award) and has been a successful pilot approach that the Law School are looking to extend into other areas.

For more information on the Street Law project, please visit the Newcastle Law School

Storytelling

Stories of Everyday Life.

Stories of Everyday Life’ invited people to tell their stories about living or working with speech, language or communication needs.

Over 40 of our talented speech and language therapy students (BSc Speech & Language Sciences and MSc Language Pathology) volunteered to help children tell their story in the best way they could, be it speaking, writing, drawing, signing, audio or video recording.

The children were able to take home DVDs of their stories and pictures. This was a collaboration between the Centre for Research in Linguistics and Language Sciences  and the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences, funded by NISR.