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UWE and ULaw students build on last year’s success to overturn 96% of DWP’s ‘fit for work’ decisions

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Law students 2 – 0 Iain Duncan Smith

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Law student volunteers at Avon & Bristol Law Centre have beaten last year’s tremendous performance when they successfully overturned 95% of Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) “fit for work” cases — by going one better to score a 96% success rate.

The centre’s Legal Advocacy Support Project — made up of 17 volunteers including law students from the University of West England (UWE) and the University of Law — assists members of the public on a pro-bono basis in challenging the DWP’s ruling that they are fit enough to undertake paid employment.

Supported by trained advisors, volunteers at the project received widespread media coverage for last year’s performance in what was dubbed a major blow for DWP’s head honcho Ian Duncan Smith MP. The story hit all the major tabloids and Legal Cheek’s coverage went viral, receiving almost 1,500 shares on Facebook alone.

Revealing the 1% rise in their success rate since early September 2015, the small group of aspiring lawyers and volunteers are punching well above their weight. The pro bono scheme’s success rate is considerably higher than the national average for overturning such decisions, which currently sits at just 59%.

Defending vulnerable members of society — who often suffer from mental health issues — the scheme has helped hundreds of people. With each client obtaining an average rebate of £5,000, the Bristol-based project smashed the £1 million total for welfare benefits won when it first hit headlines last year.

It’s a far cry from just photocopying and making coffee for those volunteering at the Legal Advocacy Support Project. Taking witness statements, drafting legal submissions, requesting medical submissions and even having the opportunity to represent clients in front of an appeal judge and doctor, the learning experience is very hands on.

Speaking to the Huffington Post, welfare benefits caseworker at Avon & Bristol Law Centre, Andy King, said:

As a result of the publicity the project received last year, we have managed to secure additional funding from a grant-making trust which is committed to improving access to effective legal advice for people needing social welfare support.

With the project securing in excess of £100,000 in arrears payments in just the last two months, Anna Nash — who is in her third year of an LLB at UWE and a volunteer — said:

It feels amazing, to have been able to help someone and change their life. It gives you a purpose of the work you’re doing. You see the impact it has on their life and it’s just such a great feeling.

19 Comments

Mumsie

Boom Shakalaka

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Yes Yes UWE students! Grow, develop and do something amazing! I hope the students involved in this really achieve something great in the future from their work in this!

(6)(3)

Troll me harder

Looool you must be one of them too. Good luck getting a TC with that bog roll degree.

(9)(21)

Luther Lanetti

Steady on, I didn’t go to UWE but live locally and UWE is certainly not on the same as London Met, Southampton Solent etc. Sure it’s not the best but it’s hardly among the worst. It’s just extremely mediocre.

(4)(1)

Pax Britannica

I tilt my hat to you good sire, well spoken. Indeed, UWE isn’t among the finest institutions in this good country, but it does neither belong among the worst. However, I’m afraid I would consider it to be in the bottom quarter of the total.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Silly child talk! Oh, my university is better than yours, we learnt the same topics in a better format than you did, my suit is Hugo Boss, yours is Marks & Spencer; that makes me better than you! Is this the quality of persons going into the vocation?

(4)(2)

Troll hard or die mirin'

Wut? STFU pinhead.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Degenerate chav! We need less of people like you! Only good going through the motions of academia, never able to go deeper, chasing riches instead of a higher purpose!

Dr Bonham

Hugo Boss? You must be a solicitor or something.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

here comes NA claiming this is a Leftie inappropriate use of time.

or perhaps it helps “poor kids” so he likes it.

or perhaps both are true, which is why he hasn’t commented – he’s too busy hitting himself savagely trying to decide which way to go

(8)(0)

Not Amused's tumescent glans

How dare you insult the great Not Amused? I shall have all you lefties banned out of this grand kingdom!

(8)(0)

Not Amused

This is important stuff, which has been done for decades by charities (including FRU). Even (shock horror) under Labour governments.

It is a process of cost efficiency. Initial decisions are made by individuals who are not well paid. They are often wrong (although I assume the organisation filters claims).

I think it highlights why lawyers and access to lawyers is important. I am not convinced that the new organisations are the best way to do this however. Proper charities are useful. This seems more like a business trying to make its product (the degree) more valuable – I.e. the charitable objective is secondary.

I am not convinced it does make the degrees more valuable.

(6)(4)

Anonymous

They are given targets by Ian Duncan Smith for how many people they have to fail, regardless of merit, and the company gets more profits if they fail more people. You’re not going to wriggle out of this one by claiming it is all because the assessors don’t get paid enough.

(2)(0)

Lallydoop

Perhaps the law students actually care and want to help.

(4)(0)

Bill Kruse

This practice should be adopted by every law centre in the land. It would certainly contribute towards justice, and isn’t that the aim of the law? OK, #snark, but it would be a good learning experience for the students and socially useful too. Why isn’t it happening?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Because these projects cost money, supervision etc – universities will invest to get the return of the increased employability of their graduates, sadly law centres don’t have spare cash lying around. If a funder would provider the money for it, I am sure they would…

(0)(0)

The Observent One

IDS looks like Shrek in that picture.

(0)(2)

Anonymous

Silly child talk! Oh, my university is better than yours, we learnt the same topics in a better format than you did, my suit is Hugo Boss, yours is Marks & Spencer; that makes me better than you! Is this the quality of persons going into the vocation?

(2)(2)

Anonymous

Slightly misleading – they overturned 96% of the cases they selected to challenge.

(1)(0)

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