Personal Support Unit launches fundraising appeal to expand vital services following legal aid cuts

The Personal Support Unit (PSU) has revealed plans to assist Litigants in Person more than 80,000 times over the coming year (2019/20).

The PSU, which was established in 2001, relies on a team of 755 dedicated volunteers* across 23 courts in England and Wales to help litigants who are unable to afford legal representation by sorting through paperwork, organising case notes and attending court hearings, giving litigants the confidence to represent themselves in court.

63% of PSU-assisted cases last year were family related, involving either divorce or child custody – an area particularly hard hit by legal aid reductions resulting in the closure of advice centres and increased court fees. The charity also supports individuals facing immigration, housing, employment and bankruptcy court hearings.

From April 2018 to March 2019, the PSU had 75,432 contacts with individuals. Out of a total of 7,869 users surveyed, 99% felt “better prepared” for their court hearings following support from the PSU, and significantly, 97% of 4,734 respondents felt the PSU had helped them get a “fairer hearing.”

As part of its expansion, the PSU launched a free, confidential helpline in March this year, which has so far received 2,892 calls from litigants seeking support.**

To fund this and other services the charity offers, The Rt Hon The Baroness Hale of Richmond, President of the Supreme Court and Patron of the PSU, will take part in a BBC Radio 4 appeal aired throughout Sunday 28th July.

Peter Crisp, Chair of the PSU, said:

“Almost half of us will use the justice system at some point in our lives. The PSU’s purpose is to help some of the most vulnerable in society to access justice. Almost 50% of individuals we assist are unemployed and sadly 25% have mental health problems or a physical disability.”
He adds: “Despite our growth, we know there are many Litigants in Person who still have nowhere to turn to, which is why we are striving to expand our services to reach more people. We receive amazing support from the legal profession and we currently have 22 fantastic corporate partners who support us with regular giving. We are hoping to increase this number to 30 by 2020 to ensure the PSU can continue to deliver vital support to litigants facing court alone.”

ENDS

Note to Editors

About the PSU

The PSU is an award-winning organisation with around 755 dedicated volunteers* (often retired lawyers). It operates from 23 courts in 19 different cities across England and Wales.

It was founded in 2001 by Lady Copisarow OBE with the aim of reducing the disadvantage of people facing the civil and family justice system without a lawyer, enabling them to access justice.

The PSU relies on funding from the Government, Trusts, corporate sponsors and donations from friends and individuals. In 2018/19, its annual revenue was £1,103,257.

Trustees include: Peter Crisp, Kirit Naik, Elizabeth Davies, Caroline Field, Peter Hancock CBE, Angela Camber, Elisabeth Long, Greville Waterman, David Wilkin and as of 9th July Samantha Gargaro, Stephen Adler and Tim Nash.

Patrons include: Martin Lewis OBE, The Rt Hon The Baroness Hale of Richmond (President of the Supreme Court), The Rt Hon Sir Terence Etherton (Master of the Rolls), The Rt Hon The Lady Butler-Sloss, The Rt Hon The Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony, The Rt Hon Lord Dyson, The Rt Hon The Lord Neuberger, The Rt Hon The Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, The Rt Hon The Lord Thomas, The Rt Hon The Lord Woolf, The Rt Hon The Lord Judge.
**Figure exact as of 11 July 2019

For more information on the PSU, please see: https://www.thepsu.org/

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