Volunteering for FRU

Volunteering for FRU gives you the opportunity to represent clients in front of Social Security and Employment tribunals. You will normally take on a case a few weeks before the hearing. You will be responsible for preparing the case for trial as well as the advocacy itself.

Being a FRU volunteer is a significant responsibility. You will need to commit a good deal of time and effort to your cases. But, in return, you will gain invaluable experience. You will also make a real contribution by assisting FRU's clients, who otherwise face attending the tribunal alone.

FRU volunteers take on cases that have been referred from front-line advice agencies. When a case is referred, it will have already been presented to the relevant tribunal, who will have listed a hearing.

Fully prepared, you will attend the tribunal to represent your client before a judge.

You will be supervised by our legal officers, who provide advice and support on the law and the Tribunal process you must follow.

FRU works in two areas of law, Social Security and Employment, detailed below. If you are interested in volunteering, read the section of this website titled 'Becoming a volunteer'.

Social Security at FRU

FRU appears in the First Tier Tribunal (Social Entitlement Chamber), dealing with both benefits and criminal injury compensation appeals.

Most of FRU's social security work concerns disputes about incapacity and disability. Broadly, these occur where a client has applied for benefits on the basis of a physical or mental incapacity, but have been refused benefits. FRU volunteers assemble medical evidence and present their client's case to the tribunal, who decide whether the appellant is entitled to benefit payments. If you continue to work with us, you may choose to assist clients with a wide range of social security disputes, as well as appearing in judicial review applications and appeals before the Upper Tribunal. You may also wish to move into criminal injuries work.

Social Security practice will introduce you to the application of complex statutory schemes to real cases. This is important to all areas of practice, but particularly to further work in administrative law. You will see, and help, a wide range of people and develop an understanding of UK-wide social security provision.

Straightforward Social Security cases take approximately 20 hours of work to prepare. Many volunteers take on five or more cases over the course of a year, which allows them to develop their skills and to progress to cases involving more difficult points of law and witness handling.

Once you take on a case you will conference with your client, assemble evidence to support their claim and prepare a written submission. On the day, you will attend the tribunal to represent your client's interests during the hearing and ensure that the relevant evidence is drawn to the tribunal's attention.

Employment at FRU

FRU appears in the Employment Tribunal, on behalf of claimants.

Most of FRU's work involves claims for unfair dismissal, unlawful deduction of wages and wrongful dismissal claims. More experienced volunteers take on more complicated cases, including those involving discrimination, TUPE and appeals to the Employment Appeal Tribunal

As well as introducing you to practical employment law, employment cases will hone your advocacy skills (in particular witness handling) as well as giving you experience of negotiation and trial preparation.

Once you take on a case you will conference with your client, organise the disclosure process, draft a witness statement and generally prepare the case for tribunal. You will also produce a schedule of loss and negotiate with the other side. On the day, you will attend to represent your client, cross-examine the respondent's witnesses and make submissions to the tribunal.

Case availability (Updated Sep 2018)

Social Security

We are receiving in excess of 60 referrals a month and we need to recruit sufficient numbers of volunteers to help with these cases.  If you are interested in this work please do register for one of our training days.  There is ample opportunity for you to help with these very important cases and to gain valuable experience of Tribunal representation.

Employment

In 2013 the introduction of fees led to a dramatic reduction in the number of cases in the Employment Tribunal. Cases dropped to approximately 30% of their pre-fees level. Inevitably this had an impact of the number of cases reaching FRU and some volunteers had difficulty finding cases to take on. FRU responded by capping the number of volunteers we trained, so that the number of available cases closely matched the available volunteers.

Since employment tribunal fees were abolished by the Supreme Court's decision in R (on the application of UNISON) v Lord Chancellor the number of claims being brought to the ET have doubled.

Unsurprisingly, FRU's employment work has also significantly increased, although not to the same degree. We believe that this is because it is taking time for newly lodged claims to move through the system -- especially since the previous reduction of work has left the tribunal under resourced in terms of judges, lay members, administrative staff and tribunal venues. We expect the trend of increasing FRU case numbers to continue for the next few years and to gather pace as new judges are appointed in early 2019.

At present we are still limiting the number of places on the training day to ensure that there are sufficient cases for everyone who volunteers for us. This does mean that places are limited, and we expect the training days to book out quickly.