law hammer

Law students’ work representing benefits claimants wrongly declared fit for employment has helped secure a nomination for a national award.

University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) students have been volunteering at the Avon & Bristol Law Centre advising claimants challenging changes made to their disability entitlement. They have helped win more than £1 million in benefits for clients incorrectly judged to be capable of working by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The highly successful collaboration with the law centre is now in the running for the title Most Effective Pro Bono Partnership at the LawWorks Annual Pro Bono Awards. The partnership – which also involves students from the University of Law – has been included in a four-strong shortlist for the prize.

Since the project began three years ago, the success rate of appeals made by the students and law centre stands well above the national average at 95 per cent.

Marcus Keppel-Palmer, UWE’s pro bono liaison, said, “Recognition by LawWorks in shortlisting the Legal Advocacy Support Project for the 2015 Awards is excellent news for the pro bono commitment that UWE has. As a full service Law School, we are committed to giving students as many opportunities through extra-curricular activities such as pro bono, whether at undergraduate or postgraduate level.

“Many of our students devote significant amounts of their time to assisting the local community, and we are very proud of the recognition for the link with the Avon & Bristol Law Centre.”

The project has helped more than 200 people over the last two years with an average of £5,000 won for each client.

UWE Bristol students have become a familiar sight at Bristol’s Social Security and Child Support Tribunal, where they represent clients at their benefit appeals in front of a judge and doctor. The project recruits the brightest law students to ensure the best results for clients. All the UWE students on the project who graduated this year have received First Class degrees.

The LawWorks Annual Pro Bono Awards recognise and celebrate achievement in legal pro bono work undertaken by organisations and individuals, and the dedication and commitment of the legal sector to positively impact individuals and communities.

The awards on Tuesday November 24 will be hosted by legal commentator and journalist Joshua Rozenberg, with an inaugural annual lecture given by Director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti CBE.

Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of LawWorks, said, “The LawWorks Pro Bono Awards provide an opportunity to celebrate the legal profession’s dedication to improving lives and enabling access to justice and I would like to congratulate all the finalists. The quality and range of nominations demonstrate innovation and commitment to pro bono and we are grateful to all who took the time to nominate.”