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Project information

Volunteers to help those facing court alone

The PSU is a charity for people who cannot afford a lawyer. We help these people represent themselves in civil and family courts. Trained volunteers offer free, instant access to our service. To keep current centres open and launch more vital PSU units, we must recruit new volunteers.

July 2015 - March 2016

Charity information: Court Based Personal Support

Court Based Personal Support logo
  • Need


    Widespread cuts to civil legal aid mean thousands more people every day are being forced to undergo legal proceedings without a lawyer. At an automatic disadvantage and often facing stressful situations, such as eviction, bankruptcy, or losing the right to see their children, most people are confused and frustrated by the court system. Many people also face language and literacy issues, mental and physical health problems and poverty – all of which means access to justice is unlikely.


    We offer trained volunteers who give practical assistance and emotional support through some of the most stressful situations any of us may have to face. They listen to clients, help tidy paperwork in a rational order and signpost them to free and paid legal help. Volunteers also attend court with the client, go through the outcomes afterwards and help them to think about the next steps. The PSU enables litigants to take control of their case so they are better able to gain access to justice.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Increase the number of times PSU volunteers are able to help clients from 40,000 to 50,000 a year.


    » Help unrepresented people in PSU offices from 9.30am – 4.30pm every day that the courts are open.
    » Provide volunteers to help people sort out their paperwork and complete legal forms.
    » Train volunteers to help people separate their emotions from the factual evidence they will need to present in court by talking through the facts.
    » Provide volunteers to sit in court with clients, and then meet with them after to go through what has happened and help them understand the outcome.

    What success will look like

    By recording and monitoring the number of times our volunteers help people each month.

    Aim 2

    Open four new PSUs; recruiting, training and supporting the volunteers to help clients at each one.


    » Open new PSUs in Chelmsford, Preston and two further locations in England or Wales.
    » Hire a Coordinator for each new PSU centre.
    » Recruit a team of volunteers for each centre.
    » Providing training and onsite support to all volunteers.

    What success will look like

    By achieving our plan to open four new PSU centres by March 2016.

    Aim 3

    Recruit, train and support 50 volunteers to help people at existing and planned PSUs.


    » Recruit new volunteers from a range of sources.
    » Provide training for new volunteers and inductions at their PSU centre.
    » Facilitate continuous on-the-job learning by providing onsite support from a PSU Coordinator.

    What success will look like

    By recording and monitoring the number of new volunteers recruited, trained and supported, as well as the size of the PSU volunteer team.

    Aim 4

    Maintain our client satisfaction rate at above 95%


    » Support volunteers to provide practical and emotional support, often without the need for an appointment.
    » Tailor support to each individual, helping them for as long as they need.
    » Train volunteers to listen first, and to empower people by finding solutions together.

    What success will look like

    By continuing to seek feedback from those we help.

  • Impact


    Establishing four new court-based help centres for those facing court alone will have a dramatic impact on the civil legal experience of local people in each area.
    Local knowledge will grow about how to get help when it is needed. Local support networks will also grow around local referrals.


    Opening new PSUs always come with risk of not attracting enough volunteers, or clients. However, the PSU works carefully with the courts to examine where the need is greatest, looking at local deprivation indicators and civil and family court numbers. When a new PSU is opened we will signpost and advertise locally, working with referral agencies and partners to ensure clients and volunteers have heard about us.


    Donors will receive a thank you from a volunteer explaining the impact the donor’s support has had on our clients. Donors can also receive a quarterly newsletter about the PSU’s work and people they are helping.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £10,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £3,300 Volunteer costs - lunch Covering the cost of lunches while volunteering for 50 volunteers for one year
      £6,700 Volunteer costs - travel Covering the cost of travel to their PSU for 50 volunteers for one year
  • Background


    Our project will span England and Wales. The 50 volunteers will be part of the team of 500+ volunteers providing support in existing PSUs in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield, and in planned PSUs in Chelmsford, Preston and two other locations.


    Across the country, those we help are battling difficult personal circumstances: 37% are unemployed, 1 in 4 speaks English as a second language and 1 in 5 has a serious health complaint – factors which complicate already stressful proceedings. 50% are involved in family court cases, with 2 in 3 family cases about children. The rest need help with housing (where they may be at risk of homelessness), bankruptcy, debt or money, or issues about their health, welfare benefits or employment.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    The PSU is an experienced service – our volunteers have been supporting those without lawyers through the court system for 14 years. We are now in 12 courts in 10 centres. We are the only organisation that provides free, instant access support to people every day the courts are open. We are well respected by the judiciary across England and Wales and the Ministry of Justice and are seen as a benefit to the courts.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Personal Support Unit

    Personal Support Unit


is the cost of helping one person.