As Christmas approaches, our thoughts will often turn to those less fortunate than ourselves. Forearmed with this knowledge, the media will habitually seek out stories that reflect this instinct and Coram Voice’s report ‘The Door is Closed’ was perfectly timed to chime with those requirements.
The report revealed how, contrary to their legal duties, social services are failing to protect young people at risk of homelessness.
Told with a heartfelt and compelling case study from a young woman, Elizabeth Sengati, who had herself been through many of the difficulties identified in the report, the story portrayed a scenario in which teenagers often find themselves on the streets or in dangerous and inappropriate accommodation because of social services’ inability to meet their needs.
“We meet far too many children who have been forced to leave their homes, normally because of violence, or abuse or family breakdown,” explained Coram Voice Director Andrew Radford. “They have asked their local authority children’s services departments for help, but they get turned away and end up homeless.”
G v Southwark – the legal angle
Maxwell Gillott’s involvement in the story was pivotal, owing to the fact that in 2009 the firm’s partner Oliver Studdert had represented a 17 year old, ‘G’, who was in a similar predicament to Elizabeth. Taking the case all the way to the House of Lords, it was unanimously found that Social Services owed a duty to G and thus all young people at risk.
So when Coram Voice issued the report and the story broke on 15 December, first with a package on Channel 4 News, the firm’s expertise was called upon to highlight why, five years on, the problem continues.
From a PR perspective, Maxwell Gillott’s solicitors delivered a clear message and ensured they were at the forefront of the issue. Oliver Studdert himself told BBC Radio London’s Breakfast show with Paul Ross about the significance of ‘G’ v Southwark. A recording of the interview is below:
Meanwhile, Oliver’s colleagues Dan Rosenberg and James Betts also gave TV interviews to ensure that none of the broadcast media outlets targeted by Coram Voice was left without a fresh quote.
Of course, the lion’s share of the story was driven by Coram Voice’s compelling report, which included evidence and case studies and was perfectly timed to fit in with the Dickensian focus that issues like these elicit whenever Christmas is approaching.
But for the lawyers at Maxwell Gillott, their role was thankfully far removed from any potential ‘Bleak House’ analogies. On the contrary, by being flexible and putting a trio of well-briefed commentators on point for the story, the firm generated a substantial amount of positive profile and hopefully some goodwill from Coram Voice afterward.
A business journalist by trade, Ralph Savage represents a series of B2B clients on media and marketing matters. He provides strategic PR advice, media training and consultancy. He also ghost writes regularly on behalf of FTSE 250 CEOs, leading counsel and senior professionals including solicitors, accountants and brokers.