Latest News

  • 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.

  • FRU has become a supporter of FreeBar, the organisation that exists to promote equality and inclusion across the Bar.
    Fri, 12/15/2017 - 15:11




    FRU Chief Executive David Abbott said " FRU supports a diverse Bar where everyone is welcome and can thrive. We are pleased to underline this by supporting FreeBar which does excellent work to support all gender & sexuality minority barristers and people who work alongside them, share best practice on workplace inclusion and celebrate LGBT+ role models and allies."

  • FRU talk to future Pupils
    Tue, 11/28/2017 - 16:51

    FRU Assistant Legal Officer Verity Bell has delivered a talk about FRU to the national pupillage fair on 25 November. See her talk here
    Said Verity “it was a pleasure to explain the benefits of doing pro bono work for FRU to a very interested audience at the national pupillage fair. There was a very encouraging response from attendees after my talk. I look forward to seeing many of those people as FRU volunteers; gaining valuable skills and experience and giving access to justice for FRUs clients”.

    Thu, 11/23/2017 - 09:46

    The Free Representation Unit has recommended the abolition of an ineffective stage in the appeal process for sick and disabled social security claimants.
    In a submission to the Work & Pensions Parliamentary Select Committee the FRU identifies that internal DWP Mandatory Reconsideration invariably lead to little change in the original decision and are therefore a waste of resources and an unnecessary burden on benefit claimants. FRU recommends that removing the review stage would streamline the appeals process, enabling a speedier resolution for hard-pressed claimants and saving the DWP time and money.
    The Work & Pensions Select Committee has issued a call for evidence on the effectiveness of assessment processes used to determine eligibility for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Both benefits are aimed at supporting sick and disabled people. The Committee will hold hearings and issue a report making recommendations. Currently an appeal to an independent tribunal can’t be made until an internal review of the decision by the DWP has been undertaken.
    In its submission to the Select Committee the charity identifies that the high success rates for claimants in formal appeals – around 70% of cases taken by FRU - suggests that the mandatory reconsideration stage provides little value. Most mantantory reconsiderations rely upon the same medical assessment that the original decision is based upon. In FRU’s experience claimants don’t send additional evidence to the DWP after failing to get a favourable decision, due to a combination of a lack of understanding about the process, the relevance of certain medical evidence, or that they can request new evidence from medical professionals.
    In its evidence FRU states that independent appeal hearings in the Social Entitlement Chamber give an opportunity for claimants to explain their difficulties in front of an expert panel, which often reveals relevant evidence which had not previously been considered. Ultimately, the nature of the inquisitorial powers of the Tribunal (whether in respect of gathering evidence, providing medical, legal and administrative expertise in the context of social security law, or the Tribunal’s ability to take detailed oral evidence from the claimant), allow for a more holistic re-assessment of the Original Decision than the mandatory reconsideration could reasonably be expected to make.
    FRU’s Chief Executive David Abbott said:
    “Last year FRU represented over 450 people in social security appeal tribunals, with most of these cases concerning PIP or ESA decisions. FRU welcomes the Inquiry into PIP and ESA assessments. We have taken the opportunity of the inquiry to draw on our clients’ experience to highlight how the current system can be improved.
    It is unfortunate that so many claimants feel that the decision on their entitlement isn’t right. So long as that is the case FRU recommends that the DWP mandatory reconsideration should be abolished and greater resource put into getting decisions right first time and ensuring that independent tribunals can be an effective route to resolving any disputes.”