Personal Support Unit

We periodically post about the great things people in Birmingham are able to do with our grant funding. These great things are often hidden, unsung but of extreme value to people in great need. This one is no exception.

Personal Support Unit (PSU) was founded in January 2001 by Lady Copisarow (widow of Sir Alcon Copisarow), and is an award-winning charity that exists to support people who are forced to face court without legal representation. Their work involves trained volunteers providing practical and emotional support to clients embroiled in civil and family litigation. Their volunteers support people in critical, often life-changing cases giving them the best possible chance of obtaining justice. Their support enables clients to keep their homes, maintain contact with children, move away from an abusive relationship and fight economic disadvantage.

The Wisdom Factory CIC provided PSU Birmingham in May 2018 with a grant of £1,000. The funding helped to cover the costs of the PSU service in Birmingham (PSU Birmingham).

Over the past 12 months, with funding from The Wisdom Factory CIC, PSU Birmingham has been able to focus on a number of areas. Some of the key outcomes were:

  • PSU helped people on 6,790 occasions.
  • PSU met increasing demand: they now help people over 560 times a month.
  • PSU focused on building local partnerships that widen their influence and improve the quality of their service. They have maintained strong relationships with partner universities: Birmingham City University (BCU), The University of Birmingham, University of Law and BPP and they developed a new relationship with Aston University. This has led to the recruitment of more volunteers and has helped PSU greatly in coping with higher demand for the service.
  • BCU also funded a new sign for their waiting room which has helped to increase PSU’s prominence within the court building.
  • Last year PSU launched their Domestic Abuse Project in the Midlands. This has already increased signposting to domestic abuse support agencies, including Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid, Muslim Women’s Network, Men’s Aid and RESPECT.  The specialist domestic abuse support worker has also discussed cases with volunteers in the Birmingham office, to help enhance volunteer skills and understanding of domestic abuse with further training scheduled.

Last year PSU also launched a pilot for a national phone service. Based at Birmingham City University, the pilot lasted for three months and was operated by 22 student volunteers. The pilot was a great success and has meant that many more people across the country who are not able to visit PSU in person were able to access support.

The service was empathetic and professional, transparent and clear. The process can be extremely intimidating – PSU has given me the confidence I needed.

PSU service user

Since receiving the grant in May 2018, PSU have steadily grown in terms of volunteer numbers, developed new and exciting local partnerships and supported more people in Birmingham. They also continue to offer a cost-effective service. It now costs less than £7 to support a disadvantaged person going through court alone in Birmingham.

Last year, 54% of PSU’s total client contacts involved family cases, of which 74% involved the welfare of children. A further 43% of cases concerned money, bankruptcy, employment and housing, placing people, often the marginalised, at risk of loss of contact with children, debt, unemployment and homelessness. In addition to having to represent themselves, many PSU clients face additional disadvantages, last year: 54% were not in employment, 49% were from ethnic minorities and 23% were registered disabled or had a serious health issue. 

If you’re a client of ours or use one of our products – give yourself a pat on the back. You helped us to give a little help to PSU to help thousands of people.

Author: Mike Mounfield

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