In December 2020, SSRV, in partnership with Monash University, established the Social Security Advocacy Clinic, which has enabled SSRV to expand its client services and policy and project work capacity. It has also allowed SSRV staff an opportunity to develop clinical supervision and mentoring skills by contributing to the development of students entering the legal profession in Victoria.
The clinic provides Monash University law students with an opportunity to expand their knowledge of social security law, and administrative law more generally, as well as deepen their understanding of economic justice issues.
Over the initial 12 week placement, the students were able to gain practical experience by assisting people seeking legal advice through the General Advice Line as well as undertaking legal and policy tasks, under the supervision of the clinical supervisor and SSRV supervisor.
Positive feedback has been received regarding the services provided by the Monash services.
“ I recently used the SSRV service for some clarity on a Centrelink situation I discovered had occurred,” said one client who was provided legal assistance by a student.
“As someone who has a severe speech impediment and currently seeing a psychologist this situation was a major trigger in my physical and mental state.
“However, I was taken back by not only the assistance your service provided me but the calm and mature nature of the engagement.
“I was given plenty of time to explain the situation, and the agent provided me with some great advice and guidance. I cannot thank you enough as it really saved me from going down a dark road.”
Despite the various COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the second iteration of the clinic got underway in March 2021, with a combination of online and face-to-face learning.
Under the supervision of the clinical supervisor and SSRV supervisor, the students were able to provide 118 separate legal advice and information services through the General Advice Line, worked on 13 legal tasks and contributed to two policy tasks.
In the course of their work, the students were able to develop invaluable skills.
“Interacting with clients via SSRV’s general advice line was a fantastic experience that has opened my eyes to the breadth of social security law and the demand for assistance in this area from community members,” said one of the students.
“It was rewarding to know we could provide practical legal assistance those in great need.
“The SSRV staff and supervisors have exceeded any expectations I initially held at the start of the clinic. They have all been very helpful, engaging and encouraging, and have been willing to share much of their own knowledge and experiences with the students. Their leadership and guidance fostered a fantastic willingness to learn and grow amongst the student group.”
Building on the success of the first two Social Security Advocacy Clinics, in June 2021, the clinic commenced its third rotation with a new cohort of Monash University law students.
We are very pleased to continue our partnership with Monash University and look forward to working closely with the students to develop their practical legal skills and in doing so, expand SSRV’s client services.