Funding sought to support disabled people through social security appeals tribunals - particularly Personal Independence Payment appeals.
What we need
We train and support volunteers to represent people for free in tribunal hearings. Our legal officers supervise the cases. Each legal officer can support over a hundred volunteers but we need to find the money to keep paying for this expert legal support.
Who we help
Any legal case is a daunting prospect for anyone, but particularly for our clients if they suffer from mental health conditions. Our recent work has seen us act for a victim of criminal violence with a split personality disorder, a client who suffers from post-concussion syndrome following an attack during the Tottenham Riots, and a victim of a violent rape now suffering from severe PTSD.
Supporting these claimants as they re-live such traumatic events makes a huge difference to their experience of litigation and their chances of success. This means they get money to cover the costs of their disability. For our clients, the lack of Legal Aid means that they can't afford to be represented.
The Chairman of the Work & Pensions Parliamentary Select Committee recently said that "Claiming a benefit to which you are legitimately entitled should never be a humiliating, distressing experience. Government must move now, faster, to make this right."
Research with people with legal problems recently found that "The process of trying to pursue justice without legal aid added extra physical and mental strain, which may exacerbate existing physical and mental health issues or cause new ones. This was particularly noticeable for disabled participants, who found the stress of trying to resolve a welfare issue with inadequate advice made their health condition worse".
The benefit of legal advice is clear: people who are represented are successful in 65% of cases whereas those who are unrepresented are successful in only 45% of cases. We help our clients to get their voices heard so that decision makers truly understand their situation.
If a tribunal agrees with the client's benefit appeal they could receive between £22 and £145 per week in social security payments. For disabled people on a low income this could mean the difference between not leaving the house and having a life or not having to choose between heating and eating.
What our clients say
"I am writing… in regards to the incredible representation that we had from FRU. Our representative was absolutely outstanding… and worked tenaciously throughout the case … in every way possible… went over and above the call of duty… and restored [the client’s] faith in herself. She showed passion, dedication, and absolute professionalism in her work and we are all very grateful… feel very lucky to have had such wonderful representation that we couldn’t let it go unnoticed. I thank you again for being the light in dark times … for us all."
How you can help
By supporting FRU you would contribute to a charity that makes a clear difference to the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable in society.
We represent on average two clients in a tribunal haring every working day of the year. Over a year one legal casework supervisor can support hundreds of volunteers. £3000 will enable us to pay a legal supervisor for a whole month to support our volunteers to do a great job. Raising more would keep our service going for longer.
Who we are
The Free Representation Unit (“FRU”) is a charity that was set up in 1972. We specialise in social security and employment law and provide free legal representation to clients who can’t afford lawyers.
We help some of the most vulnerable in society enforce their legal rights whilst offering practical experience to future lawyers. Our representatives are volunteers and we represent around 500 clients each year.
As a charity, we rely on charitable grants and donations to fund a team of staff who run the office and supervise cases. Sustaining this work is an ever-present challenge and we need your help to continue to help as many people as possible.
There are no public comments on this case page.