The new service was set up in the Bangladesh Centre on Walford Road in Sparkbrook. As our first backers, the Bangladesh Centre very kindly allowed us to establish the new law centre in their building on a rent free basis. This support was invaluable to us as we looked to keep costs as low as possible in the early months.
We attracted initial funding from Barrow Cadbury, Yardley Great Trust, Friends Hall Farm Street Trust, The Grimmitt Trust, Harry Payne Trust, Access to Justice Foundation, AB Charitable Trust, DLA Piper and Birmingham Law Society in order to set up the new law centre. Since then, we have been successful in a bid for funding from The Baring Foundation/Comic Relief and Unbound Philanthropy for a project assisting destitute migrant families. We have also received a grant from WA Cadbury as well as funding for a debt advice project from the Money Advice Service.
Like all law centres, BCLC defends the legal rights of people who cannot afford a lawyer. We are a not-for-profit, solicitor- led legal advice agency able to provide an holistic service to the most vulnerable and deprived members of society. We deal with the law that affects everyday life: welfare benefits, debt, housing, community care, immigration and asylum, as well as employment and discrimination and public law.
Birmingham Community Law Centre’s approach is to combine practical legal solutions at an early stage alongside complex and strategic legal challenges that can positively affect many other clients following behind.
Michael Bates is a caseworker and manager of the new law centre. He worked for Birmingham Law Centre for 17 years before its closure in August 2013 and specialises in the area of law where immigration status affects entitlement to social and welfare support. He has experience of representation in the First-tier and Upper Tribunal as well as Judicial Review.
Habib Ullah is a solicitor and caseworker and also used to work for Birmingham Law Centre. He was there for 15 years and is a specialist in welfare benefits and debt advice. He has experience of representing clients at all levels through the courts and tribunals and is fluent in several community languages including Bangla and Urdu. Habib also undertakes community care casework and has experience of Judicial Review.
Abu Uddin is our receptionist and administrator. Abu brings a wealth of customer service experience to the role and has also worked at the Bangladesh Multi-Purpose Centre.
Naomi Lesser is a caseworker and supervises the BCLC debt team. She has successfully lead our Money Advice Service debt project since January 2015 after joining us from Freshwinds, another advice organisation in Birmingham. Naomi has over 10 years’ experience in debt advice having worked in both the private and voluntary sector.
Tahsin Chowdhury is a trainee debt caseworker who has worked as part of our Money Advice Service debt project since November 2014. He brings energy to the role and has ably assisted the debt team in providing a high quality service to our clients and meeting funding targets.
Sobur Khan is a debt caseworker who joined the team in November 2015. He previously worked for the Asian Resource Centre for 10 years and joins the BCLC Debt Advice Project.
Karen Ashton is a solicitor and leads Central England Law Centre’s Public Interest Litigation Unit based at the BCLC office in Birmingham. Karen has many years of experience in the areas of community care and public law and has worked in private practice, at the Public Law Project and was partner in the Birmingham-based firm Public Law Solicitors until its closure in June this year.
Fahima Begum is an administrator for the Money Advice Service debt project. Fahima previously worked for the old Birmingham Law Centre for 12 years and brings a wealth of admin experience to BCLC.
The Asylum Support and Immigration Resource Team are a not-for-profit OISC-registered advocacy organisation working to support asylum-seekers, refugees and other people in the West Midlands who are or have been subject to immigration control.
Dave Stamp leads the team and they provide advice on immigration, and asylum, following this up through casework, the submission of representations to the Home Office and welfare support.
In November 2013, ASIRT decided to co-locate their services with us here at Birmingham Community Law Centre. This has helped ASIRT to reduce their costs and has allowed us both to share back office functions.
Being based in the same office has allowed the two organisations to work much more closely together and to collaborate on cases, leading to better outcomes for our clients. Please see our Migrant Families Support Project for evidence of this collaborative casework and also see the blog for every-day examples of successful cases.
For families with young children under the age of 5, we have partnered up with Family Action to provide a drop-in advice service every Tuesday between 2pm and 5pm. Shaleha Begum has been running these weekly advice sessions since November 2013.
This service is available in Bangla as well as English and can help with debt, benefits, form filling and grant applications.