Welfare Rights Project shortlisted for two prestigious awards
The School of Law’s Welfare Rights Project – through which student volunteers assist people applying for a type of welfare support - has been shortlisted for two prestigious awards.
On 26 April 2017, representatives of the School and Leeds City Council’s Welfare Rights Unit will attend a LawWorks Award ceremony at the House of Commons. The Awards – run by LawWorks with the support of the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC MP – recognise the outstanding pro bono work carried out by students and law schools across the UK. The Welfare Rights Project has been shortlisted in the Best New Project category: this category recognises new projects which address a social need in a way which has real impact.
On 4 May 2017, representatives of the School will attend an awards ceremony hosted by Leeds University Union. The Leeds for Life Citizenship Awards celebrate the individuals who give their time to the community, whilst also recognising the support and encouragement students receive from voluntary and community organisations providing placements. The Welfare Rights Project has been shortlisted in the Community Award category: this category recognises projects that have made a positive difference to a community locally, nationally or internationally.
The Welfare Rights Project is run by the School of Law in conjunction with Leeds City Council’s Welfare Rights Unit. In the 2016-17 academic year fifteen undergraduate volunteers provided one-to-one support to applicants for the Personal Independent Payment (PIP) scheme. PIP is a benefit which helps with the costs of long-term health conditions/disabilities for people aged 16-64, and is gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance. PIP applicants are not entitled to legal assistance with the completion of the form: no legal aid is available in this area, meaning clients either have to complete the form independently, or seek assistance from e.g. charities.
Whilst applicants are entitled to complete the form independently, they are often unable to do so due to e.g. language barriers, illiteracy, or learning difficulties. Support with completing the form is therefore of great importance to many clients, and the student volunteers have been able to help a large number of clients in one of the most economically deprived areas of Leeds. Between October 2016 and March 2017 the volunteers assisted 90 clients with their applications for financial support. Of these 32 have had a decision, with 21 being successful. This equates to weekly benefit gains of £1788.75 in financial support, with projected annual gains totalling £93,015.
The Director of Clinics at the School of Law, Lydia Bleasdale, stated: ‘This project is another opportunity for our students to have a positive impact on the local community. By supporting PIP applicants - many of whom would otherwise struggle to receive the appropriate support to which they are entitled - students can gain an understanding of law in its broadest sense, moving from perhaps viewing law as something seen primarily in statutes and case law, and towards understanding that it has political underpinnings. They also move towards an understanding that ‘access to justice’ is about more than having legal representation: it is about accessing State support, and understanding the basis on which such support is provided. We are so proud of the work they have done this year, and we are delighted that our partnership with Leeds City Council has been so helpful to their clients.’