Latest News

  • FRU publishes its annual report for 2017
    Wed, 02/14/2018 - 14:32

    FRU has published its latest annual report. The report shows that demand for our service from clients and trainee lawyers is very high.

    For the second year running FRU saw a substantial increase in the number of referrals received, from 1607 in 2015/16 to 1937 in 2016/17, and the increase was mainly driven by requests to represent claimants in social security tribunals.

    Commenting on the figures FRU Chief Executive David Abbott said “requests for representation in social security hearings have almost doubled in the last 2 years. We believe the increase in requests is due to front-line advice agencies losing the funding to provide representatives for their clients, due to the loss of legal aid and money from other sources such as local authorities. We have done our best to respond to this need, increasing the number of social security cases we represented in by 13%, but we can’t keep up with the demand.”

    Requests for assistance in FRU’s other main area of work in employment tribunal representation remained low during the year and FRU found a representative for 178 out of 368 cases referred. The charity expects the amount of employment work to increase substantially following the declaration by the Supreme Court last summer that the Employment Tribunal fee regime was unlawful.

    FRU works on a pioneering model that provides legal experience to those at the start of their legal career through representing clients who otherwise couldn’t afford to pay for representation. Demand for FRU’s high quality training days remained high and over 1000 law students attended over 6 days in 2016/17. 2017 – 2018 marks 45 years since FRU was created by a small number of dedicated law students who identified a need and organised themselves to meet it.

    Annual Report 2016-2017


  • Parliamentary Committee uses FRU evidence to urge improvements to benefit assessments
    Wed, 02/14/2018 - 09:45

    FRU evidence has contributed to an important report from the Work & Pensions Select Committee published today. The Committee conducted an enquiry into how claims for Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance are assessed by the Dept. for Work & Pensions.

    The Committee found that although most claimants proceed through their PIP and ESA assessments without significant problems, a sizable minority do not. The Committee reported that PIP and ESA provide vital financial support to disabled people. Claimants should be able to rely on assessments for those benefits being efficient, fair and consistent. Failings in the processes—from application, to assessment, to decision-making and to challenge mechanisms—have contributed to a lack of trust in both benefits. This risks undermining their entire operation.

    FRU’s submission to the enquiry can be found here:

    In particular the Select Committee drew on FRU’s evidence on challenging decisions at Mandatory Review, that evidence from different claims should be available to decision makers and on the fact that evidence obtained by independent appeal tribunals was often previously available but not properly sought.

    FRU Chief Executive David Abbott said: "this is an important and balanced report on a topic that FRU has a great deal of experience in. FRU was pleased to take the opportunity to feed the experience of our clients into this review so that future decision making for highly vulnerable people can be improved". The Work & Pensions Select Committee report can be found here

  • FRU Patron Sir Henry Brooke
    Wed, 02/07/2018 - 11:05

    The Trustees and Management Committee members of FRU were greatly saddened to hear the news of the death on 30 January of Sir Henry Brooke, a long-time Patron and supporter of FRU.

    At their joint meeting on Monday night the Trustees and Committee members held a minute’s silence as a mark of respect. Tributes were paid to Sir Henry who was a staunch supporter of FRU’s objectives. FRU Chief Executive David Abbott said “we are extremely grateful for Sir Henry’s support for FRU, he was a tireless campaigner for justice and we will miss his advocacy on behalf of the difficulties faced by our clients. We are honoured to have been associated with Sir Henry and his work”.

  • London Marathon 2018
    Wed, 01/31/2018 - 10:55

    FRU has entered one runner in to this year's London Marathon. We hope that she will have your support as she takes on this exciting challenge. She will be raising much needed funding for FRU so please help encourange and support her.

    Information about Ginny and her Virgin Money page is below:

    Ginevra Bicciolo

    I am grateful for the opportunity to run my first ever Marathon to raise money for the Bar Pro Bono Unit (BPBU) and the Free Representation Unit (FRU). At a time when Legal Aid is no longer available for many who have lost their homes or crucial welfare benefits, for those who have lost their jobs or contact with their children, or for those who are victims of abuse, these two wonderful charities each year process thousands of applications from those in need of legal assistance and help find barristers or, in the case of FRU, also law students and young legal professionals, who are prepared to assist for free. Both charities are independent and reliant upon donations to meet all their running costs.

    As a recent law graduate and aspiring solicitor, keen to use my skills to give back, the work of BPBU and FRU is very close to my heart. I started volunteering for BPBU during my final year of law school and since then went back to help whenever my working life allowed me to. Through BPBU I helped dozens of evicted tenants, abused women and wrongly dismissed employees obtain the legal support that they could never otherwise have obtained. I am now a registered volunteer with FRU and provide free advice and representation to people who have been denied welfare benefits despite being eligible. Many are in very poor health conditions, do not speak English fluently, and have no means of support other than those benefits – having someone by their side to help them navigate the UK’s legal system and speak before a tribunal makes a huge difference and substantially increases the chances that they will get what they are entitled to.

    The kind messages of my first FRU client, whom I helped obtain Employment Support Allowance, are a testament that FRU’s and BPBU’s work can make a life changing difference:

    “Dear Ginevra, my family and I cannot thank you enough for all your time and persistent hard work, and my happiness and mental repose after the satisfying judgement from the Tribunal, which was badly needed for my good health”

    “Dear Ginevra, things are well with me and I am trying my best to come back to normal. My benefits have been restored, however little it is, it helps a lot”

    There are so many more people like my client who are in need of help, and BPBU and FRU need resources to provide assistance as efficiently as possible. Support them and speed me on my way by making a donation!

  • Winter Training Days Dates
    Wed, 01/17/2018 - 08:19

    We are pleased to announce dates for our next training days:
    Social Security: Saturday 17th February 2018, 10am-4pm
    Booking will open on Friday 19th January
    Booking will close on Friday 16th February
    Employment: Saturday 24th February 2018, 10am-4pm
    Booking will open on Friday 26th January
    Booking will close Friday 23rd February

    The training will take place in Central London, on this occasion at 2 separate locations. More information about how to get to the venue will be sent to you once you book.