Margaret didn’t realise she had to appeal against her ESA refusal until the judge at a first tribunal suggested she seek legal advice.
“After I appealed against being found ‘fit for work,’ the Job Centre sent me a big envelope. A friend read the papers for me. They were all about laws I didn’t understand and saying things about me that weren’t true. Nobody told me this was their side of the appeal case and I had to prepare my own. Another letter arrived. My friend said it was from ‘Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service.’ I had to go to a hearing. It said I could get advice to prepare my case, but not actually help me at the hearing. So that was no good because I can’t read or write much.”
“The judge told me about the Law Centre. So I rang and they said they’d deal with the whole thing and be with me at a rearranged hearing. And they did. This young girl looked after my case. She spent hours getting me to talk about my illness, letting me go at my own pace. She told me what was going to happen, how we could tell my true story, and she was there all through the appeal hearing. She was only young but she really knew what she was doing and she was right – they agreed I wasn’t ‘fit for work’ after all. I’m so grateful. I couldn’t ever have done it without her.”
The Law Centre’s Legal Advocacy Support Project recruits, trains and supervises law students to prepare social security appeals and provide legal representation for people like Margaret. Its success rate is exceptionally high (88%), clients consistently give it the highest satisfaction rating and it provides a unique opportunity for law students to gain real experience.
38% of all appeals against ‘fit for work’ decisions are successful. When people have proper advice and representation, that rate is 70 – 80%. As Legal Aid is no longer available for such cases, this project is more important than ever to ensure disabled people have access to justice.
Visit our Welfare Benefits page for info about how we can help you.