Social Work in Legal Aid Services Programs

Social Work in Legal Aid Services Programs

Although professionally trained social workers tend to be employed by larger agencies, the social workers practice in legal services programs of various sizes. They function as the sole provider of social work services in a legal services program. Social workers in legal services provide case-oriented services, including information and referral, advocacy, crisis counselling and psycho-social evaluation. In addition, they also offer a range of community-oriented and administrative services.

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The social work services probably reflect agency needs, size, location, and mission. In infield programs, legal staff are not highly specialized; attorneys usually carry a large, diverse caseload and share responsibility for working on legislative issues, community education projects, and supervising paralegals and legal interns. Social workers saw little conflict with agency management regarding the type of services to be provided; services most valued by social workers and program directors were similar to functions most frequently performed by social workers.


The functions of social workers, such as providing information, referral and case advocacy, do not require social work training. But services such as crisis counselling and psycho-social evaluation require considerable clinical skill and an understanding of personality dynamicsCrisis intervention, for example, is a well-established method for managing emotional reactions to loss or threats of failure. Legal services clients are often distraught when they seek help, as their legal problems typically involve significant loss or threat to survival. Without the availability of social work services, the emotional and social aspects of the case may be ignored; more likely, they would be handled or mishandled by an attorney with no training in crisis intervention. Clients in crisis are better served if legal and psycho-social aspects of their problems are addressed by skilled professionals.


The Social workers are also predominantly involved in providing indirect services, including community organizing, community education and community needs assessment, legislative advocacy, management, organizational development and training. Social work in legal services emphasizes areas related to family and juvenile law. They also focus on public benefits, family law, juvenile law and housing. These are areas of traditional social work concern.

Problems in housing and public benefits, such as eviction or benefits check termination, affect the individual's basic needs for income, shelter, food and health care. Social work interventions may be applied at the case and community levels.


To affect change in the public benefits area on the community level, social workers can prepare materials to educate the poor about their rights to welfare benefits, organize local welfare rights groups and participate in regional and statewide efforts to improve income maintenance services.

Problems in the family and juvenile law rarely present clear-cut legal issues. They characteristically involve people who have been engaged in emotionally intense relationships. Legal action is usually initiated when these relationships have reached the breaking point.

Clearly, consideration of the social and emotional aspects of these cases is critical, especially when the welfare is of children is involved. For example, in juvenile cases involving alleged neglect of children, social workers can assist attorneys by obtaining historical information and evaluating the psycho-social milieu in which the person's pa person personal problem developed. With this info, an attorney is in a better position to judge the merits of the case, understand the motivations of the key actors, advise the client, and negotiate some reasonable compromise or effectively try the case.


In cases that come to court, the social worker may be able to testify to the facts in the case, offer a professional opinion based on expertise in family and child welfare, or provide recommendations concerning dispositional alternatives. The social worker can serve the parents by helping them understand how the legal problem developed, articulate their concerns, and build motivation to accept the services they need to strengthen family life and prevent future problems.

The focus of Social Work  Legal aid services

Besides, In Legal aid services, Social Work focuses on:

§  Protection of women and child torture, torture for dowry/forced labour,
§  Protection for raped, burnt, kidnapped children and women,
§  Protection of human trafficking
§  Protection of destitute and homeless
§  Protection of welfare provisions
§  Protection of fundamental requirements & Social Security


Importance of Legal Aid in Bangladesh

The modern justice system through judicial adjudication is very costly. That cost has been the most challenging factor for ordinary people to get justice in developed and developing countries. In a suit where one party is poor and the other party is opulent, equality, the rule of law, and a fair trial are ensured in our constitution. Different constitutions and documents of the world can not be maintained because the opulent party can appoint an expert advocate who can easily take the fruits of the suit in favour of his clients, which the opposite advocate fails to do. Therefore as long as the poor exist in society, legal aid will be necessary to uphold human rights and equality. Thus the provision of legal assistance is essential for the safe walk of democracies on the track of the rule of law and the equal protection of laws. 


