York students pilot free letter-writing scheme

College of Law students from York are running free letter-writing clinics in Doncaster as part of a legal literacy scheme to help members of the public get to grips with their rights.

The project, which is part of a 54,000 New Deal for Communities (NDC) initiative, will see law students advising local people on a range of everyday rights and problems connected with regeneration.

Steve Levett, the college’s Streetlaw Plus project coordinator, said he hoped to encourage more students to set up stalls in community centres, public libraries or supermarkets.

He said: “NDC residents who struggle to articulate themselves in writing can then explain what their problem is and the students will set it out in a way that’s clear and coherent. Once the client’s happy that the letter accurately reflects their worries, the letter will be checked by a supervisor and then sent back to the client. All the client has to do is sign it and put a stamp on the envelope.”

In carrying out the project, students will have the opportunity to practise essential legal skills, such as interviewing and drafting documents in an easily understandable form.

‘NDC residents can explain what their problem is and the students will set it out in a way that’s clear’ – Steve Levett, College of Law

Professor Richard Grimes, the college’s director of clinical education, said: “Everyone should benefit. The NDC programme will introduce a novel, and, we expect, highly effective concept that ought to increase the capacity of the community to recognise and address many of the problems it faces.”

If the initial six-week pilot period is successful, the scheme may be rolled out at College of Law branches across the country.