Social welfare law is ‘the law of real life’, and is what determines whether ordinary people’s ‘rights are upheld, their interests protected, and their ambitions fulfilled’, TLEF chairman Guy Beringer told guests at the foundation’s Inner Temple reception.
Despite its importance to people’s lives, social welfare law – which includes housing, welfare benefits, debt, community care, immigration, employment, mental health, equality – has been a ‘Cinderella area’ of the legal profession, he added. ‘It is often untaught by our universities, undervalued by our profession, and is often a closed book to the public.’
TLEF believes this position will not improve unless social welfare law is championed as a career choice for the most able young lawyers, which is why the foundation created its ground-breaking Justice First Fellowship scheme, he said. The fellowship has funded the training contracts of nearly 70 new social welfare solicitors and barristers since it was launched five years ago. ‘The scheme is gaining momentum and, in a few years, Justice First Fellows will be numbered in their hundreds. We hope this will help the law of real life be given the status is deserves and to be a reality for many people.’
Guy Beringer was speaking at the foundation’s fifth annual reception, which brings together people from a range of different organisations which have all received TLEF grant funding, to allow them to network and exchange ideas and information. It was attended by in excess of 100 guests.
A transcript of his speech can be read here.