Personal Support Unit

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Personal Support Unit
Personal Support Unit.jpg
Founded 2001
Type Charitable organisation
Registration no. 1090781
Focus Litigants in person
  • Head office: The Personal Support Unit, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
Area served
England and Wales 23 locations nationally
Method Face to face, telephone
Key people
Lady Diana Copisarow OBE (Founder), Nick Gallagher (CEO)
£1.325 million (2017)

The Personal Support Unit (PSU) is a UK charity that supports people who have to represent themselves in court. The PSU's aim is to "reduce the disadvantage of people facing the civil and family justice system without a lawyer, enabling them to access justice" and believe that "no one should face court alone".[1]

The PSU do not offer legal advice, but provide support to clients in a variety of other ways including: explaining how the court works, helping to fill in court forms and papers, and accompanying clients in their hearings.[2]


The Personal Support Unit was founded in 2001 and is based at the Royal Courts of Justice
The Personal Support Unit was founded in 2001 at the Royal Courts of Justice

The PSU was founded in 2001, led by Lady Diana Copisarow OBE. Whilst volunteering, Lady Copisarow supported an unrepresented litigant (with whom she had become acquainted via the Witness Service) through contested divorce proceedings. The litigant’s experience was horrendous as she faced the confusion of the court system, uncertainty about appearing before a judge, and the general emotions of litigation. These experiences drove Lady Copisarow to establish the PSU to meet the human, non-legal, needs of people attending court alone and without legal representation.

Following changes to legal aid in 2012, the PSU had a rise in demand for its services and now operates from 23 courts in 17 different cities across England and Wales.[3]

In 2014 the PSU won the Guardian's 'Small Charity, Big Difference' Award.[4]

In February 2017 the PSU reached the milestone of having helped on over 200,000 occasions.

Aims and Principles[edit]

The PSU aim's to reduce the disadvantage of people facing the civil and family justice system without a lawyer, enabling them to access justice. The PSU believe's that no one should face court alone and their vision is that every person in England and Wales who wants help should be able to access the help of a PSU volunteer.

PSU volunteers can:

  • Explain how the court works, help fill in forms, organise papers, and discuss settling issues without going to court
  • Help plan what you want to say in court, and if needed accompany you in court to take notes and help afterwards
  • Provide details of other specialist agencies and help you find out whether you can get free legal advice


PSU volunteers will help with any aspect of civil legal proceedings: over half of PSU help is in a family matter, with two thirds of these cases concerning children; nearly 17% of cases involve a money claim; and 14% concern housing problems, which often place people at risk of homelessness. Many of their clients are vulnerable and disadvantaged, and to PSU volunteers for reassurance and guidance. Most clients cannot afford a lawyer and are not eligible for legal aid.

In 2016-17 the PSU helped clients on a record 56,119 occasions.

After being helped by a PSU volunteer, 97% of clients report that they feel the PSU helped them get a fairer hearing.[5]


The PSU has offices in court buildings across England and Wales:

  • Birmingham Civil Justice Centre
  • Bournemouth and Poole County Court
  • Bristol Civil and Family Justice Centre
  • Cardiff Civil and Family Justice Centre
  • Chelmsford County Court
  • Chester Civil and Family Justice Centre
  • Coventry Combined Court
  • Exeter Combined Court Centre
  • Leeds Combined Court Centre
  • Liverpool Civil and Family Court Centre
  • The Royal Courts of Justice, London
  • Central Family Court, London
  • Wandsworth County Court, London
  • West London Family Court, London
  • Barnet Civil and Family Courts Centre, London
  • Manchester Civil Justice Centre
  • Newcastle Combined Court Centre
  • Newport Civil and Family Court
  • Nottingham County Court
  • Preston Combined Court
  • Sheffield Combined Court Centre
  • Southampton Combined Court

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Personal Support Unit". Retrieved 2018-04-04. 
  2. ^ "Personal Support Unit". Retrieved 2018-04-04. 
  3. ^ "A Record Number Of People Are Representing Themselves In Court – This Is What It's Like". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2018-04-06. 
  4. ^ Howard, Emma (2014-12-02). "Charity Awards 2014 winners". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-04. 
  5. ^ "Personal Support Unit". Retrieved 2018-04-04. 

External links[edit]