Coronavirus Update

Since March 2020 FRU has been operating remotely. We continue to take on cases in both the Social Security and Employment Tribunals. But the London office remains closed. This has reduced the amount of work that we can handle, but the situation is improving and we expect this will continue. Please bear with us in this difficult time!

Referring cases
We are accepting referrals using all the usual methods. Electronic referrals (i.e by email) are better since we can deal with them quickly. Post to the office is being dealt with, but we are only in the office approximately once a week.
We have also amended our referral policy in two key ways:

  • We are accepting Social Security cases with 10 days to go before the hearing, rather than the normal 14. We understand that things are more difficult for both Appellants and referral agencies.
  • We are not accepting Employment cases lasting longer than three days. Unfortunately, in the current environment it is just too difficult to locate and supervise suitable volunteers to deal with these more complex cases.

In current circumstances, we are not requiring a client signature on the referral form. Confirmation from you, or in a separate email from the client, that they have understood and accept our terms is sufficient.
Since we are working remotely, all contact with clients will be by phone and email. This means that our services will only be of use to those who can use these methods of communication, and who can forward any additional documents to us in electronic form.
We know that everybody is dealing with a challenging situation. If there is anything we can do to help, please do get in touch.  Our telephone line is open from 2pm to 5pm on working days - 0207 611 9555.

Volunteering
Volunteers remain at the heart of FRU’s work. We delivered two rounds of remote training in 2020, which means that there is a pool of active volunteers who are taking on cases. Referrals are still coming in, but at a lower rate than normal.
Most Social Security appeals are currently being heard by telephone. Most Employment cases are heard via video link, although a small number of socially distanced hearing are taking place. 
But the lockdown and remote working have reduced our capacity. It is harder to get cases in and more time consuming to supervise them. This means that we have reduced the number of volunteers we have trained. We do not want to train large number of volunteers if they will not be able to take on a case.
I’m interested in training as a volunteer: We expect the next round of training to be in Summer 2021. It will be conducted remotely. You should sign up to our training day newsletter to be informed about dates and booking arrangements. The number of places on this training is likely to remain quite small given the current numbers of available cases. We want to try to make sure that everyone who attends the training as the opportunity to take on a case.
I’m a current volunteer and want to take on a case: You should be able to see available cases through the FRU Online system. Contact the relevant legal offices to express an interest in a suitable case.
I’m a current volunteer, but the 12 months I have to take on a case following the training day is going to expire: Because the number of available cases has been low, we are currently allowing anyone who did the training in 2019 or later to attend the remote training as a refresher without charge. We will send you an email when the training days are announced about this. If this applies to you, but you do not receive an email, contact us. 

The Future
The current situation is uncertain and things may change quickly. Our overall aim is to continue to help as many people as possible, while keeping our clients, staff and volunteers safe.
We expect remote working to continue over the summer, but hope to return to the FRU office in some capacity in Autumn / Winter.