Access to Justice through Legal Aid

Providing a legal aid scheme makes the law and legal services accessible, to all-in commitment to the internationally recognized equality of justice. Unless legal aid could be claimed as of right, it cannot be said that equality before the law has been achieved. In a democratic country, it is a prerequisite for all citizenstAidonomic and justice. In devel, the law is often discriminatory in the oping countries, while the process to access justice is slow, cumbersome and complex. The result is that people, especially the poor, have inadequate and unequal access to justice through requires that both these systems are made to work justly and equitably. This is possible by giving legal aid to indigent litigants only. The objective around which the program of legal aid is woven by the developing countries is that there should be uniformity of assistance for the poor and the privileged sections of a democratic country. 


Cases where Legal Aid may be given

Providing legal aid to some people benefits even those who do not get legal assistance by changing community standards. Still, legal aid must be given to many people for this to happen. Legal aid is thus an essential issue in the development Aid society. The emphasis on the group's beneficiaries is disadvantageous in the Aid community. Legal assistance may provide representation iAidhe types of cases: 

Public benefit

This includes welfare, medical assistance, supplemental security income, social security, and unemployment compensation. 

Housing Problem

This includes eviction, lockouts, confiscation of personal foreclosures, discrimination (racial and against families with children), disputes with landlords over repairs, rent contracts deposits or difficulties with public housing. 

Consumer Cases

This includes debt problems, contracts, warranties repossessions, wage garnishments, discrimination and counselling on small claims court and bankruptcy procedures.

Family Law Issues

This includes divorce, adoption, custody, support, visitation, guardianship, restraining orders, defence in paternity and modification of decrees.

Senior Law Problem

This includes Medical, Medicare, Guardianship defence, and Issue involving nursing homes or other types of care facilities. 

Juveniles Legal Problems

This includes expulsion and suspension from school and other disputes involving the school. In addition, some offices may represent juveniles in criminal proceedings; however, this is by court appointment only. 


Labour Legal Aid Cell

It focuses on legal advice/education and court representation for the labourer, conducts litigants in labour court, and acts as a mediator between workers and owners. 


Some programs handle a limited number of cases in immigration law. 

The focus of Legal Aid Services

▪ protection of women and child torture, torture for dowry/forced labour, 
▪ protection for raped, burnt, kidnapped children and women, 
▪ protection of human trafficking 
▪ protection of destitute and homeless 
▪ protection of welfare provisions 
▪ protection of fundamental provisions 
▪ Social Security

Our society and the necessity of Legal Aid

Legal aid, as commonly understood, assists in legal matters both in and outside the Courts for the poor litigants. In the l Legal aid movement city, the necessity of legal aid is immensely felt. Our homeland Bangladesh is small in area but very thick, possibly thickest, in population. The economic condition of the people, I mean the ordinary people forming 90% of the people, baffles description. They are not only poverty-stricken but are deprived of the minimum basic needs of life. Far from any access to the privileges of modern life, they cannot even peep through the doors and windows of everyday life and civilization. The demon of illiteracy and wants has kept them subjugated and ignorant of fundamental human rights and amenities. Of course, attempts have been made from time to time to make them free from the same, but not in an appropriate, concerted, planned, scientific and continuous process. As a result, their fate still revolves around the globe of darkness without any better charge.

Many judges variously ascribed a remark, but most frequently by Mathew L.J., that "justice is open to all like the Rite Hotel. "Behind this remark lies an age-long complaint that the cost of law prevents the poor from getting that justice. Of course, some provisions do .exist in-laws in our country, both on the civil. On the Criminal side, namely, forma-pauper is in the form of service of pauper counsel, which means State lawyers mainly in capital sentence cases in the latter. But that is too inadequate and far from the quantum of actual demand or necessity. In England, several centuries back, the Magna-Carta was exacted by the Barons from King John in the year 1215, wherein we find one of the following. Therefore, the main object, the main object on the whole claim for legal aid thereof, might reasonably be based: 

"To no man will we deny, to no man will we sell or delay justice or right."

But in practice, however, this remained purely a pious promise. And then came the book" Justice and tile Bar in England. Its author, Garnet' Champion, felt strongly that the pledge had no longer been honoured, so he maintained that a bill should be passed either to repeal the above Section of Mama-Carta in so far only as poor persons were concerned or to increase the legal assistance effectively to the poor. Ultimately, Parliament appointed the Rush Cliffe Committee to examine the matter, which in its report recommended what was, in fact. A new public service of legal aid. Eventually, 'The Legal Aid and Advice Act' was passed ill Great Britain. The scheme conferred immense benefits to the poor litigants and has been operating since then smoothly there. The Act provides three forms of legal assistance: ‑

(1) Legal Advice.

