FRU has over 40 years' experience of representing clients in all areas of Social Security law. We deal with all aspects of Social Security law that go before a tribunal.
To access our services, cases have to be referred to us through one of our Referral Agencies. We cannot accept referrals directly from members of the public. As we are essentially an advocacy service, providing representation before the First - tier and Upper Tribunals, we do not accept cases until a tribunal hearing date has been arranged.
Once you have received a hearing date, take your papers to one of our Referral Agencies: Citizens Advice Bureaux, Law Centres, and some Solicitors. Some of our referral agencies are listed on our website. They will photocopy the bundle of documents which have been prepared for your hearing, complete a referral from which you must sign and forward the case to us. Additionally, the Referral Agency may be able to advise you more generally or assist with the preparation of your case. When we receive your papers we record their receipt, and pass them on to our legal officer, who grades the cases according to complexity. They are then made available to our volunteer representatives. The cases are not allocated. Representatives take on a case if it is listed for a day on which they are free and if it is graded appropriately for their experience.
Our volunteer representatives come from a variety of legal backgrounds: from people in the final year of their law degree to very experienced barristers and solicitors. They all represent clients as FRU Representatives, irrespective of their formal qualifications. They are all trained by FRU to do our cases and will not be allowed to take out a case unless they have the relevant experience.
Although we deal with all areas of Social Security Law, we receive a lot of referrals concerning Disability Living Allowance, Incapacity for Work (IB) and Limited Capability for Work (ESA) Assessments. Our volunteers have particular expertise in these areas. We also represent in a significant number of Right to Reside, Overpayment, and Housing and Council Tax Benefit eligibility appeals.
Because we are dependent on our volunteers' availability, we cannot guarantee to represent every case which is referred to us. We try to take on as many cases as we can. Nevertheless, you should not assume that we will take on a case that has been referred to us.
If we can take your case, a volunteer will make direct contact with you. Until and unless you hear from us, your safest course of action is to prepare your case on the basis that you will have to represent yourself. You should try not to be nervous about attending a Tribunal hearing: the judging panel will help you to tell your story by asking you questions about the important issues which affect your case.
Where an appeal relates to a disability issue or concerns your ability to work, information from your medical practitioners is often of great assistance. Many of the Disability Living Allowance or incapacity for work appeals contain a medical report completed by a doctor on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions. If you disagree with these reports you should say so, but what can also be helpful is to ask for some extra medical evidence from someone who knows you well, such as your GP, consultant, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, community nurse, or a member of your mental health team. Usually, the Tribunal will want to know about how your condition affects you: what you can and can't do and why, rather than being overly concerned about your diagnosis. If your Referral Agency is able to help you to get further medical evidence, please take advantage of their offer.
You should be aware that when you appeal for a higher rate of Disability Living Allowance - for example you have been awarded Disability Living Allowance but you think it is too little, or your condition has worsened and you want to apply for a higher rate, the Tribunal will look at your claim in its' entirety and they may decrease your award rather than increasing it.