Volunteering opportunities with City of Wolverhampton Council Welfare Rights Service.
Head of Law School Sukhninder Panesar 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."
What is the project?
- A joint initiative between City of Wolverhampton Council (Welfare Rights Service) and the University of Wolverhampton Law School.
- Provides appeals representation to vulnerable and disadvantaged people living in Wolverhampton who are in dispute with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over entitlements to disability benefits.
- The focus is on the law and legal framework surrounding Social Security benefit appeals and First-tier Tribunal (and Upper Tribunal) practice and procedure.
The value of the Law Student Representation Project to the community as a whole is overwhelming, both in terms of what it offers to the students, and the service it delivers to vulnerable people.
What do Law Student Representatives do?
- Attend training sessions
- Meet with appellants
- Prepare appeals paperwork
- Attend and represent at appeal hearings
You will be mentored and supervised by Welfare Rights Officers within the Welfare Rights Service.
What is the benefit to students?
- Gain experience of working within a legal setting where there is dispute between two parties.
- Enhance your CV with skills and knowledge developed in ‘real world’ work situations.
- Develop your self-confidence and critical analysis skills.
- Training gives an in-depth insight into key areas of Social Security benefit law.
What has the project achieved so far?
- 75% success rate at first tier Tribunal level
- Two cases lost at the First-tier Tribunal level were successful at further appeal to the Upper Tribunal.
- Between 2014 and 2018 a total of 255 First-tier Tribunal hearings undertaken securing £1.6 million in extra benefits for disadvantaged and vulnerable people in Wolverhampton.
Student One: "The Law Student Representation Project has been worthwhile; helping those most vulnerable in society when they have no other voice is very rewarding. It has also helped me to develop my confidence and presentation skills in formal situations. The training was comprehensive and you always have a mentor at hand for advice."
Student Two: "While handling these appeals, I have been able to practice my interviewing, note-taking, research and file management skills. 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 though, I think I am even happier than they are. Again, this further motivates me to do my best for them."
Student Three: "I want to be a lawyer and this is an excellent way to show my commitment to the law to future potential employers."
Appellant One: "I felt a lot more confident having someone sitting next to me who was on my side. It was a big help having someone in the room with me who knew the rules."
Appellant Two: "The help I received meant everything to me. [The Law Student] gave me real confidence to attend my appeal, she was excellent. She gave me confidence, the way she spoke to me and the way she put my case to tribunal."
Appellant Three: "I was reassured because someone listened to me and someone was there to present my case – to speak for me."
Appellant Four (whose autistic daughter was assisted with her appeal): "If it wasn’t for [The Law Student] we wouldn’t have known what to do. Having someone on our side helped. Very pleased with how [The Law Student] presented the case and spoke on our behalf."
"The gap in representation in Social Entitlement tribunal appeals has long been a glaring one, but it has been growing rapidly, and presenting more and more a real threat to doing justice. There can be no doubt about the pressing need for innovative approaches to filling it.
"We have been struck by the quality of the training the students have received, the care with which cases have been prepared, and most of all by the immensely high quality of the participants, who combine seriousness and enthusiasm in the most commendable degree."
Interested? What happens next?
The Law School will arrange a briefing session by staff from the Welfare Rights Service. This will be followed by training sessions, observing tribunal hearings and a formal application and interview process. If successful at interview, two references will be sought and you will also need to have a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.