A unique scheme through which law students help vulnerable people in Wolverhampton challenge decisions over their benefits has received an award from the city's Law Society.

For the last year, students from the University of Wolverhampton's Law School have provided representation to scores of disabled and vulnerable people when they are challenging the Department of Work and Pensions over the payment of Employment and Support Allowance.

And the success of the project was recognised when it was named the winner of the Community Champion of the Year category at Wolverhampton Law Society's Annual Awards recently.

Official figures show that only a small number of people going to appeal hearings have a representative to help them put forward their case - yet in these instances the chances of success are much greater than in cases where there is no such representation.

To increase the number of people able to access representation, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Welfare Rights Service joined forces with the University of Wolverhampton to equip law students with the knowledge they need to represent people at appeal hearings.

Since the partnership was formed, students have helped disadvantaged and vulnerable people in Wolverhampton secure nearly £500,000 which they were entitled to. Without this representation, they may have missed out on this support.

Councillor Elias Mattu, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said: "I am delighted that the success of this scheme has been recognised by Wolverhampton Law Society.

"The partnership is a win win situation for all concerned - vulnerable and disadvantaged people get the support they need when appealing against benefit decisions, law students get real life experience of representing in legal cases, while the judiciary, which has shown great enthusiasm for this project, benefits from people being effectively supported to present their case."

June Dennis, Undergraduate Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Wolverhampton, said: "The faculty is incredibly proud to have been a part of this project. Students have been able to work with real life cases and gain an in depth understanding of how tribunals and court processes work."

The scheme is being extended to offer representation to people appealing against Personal Independence Payment and Benefits Sanctions decisions, as well as Employment and Support Allowance, and anyone living in Wolverhampton who would like help with their appeals should call 01902 555351 between 9am and 4pm, weekdays.

  • released: Tuesday 1 December, 2015