Community legal programme helps vulnerable people during Covid-19 outbreak

A community legal outreach collaboration led by Keele University is continuing to ensure vulnerable people are supported during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Community Legal Outreach Collaboration Keele (CLOCK) is a collaboration led by Keele University in partnership with the courts, law firms and charitable services. The project has trained Keele law students as Community Legal Companions to support families in crisis to access legal and charitable support, through signposting to the CLOCK partners, and assisting directly in court.

Although the current government advice is to stay home in order to stay safe, it is clear that home may not be a safe space for all during the lockdown. The national domestic abuse helpline, run by the charity Refuge, has reported a very substantial 700% increase in calls to the helpline recently, and traffic to its website and use of web chat facilities have increased.

During the pandemic, the CLOCK service has received requests from schools, children's services, and direct requests from vulnerable persons experiencing sexual or domestic violence. Adapting to social distancing requirements, CLOCK is continuing to help people by operating a signposting service to ensure vulnerable people are able to access the help that they need via online and phone services.

As part of the CLOCK response to the pandemic, Keele students involved with the Law in Action scheme, a community legal education module, have created a series of short videos to raise awareness of the increased risks of the lockdown such as sexting amongst children, the increased risk of homelessness for those already sleeping rough or for those seeking refuge, and the increased hardship of the travel restrictions for asylum seekers, migrants and international students. The videos also act as a signposting tool to the CLOCK partner services available to support those in need.

Dr Jane Krishnadas, Senior Lecturer in Law and Director of CLOCK, said: “Keele University founded CLOCK in 2013 and so has been very well placed to respond swiftly with local community partners to the needs of families in crisis as a result of the pandemic. Staff and students have been able to help people in need to gain access to community legal services and other support where otherwise they would struggle to do so.

“We are always looking at how the University can develop and improve this kind of support, and this is currently focused on a potential increase in demand from those seeking refuge during the lockdown period.”

Nikki Taylor, Senior Training Manager from Savana, a sexual abuse and violence charity and CLOCK partner, said: “We have over the years been involved with CLOCK and the Law in Action students, and support the vast amount of work undertaken. As a sexual violence service it is important for us to raise awareness around the use of social media and what that can mean for a child or young person. We would like to encourage parents to be aware of who your child is interacting with whilst using social media, have open discussions, with lockdown measures in place at the moment many more are turning to social media platforms and not all will be who they seem.

Mickey Hemmings, New Era’s acting head of service, a domestic abuse charity based in Staffordshire and CLOCK partner, said: “We value the importance of the CLOCK collaboration to create awareness of the support available to local people experiencing domestic abuse and to signpost those in need to our services.

“We’re providing a wide range of services, including emotional support, practical help, as well as advice on how to stay safe and various coping strategies. As usual, we’re working with partner organisations to ensure everyone gets the support they need, including help to leave the family home if necessary.”

To apply for assistance from CLOCK and the partner organisations, please visit