Oxford Legal Assistance (OLA) has continued to flourish this year and continues to attract consistently high levels of interest from undergraduate law students, as in previous years. OLA has operated three pro bono projects this year, working in partnership with a local law firm, Turpin and Miller LLP, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID). Each of these projects has faced its own challenges but each of the schemes has been positively received by volunteers and has been able to achieve many of its core aims.
The Turpin and Miller scheme has continued to be an interesting experience for volunteers. They are able to offer real assistance for many of the firm’s asylum and immigration clients, old and new. This success has been achieved despite significant changes to national provision of legal aid, and the scheme has adapted well in light of such changes.
The CAB scheme has developed a new structure this year which will be implemented next year. This will involve student volunteers working directly with CAB’s own Gateway volunteers to assist with clients’ cases as well as undertaking research and administrative work. OLA’s CAB volunteers achieved a great deal this year, exemplified by the production of a 50 page report on payday loans.
OLA’s work with BID has been highly effective and successful this year. BID is a charity that works with asylum seekers and immigrants in order to secure their release from detention in immigration removal centres across the UK. OLA volunteers provided information to detainees on how to make a bail application and helping them prepare their applications. We regret that the scheme will be unable to continue next year due to the closure of BID’s Oxford office.
The OLA Public Law Moot took place again this year, and had great success. The moot problem focused on an issue within immigration and/or asylum law. The competition was significantly oversubscribed this year and the Grand Final of this year’s competition was judged by the Rt Hon Sir Stephen Sedley.
Given the overall success of OLA’s work this year, the unique opportunities that OLA offers students, and the generally high student demand for opportunities to volunteer with OLA, it is hoped that OLA will be able to expand and develop in the near future, with the ongoing support of the Oxford University Law Faculty.