• University of Law in York’s scheme to support ESA claimants shortlisted for National Pro Bono Award

    21 March 2013 

    The University of Law in York has been shortlisted for a prestigious award for its innovative project to help people in Yorkshire, who have been refused Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

    Students and staff will travel to the House of Commons on Monday, March 25 for the LawWorks & Attorney General Student Awards presented by Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC MP.

    The annual awards celebrate the best pro bono activities undertaken by law students and law schools, and the positive impact that those activities have had on those who have been assisted.

    The University’s ‘Yorkshire Tribunal Advocacy Project ‘(YTAP) has been shortlisted in the ‘Best New Student Pro Bono Activity’ category.
    YTAP was launched in 2011 after welfare rights agencies, Citizens Advice and the University realised that action was needed to support the growing number of people refused ESA, the benefit paid to people too sick or disabled to work, following medical examinations. The Department for Work & Pensions has introduced ESA as a replacement for Incapacity Benefit.

    Citizens Advice recently revealed that the number of people with problems related to ESA helped by CAB advisers in England and Wales increased by 67 per cent in 2012 compared with the previous year. 

    Under the YTAP scheme student volunteers from The University of Law give free-of-charge support to people who are going to a tribunal to appeal against a decision not to award them ESA.

    Clients are referred by advice agencies and assigned to a student, who prepares for the hearing under the supervision of a qualified solicitor, establishes a working relationship with the client and assists them on the day. 

    The scheme received its first referral in April 2012 and has handled thirteen cases - in twelve of these the appeal was allowed.

    Lindsay Ward, Pro Bono Co-ordinator at The University of Law in York, said: “The tribunal process can have a detrimental effect on the applicants’ wellbeing. Many do not attend their hearing due to a physical inability or fear of what may be involved.”
    “The YTAP project has identified a growing client need and is addressing it with the simple aim – to harness the skills and dedication of talented student volunteers to support overburdened advice agencies and their clients.”

    Following the success of the YTAP scheme the organisers are now looking to expand it to include Disability Living Allowance (DLA) hearings in preparation for the proposed migration of DLA claimants to the Personal Independent Payment.

    Further information:
    Lucy Wray, Public Relations Manager, The University of Law on 01483 216072 (lucy.wray@law.ac.uk)