Role and Functions of Social Workers in Legal Aid and Legal Assistance

An Introduction

The most basic requirement—the most basic human right—of a system that purports to guarantee legal rights is effective access to justice.' (Cappellatti) Role The courts while, preserving the social values of the Constitution, construed several of its articles and provisions with such dynamic liberalism and compassion unseen in the past, offering a new hope to the common man. ‘ Human suffering is now taken seriously by the judiciary, which is willing to act even on letters describing illegal abuses. 

The court now has a new portfolio of constitutional complaints, recognising a deep institutional principle that legislation is merely a means to an end, and justice is the goal. For the first time, India's disabled humanity is witnessing a ray of social justice originating from the legal system. For the reason that the poor are too feeble to collect evidence and present their case, the supreme court and the high courts in PIL and Social Justice cases have resorted to novel methods for discovering facts on their own, the supreme court and the high courts have resorted to novel methods for discovering facts on their own. The rich and powerful, on the other hand, have an abundance of legal resources at their disposal. Today, courts require commissions to report on actual situations and even to carry out their instructions by issuing directives to officials or specially designated teams that are accountable to the courts. In short, the new judicial landscape has undergone a substantial alteration, a sympathetic occurrence that enlivens the Constitution's promise of social justice. The bulk of persons who are victims of delayed justice are members of society's marginalized groups (Iyer, Krishna administration of justice). In such a circumstance, the social worker has a clear and important function as a watchdog and promoter of human rights. Depending on the topic and the needs of the clientele, she can work as an enabler, activist, change agent, counsellor, or advisor.


We feel that the role of professional social workers in legal aid and support programmes is critical, but that it has received little attention. In recent years, there has been a rise in public knowledge of one's rights. Social workers can play an important role in increasing the public's awareness and interpretation of the poor and vulnerable economic, social, and cultural rights, while also fostering public support for emerging rights for the next generation. Women's and children's rights, as well as the rights of the elderly and those with disabilities, are increasingly being discussed, underlining the necessity to accommodate their unique needs. Statutes and programs have their purpose; but, they lose their meaning when there is no commitment to adopt and enforce them. The paralegal force and the legal literacy program for the poor and destitute should be strengthened by educated social workers. They should not only enlighten the poor about their rights under various statutes, but they should also actively aid them in asserting their rights. λ Social professionals should band together to address the most pressing social issues confronting society, such as untouchability, dowry, and child marriage. They ought should.

When confronted with an issue, they should raise their voices in Parliament, through our elected officials, to call for changes to the legislation. A number of rights contained in the books have yet to be put into practise. Social workers should endeavour to ensure that new legislation are not just enacted but effectively enforced. Our enthusiasm frequently, and in many cases, comes to an end with a judicial judgement. The most crucial element is to ensure that the decisions are carried out. Legal aid does not just entail the filing of court cases. Social workers could be quite useful in disputes that aren't strictly legal in nature but entail personality issues. The services of social workers could be beneficial in marriage issues, probation proceedings, and instances involving children. The trained social workers could also assist in the conciliation and resolution of disputes that do not require court intervention. As a result, the function of social workers should be clearly defined in the planning of any legal aid program, and their services should be utilized at various stages of the program. Social workers play a key role in channeling the energies of excluded and deprived communities and assisting them in gaining access to justice. The new generation of social workers should make the fight for a corruption-free and egalitarian society their slogan. Today, a large number of cases come before the courts that were not initiated by the victims because they were too poor to afford legal fees and were intimidated by the complicated legal processes. Social activists and social professionals take up their cases and fight on their behalf. The case of Medha Patkar is a good illustration.

Functions and Areas

The social worker is responsible for a wide range of tasks. They have watchdog roles to fulfill on one end of the spectrum, where they can highlight the injustices inflicted on the weaker parts and their human rights breaches. They can bring the authorities' attention to their condition, putting pressure on them to take action. On the other hand, they can raise knowledge of their legal and constitutional rights, as well as take steps to help and assist individuals in exercising their rights. They can provide legal help and support and work in a variety of sectors, some of which are included below as examples:

In the disability field,

In the domain of differently abled rights, social work has a lot of potential. The government has granted them numerous rights and benefits, of which they are unaware and so unable to take advantage. A social worker should be aware of the government's role in disability; otherwise, he will be unable to assist clients in obtaining these services. When a disabled person is diagnosed with any disability, these rights and services are available to them. A social worker should be familiar with the criteria for diagnosing someone as impaired. If a social worker is unaware of the laws and regulations governing disability, she will be unable to assist her clients in obtaining these services. "Do not count disability; countability," a social worker should remember when working with people who are differently abled. Another area where a social worker can be of great assistance is in the education and employment of the disabled, provided he is familiar with government-run programs and the provisions of the 'The Persons With Disability's (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights, and Full Participation) Act, 1995.' 

