Welcome to the latest podcast from the National Association of Licensed Paralegals – or NALP as we normally abbreviate it. NALP is the longest running UK membership body for paralegals. We have dedicated over 30 years to promoting the status of paralegal professionals.
Today we are joined by Andrew Willis, Chairman of the Banburyshire Advice Centre, an independent charity offering advice on benefits and other matters to the local community.
Describe yourself in two sentences or less:
Oh gosh, I would probably describe myself as someone who was caring and dedicated to my charity work.
What’s your favourite movie of all time?
This is a really hard question. I’ve got two, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I like the two because it just shows you the underdog being the hero of the actual film, which is really nice with the hobbits.
When you retire, where in the world would you like to live, money no object?
I’ve got two actually, I’m being greedy. I like Austria, I love the scenery, the apple strudels, I like the culture. And then, opposite that, I like Tortola, which I’ve never been to but I’ve seen pictures. I just love the actual look of the beaches and the warmth, so those are the two places I would really like to go and see.
Can you give me an overview of what the Banburyshire Advice Centre does?
Well, we’re a small charity based in Banbury and we cover about four counties. We cover Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire. So, we’re similar to the Citizens Advice Bureau but we’re part of the Advice UK Federation and our role is to help the general public with things such as benefit advice, benefit form filling. And then we do things like mandatory reconsideration letters, when benefits are refused. So, that’s where the legislation and our training comes in. To help a client say to DWP (Department for Work and Pensions), you made a mistake here. And we go as far as online tribunal forms, so we put the case across that the DWP have made a mistake and it needs looking at again.
We also do general advice, we do food bank vouchers, we do career advice, as well. So, it’s a whole range of things. The majority of our work is social welfare legislation, helping people get the benefits in the first place and explaining benefits to the general public. And, when things go wrong, saying to the DWP, actually there’s this piece of legislation which applies here. So, for example, someone could have applied for Employment Support Allowance without our help, and been refused the benefit. Then, when they come to see us, we say, actually, this person should have got the benefit because there’s actual danger for them to be in the work place. So we then quote the relevant legislation to say this is important here, this person may attempt suicide because of the stress of going into the workplace, for example. So that’s the kind of work we actually do.
I also run mental health awareness course as well, so there’s a whole range of things we cover.
How did you discover NALP?
I came across the website and I read about NALP and I thought this is a good organisation to join. It gives me legal status in terms of showing I’m qualified in my area, which I think is very important for the general public,
What was it about NALP that really impressed you?
It impressed me because it was a national organisation, and also because It had been going for some time, as well. I liked the idea that the organisation also has some qualifications, which I think is quite important.
When did you first join NALP?
I think it was about 2017.
How does a NALP qualification help you do your job?
It helps me with the general public, because I can say that I’m a member of NALP, which shows I’m up to a certain standard. It also helps me when I’m dealing with the DWP because I can say I’m a fellow, I know what I’m talking about here. It makes DWP think, OK, this person knows what they’re on about and perhaps they might consider the case I’ve put forward for the client a bit more than someone else, who hasn’t got the qualification or the accreditation.
So, it adds weight in both situations?
What are your aspirations for the Banburyshire Advice Centre?
I’d like it to keep running, because I founded the charity myself in 2016, so none of our funding is guaranteed. My hope is it will keep on running and go from strength to strength. And keep helping people, really.
How can NALP can help you achieve these aspirations?
I think NALP can help me, because it helps the general public to know that I’m recognised by a national organisation. I think that’s very important for the general public. It also helps us with fundraising, that we can go to fundraisers and say, ‘We’ve got this person working for us who’s recognised by NALP as a fellow’.
Thank you for your time, Andrew.