(11) Legal Aid in the formation and disputing of a claim.

(11 I) Aid ill connection with legal proceedings.

The responsibility of administering the scheme has been placed upon the Law Society. Under the system, the country is divided into some zones or areas. In each area in one town, there is an Area Head Quarter with permanent staff. In respect of each area. There is an Area Committee composed of practising barristers and solicitors. They are appointed by the tail of the Law Society. But ill the case of barrister members, on the nomination of the Bar Council. There is a local committee in various towns within each area with its office and permanent staff. The local committee members are again the practising, solicitors and barristers. The insufficient admittees to consider the applications for legal aid certificates.

It is essential to remember that the scheme is fundamentally not for free legal aid but for assisted legal assistance. The problem which faced the framers of the project was what should be the income limit of the client to deserve the legal aid. They felt that it is difficult to make any hard and fast line because a man who falls within the fixed limit gets his free legal aid service, but outside the limit, he receives nothing. Therefore, they hit on the idea that some deserving persons are given free service and some on payment of contributions according to capacities.

The amount of an applicant's maximum contribution is to be assessed by the National Assistance Board, and the Local and Area Committees are bound to accept the assessment so made.

It is further provided that the Legal Aid Fund shall have a charge on any property recovered or preserved for the assisted person in the proceedings to cover the net liability of the Fund on this account. Any damages and costs recovered oil on behalf of all assisted persons have to be paid to his Solicitor, and nobody else can give a good discharge. Having received the amount, the Solicitor is bound to pay it into the Legal Aid Fund.

The arrangements for obtaining legal advice are, to some extent, different from those outlined above for bringing a claim certificate or a proceedings certificate. Legal advice is given to deserving persons by a Solicitor in ordinary practice. Fie must endeavour to satisfy himself that the applicant could not otherwise afford to obtain the necessary legal advice.

This is all about the legal aid system in Civil proceedings in England. It is also available in Criminal cases and works in the same way except that certificate is issued not by a Legal Aid Committee but by a Court.

No such Act or legislation provides any legal aid scheme for poor clients in our country. Of course, our constitution provides in Article 27 that "Ali citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law". Again in Article 31, it is provided that "To enjoy the protection of the law, and to be treated following the law, and only following the law, is the inalienable right of every citizen, wherever lie may be, and of every other person for the time being within Bangladesh and. in particular, no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except following the law. The above declarations are undoubtedly the corner-stones for the administration of justice and the rule of law. Besides, even-handed justice and equality before the law are the two cardinal principles our Islam code of life enjoined.

The Holy Prophet declared that "All men are equal in their human rights."

But, the aforesaid constitutional declarations and the golden principles of justice and equality of human rights, together with the rule of law, will be judged meaningless if the poor litigant public is deprived of their fundamental human rights and is not ensured of their freedom of equality before the law and equal protection of law by proper legal assistance at times of their need.

Before concluding, I should add that the International Commission of Jurists, in its resolution on "Legal Aid and Rule of Law", narrated as follows:-"Equal access to the law for the rich and poor alike is essential to the maintenance of the rule of law. It is, therefore, essential to provide good legal advice and representation to all those threatened as to their life, liberty, property or reputation who are not able to pay for it."


Asadujjaman M. (2010). Access to Justice and Legal Aid in Bangladesh.

Hossaini, M. R. I., & Hossain, M. S. Legal Aid: A Process to Ensure Access to Justice and Human Rights in Bangladesh.

Jahan, E. (2015). Legal Aid in Bangladesh: Application and Commitment. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, 4(2), 2-3.

Murad, M. H., & Hossain, M. S. (2014). Legal Aid in Bangladesh: An Overview. Journal of Educational and Social Research, 4(3), 279.

Craige, H. B., Saur, W. G., & Arcucri, J. B. (1982). The practise of social work in legal services programs. J. Soc. & Soc. Welfare, 9, 307.

Mian, M. N., & Rashid, M. M. (2014). A Critical Analysis of Legal Aid in Bangladesh. International Journal of Social Science Research, 2(1), 139-150.

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