University of Wolverhampton law students have helped secure more than £600,000 in benefits for disadvantaged and vulnerable claimants.
Last year the University set up a partnership with City of Wolverhampton Council to provide representation for disabled and vulnerable people when challenging the Department of Work and Pensions on payment of Employment and Support Allowance.
The project, which started in 2014, sees students from the University’s Law School support claimants in their cases at appeal while being mentored by experienced Welfare Rights Officers.
In the first 12 months a total of £638,620 of entitlement was secured and the scheme is now being extended to also support people appealing against Personal Independence Payment and Benefits Sanctions decisions.
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 that has been an excellent measure in ensuring our students make the most of their time on the course and develop key practice and experience in the field.
“We have committed ourselves to ensuring that we provide such opportunities to all of our students that wish to study social science subjects at the University of Wolverhampton.
“Students have been able to work with real life cases and gain an in depth understanding of how tribunals and court processes work. We are incredibly proud of the success and development so far”
Head of Department for Postgraduate and Professional Legal Studies at the University of Wolverhampton’s Faculty of Social Sciences, Mumtaz Hussain, said: "The project came about when we were approached by the council's Welfare Rights Team to help with setting up a legal help scheme for vulnerable or disadvantage people who had their benefits refused or withdrawn.
“This has moved on from its inception 12 months ago and has proven to be an invaluable service to the local community and highly rewarding for our students and their mentors.
“The Wolverhampton Law School is proud of our students' actions and are pleased to be involved in this highly commendable project that not only champions the cause of the financially weak and vulnerable but also provides opportunities to our students to apply their legal skills, knowledge and training.
“This project also demonstrates the value of our legal courses in preparing students to be able to assist with real legal cases. Wolverhampton Law School continues to support this project to provide our law students with the opportunities for experiential learning of the law."
The project runs in line with the yearly student intake. Each academic year there are new law student undergraduates ready to be trained and join the existing volunteers.
Records indicate that 70% of students who have taken part in the project live in Wolverhampton, providing real local advantage in terms of securing employment.
Legal Practice student, Jocelyn Thomas, from the University of Wolverhampton, said: “While handling these appeals, I have been able to practice my interviewing, note-taking, research and file management skills. My drafting skills have been greatly improved – I have even had very good feedback from some Tribunal Judges regarding my written appeal submissions.
“This has given me confidence, and I am even more motivated to continue doing my very best to try to achieve positive results for the appellants.
“My greatest delight being a representative is experiencing the joy and relief expressed by the clients when they have won their appeals. Sometimes I think I am even happier than they are. This further motivates me to do my best for them.
“I think the programme is an absolute necessity, and is extremely beneficial to those citizens of Wolverhampton who are in dispute with the Department of Work and Pensions over their entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance.”
For more information on how to access the legal advice service call 01902 555351 between 9am and 4pm, weekdays.
For further information please contact Iyma Atiq in the Media Relations office on 01902 32 2448