Student volunteers at the Bristol and Avon Law Centre have overturned 95 per cent of Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) decisions made over the last two years in relation to 200 claimants who challenged the DWP’s assertion that they were fit for work.
The students have won £1m in compensation over that period, securing an average £5,000 in welfare benefits for every person wrongly declared fit for work. The £1m milestone, reached last week, coincided with the revelation that 2,380 people died shortly after being declared fit for work between 2011 and 2014.
The 95 per cent rate contrasts with the 59 per cent national rate. In order to win cases, students represented their clients at benefit appeals in front of a judge and doctor. The project recruits only the best law students to ensure best results for vulnerable clients. All University of the West of England volunteers received first class degrees on graduation.
The coalition government made £17bn of welfare cuts between May 2010 and May 2015. The current government aims to make another £12bn of savings over the next three years. Legal aid for those wishing to challenge benefit entitlements has been severely restricted.
Law Centre welfare benefits adviser Andy King said: “Our students have provided much needed legal help to over 200 vulnerable individuals who wouldn’t know where to start in challenging the decision that they are fit for work.
“Due to the cuts in legal aid, we could only help a tiny fraction of that number without the law students. I am confident the law centre can build on the project’s success, helping a lot more people that cannot afford to pay for legal advice.”