The Act requires appropriate governments and local governments to take certain steps for the education of disabled people, such as providing free education until the age of eighteen, integrating disabled people into regular schools, establishing special schools, vocational training and part-time classes in special schools, functional literacy for age groups sixteen and up, imparting education through open schools or open universities, providing free special books and equivalence The importance of social work services in enforcing these requirements cannot be overstated. In order to help the client become self-sufficient, the social worker needs understand what the law says about their employment options. The Act requires appropriate governments and local governments to take certain steps to ensure the employment of disabled people, including identifying and creating a list of positions that can be reserved for disabled people and updating it every three years, as well as a reservation of up to 3%, one percent each for the blind, hearing impaired, those with locomotor disability, and those with cerebral palsy. Hundreds of social workers are already discreetly working among the less fortunate in our country's rural places, bringing about reforms at the grassroots level. Their efforts must be recognized, praised, and rewarded.

Women's Rights

Women can benefit considerably from social workers who promote legal awareness and provide prompt legal aid. Gender disparities exist over the world, putting women in a variety of adverse situations. The physical and psychological assault they are subjected to is the most devastating form of prejudice. Equality remains a myth for millions of women whose lives are plagued by various forms of violence in their homes, workplaces, and educational institutions. "Unfortunately, a woman in our country belongs to a class or group of society that is in a disadvantaged position due to several social barriers and impediments, and has thus been victims of tyranny at the hands of men with whom they, unfortunately, enjoy equal status under the Constitution," Justice Saghir Ahmad said. Obtaining justice is an expensive, time-consuming, and inconvenient process. Most women, who lack the means and resources to fight for their legal rights, are discouraged by this. 

When it comes to large-scale dowry deaths, dowry disputes, and other dowry-related issues, the root of the problem is the social pressure that exists today, which causes parents to spend money beyond their means to get their daughters married. Isn't there anything we can do to help this situation? Social workers should take social action to combat large-scale wedding spending. Females are taking on more and more jobs in various sectors as traditional Indian society opens up. Employees behave in a discriminatory manner toward women in terms of equal chances, training, promotions, transfers, equal remuneration, and other social benefits. Women face sexual harassment, eve-teasing, and molestations in the workplace. When women are from a lower socioeconomic category or work in the unorganized sector, the situation is even worse. The victim's fear of losing their job acts as a disincentive to taking action against the perpetrators. In such a situation, legal aid and counseling from social workers can be extremely beneficial to women.

Senior Citizens' Rights

The construction of a legal help programme for the elderly to handle their legal concerns and protect them from abuse and neglect is urgently needed. The growing number of old people, combined with societal apathy to their needs, highlights the need for social workers to play a more active role in this field. Unfortunately, there is little legal protection accessible to this group, which is in desperate need of protection from their children and loved ones' neglect and abuse. In the absence of any supportive legal help programmes, they are constantly in danger of losing their homes and being evicted; they are in desperate need of legal, protective, and ameliorative services. Free consultation, use of current legal services, hiring lawyers, gaining an appointment with lawyers, getting competent legal advice, negotiating fees, and follow up might all be part of social workers' legal help programmes for the elderly. The role of social work may be particularly important in the prevention of fraudulent practices by providing timely legal advice. In the field of aged rights, a social worker can conduct a wide range of tasks. For example, instead of passing over their entire estate to their children, they should be advised to give a limited power of attorney. They can be made aware of the legal consequences of their naive behaviour. Elderly people are generally too feeble to fiercely advocate for their own rights, thus they require advocacy for their rights, which can range from pushing for strong legislation to providing legal assistance and counselling.



Ecology

New challenges have arisen as a result of increased urbanization and industrialization, which cannot be ignored any longer. Housing, water, and electrical problems can all be traced back to this. Social workers are playing an increasingly significant role in raising awareness and proposing new policies to protect our fragile environment. Today, strict restrictions are required to protect our ecosystem and prevent encroachment. We've talked about our fundamental rights for a long time; now it's time to appreciate and preserve our fundamental responsibilities. Social workers are the ones who should spread them among the masses using whatever tactics and strategies are available, including the use of the law. They must use the law as a tool for social transformation. The latest innovations in social advocacy and Public Interest Litigation have become a powerful tool in the hands of social workers, and they are the hope of the current generation. They have the power to compel the government to act based on carefully crafted and documented findings, so preventing the collapse of our fragile biosphere. The examples given above are just a few of the areas that require social work assistance; other areas could include children's rights, prisoner's rights, medical negligence, disaster management, and so on. Legal cells could be added to social work schools. Social workers, lawyers, and other paralegals work in this office. Their significant role would be to assist in the instigation of legal action whenever human rights are violated.

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