Sarah's Story

 



I've been an Assistant Manager with the Personal Support Unit for 18 months. I'd previously worked at charities, but I had limited experience of helping clients face to face. My time at the Personal Support Unit has opened my eyes to the difficulties people face navigating the court system alone. It's also shown me the huge difference the Personal Support Unit can make.
 
 
My role as Assistant Manager is to enable our volunteers to provide the best service to our clients. I do this by providing equipment and up to date resources, helping with IT queries, training new volunteers, and generally ensuring the smooth running of the office. I also provide support to our volunteers after they've dealt with challenging cases. I also help clients directly in times of exceptional demand for the service. 
 
The PSU has an open door policy so we help anyone facing the civil and family courts alone. We work with other services that can provide additional specialist support, for example domestic abuse agencies. If we believe a client is eligible for legal aid, we help them to access this, and we signpost to relevant services, such as the local duty housing scheme. I really enjoy that each day at the PSU is different, but I also think this aspect of the role is as challenging as it is rewarding.  
 
 I feel a huge sense of pride when I see our volunteers help vulnerable people that had no one else to turn to, and I'm happy to be a part of that. 
 
I spoke to Sue - the client Eddie helped - the day before her hearing. We were just about to close the office when she called in. Sue had been referred to us when she had organised special measures directly with the court (for victims of domestic abuse). She was very anxious on the phone and told me how scared she was about going to court alone the next day. I listened to her and tried to calm her down. I reassured her that the special measures in place would prevent any face-to-face contact with her ex-husband. I explained that the court would provide a separate entrance/exit, waiting room and a screen divider in the court room.  
 
Due to Sue's experience, she initially wanted a female volunteer to go with her. Unfortunately, we didn't have a female volunteer available for an all-day hearing the following day. I explained that Eddie was available for the whole day, and he was a law student who had attended court before with clients who had experienced domestic abuse. She was happy to hear this and agreed that she would like Eddie to attend the hearing with her. I explained the role of the PSU and told her where Eddie would meet her the following morning. She thanked me and told me that she felt better than when she started the call. I told her the time I'd be arriving into the office in the morning and asked her to call me if she had any questions. When Eddie arrived the following day, I briefed him about Sue's case and explained how anxious she was.  
 
I'm so happy that we can support people like Sue. She felt alone and intimidated by the court system. Fortunately, due to our help, she felt she had been heard and that she had someone on her side. I think that made a huge difference for Sue.