We’re working with some of the best organisations across the VCSE sector in Northern Ireland through Techies in Residence. We asked each of them their views on why they got involved in the project, and what they want to get out of it.

Who are the Children’s Law Centre?

The Children’s Law Centre (CLC) is an independent charitable organisation, established in 1997 which works towards a society where all children can participate, are valued, have their rights respected and guaranteed without discrimination and where every child can achieve their full potential. CLC is founded on the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

CLC provides a free legal information and advice service (CHALKY) to children and young people, their parents and carers as well as others advocating on behalf of children and young people.

Impact of CLC’s work?

Over the past 20 years CLC have helped some of the 27% of children and young people with mental health needs to access critical services.  We have helped homeless young people to find somewhere to live, stay safe and off the streets. We  have helped some of the 76,000 children with special educational needs to attend school, gain qualifications and participate fully in school life.  We have helped children who have spent years in hospital to return to live with their families and friends.

CLC also provides training and research on children’s rights, makes policy submissions on law, policy and practice affecting children and young people and supports a youth advisory group – youth@clc.

Youth@clc are a diverse group of 14-17 year olds who inform the work of the Centre, run their own children’s rights campaigns and engage directly with decision makers on behalf of all NI children and young people.

What challenge is your organisation trying to address?

CLC’s advice line – CHALKY deals with nearly 3000 legal enquiries per year mostly from adults advocating on behalf of young people.  Through our research, under 18s have told us they don’t know they have a right to services which could help solve problems in their lives and many don’t know that CLC exists to support them in finding possible legal solutions to these problems. Young people also told us that they can’t access information on rights in a format which is relevant and relatable to their everyday life experience, so many young people who might benefit from legal advice don’t see how the law can help them.  In addition, by the time many young people reach us (mostly through adults advocating on their behalf), many have already reached crisis point.

What CLC hope to achieve from the Techies in Residence Programme?

By the end of May 2018, CLC aim to have a working prototype of a digital advice platform which enables young people, aged 13 – 17 years, to access basic legal information and advice on their rights relating to employment and homelessness.  The platform will enable more vulnerable children in particular who don’t have adult support networks advocating for them, to reach us directly for legal advice before they reach crisis point.  It will also enable those young people with more complex legal enquiries to make direct one to one contact with a CLC legal advisor for further advice and legal representation where relevant.

What’s the largest impact that Techies in Residence will have on your organisation?

The Techies in Residence Programme 2018 is the foundation stone, supporting CLC’s long term vision of developing a fully functioning,  digital legal information and advice service, bespoke for children and young people in NI – the first of it’s kind in the UK and Ireland, available 24/7 and capable of;

  • EMPOWERING young people by informing them of their rights and how to use them,
  • RESPONDING to a full range of young people’s frequently asked questions on any aspect of NI law or legal issue impacting on their lives,
  • REACHING vulnerable young people who don’t know they have rights but may have problems in their lives which have legal solutions,
  • CONNECTING young people with more complex legal enquiries directly to a specialist CLC legal advisor,
  • SIGNPOSTING young people in crisis or emergency situations to other relevant agencies and/or helplines with other,
  • COLLECTING DATA to monitor young people’s ongoing legal needs and identify new emerging issues with a view to informing CLC’s ongoing policy work.

The Techies in Residence Programme is a tool for change for CLC enabling us to edge closer to achieving our ultimate goal of ensuring that all children can access and use their rights equally to benefit their own lives, regardless of their background or circumstances.

Once the fully functioning digital advice platform is up and running we estimate 5 thousand hits per year from young people seeking legal information and advice on their rights, leading to an additional1000 one to one legal consultations between young people and CHALKY per year either face to face or online.

The Techies in Residence programme is an initiative of Social Innovation NI, managed by the Building Change Trust, which in turn has been funded by Big Lottery Fund and also Comic Relief. Innovate NI have been appointed by the Trust as Managing Agent for the ongoing development and delivery of Techies in Residence.