Morrison & Foerster joined with Z2K in February 2018. Staff from Morrison & Foerster, including partners, associates, trainees and paralegals, are allocated cases by Z2K’s tribunal’s co-ordinator, and they then arrange an initial meeting with the client. They prepare submissions and seek to gather as much further evidence as they can, such as patient records or a GP letter, to help support the client’s case. This is then filed with the tribunal ahead of the hearing and then they represent the client at the oral hearing in a pro bono capacity. In 2019 already, Morrison & Foerster have represented 12 cases, and in 2018, they represented 18 cases. As a result of this support, the financial benefit for our clients in 2019 is already £271,940.80 and in 2018, it was £236,539.
“During my hearing, I really felt as if I had someone to help me. It was my case, and I felt so much more tranquil going there, because I knew someone would be going.” – Morrison & Foerster client feedback
Harriet Sassoon, Associate at Morrison & Foerster, says “At MoFo we have so many exciting pro-bono projects, however the Z2K project stands out as one of our most impactful initiatives. Z2K offers hope to many individuals who are overwhelmed by the PIP or ESA appeal process. The appeal process can be very daunting, particularly for vulnerable individuals. Often clients who come to us are extremely despondent and concerned about how the appeal will go. Helping clients to articulate the reality of their day to day living situation through submissions can help to ease this angst. Working with Z2K is incredibly rewarding not least because the impact of a positive PIP or ESA appeal can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals who are struggling to cope with the daily activities that we often take for granted. Thank you to Z2K for getting MoFo involved and for giving hope to so many in need.”
The people who benefit are those with disabilities and with chronic ill health; they are likely to be vulnerable or isolated and have a history of disadvantage. The work primarily supports people whose needs are most complex, their voices the least heard and those at serious risk of homelessness. The work undertaken by Morrison & Foerster empowers our clients to take the lead in tribunal hearings and work in depth with our clients to ensure:
- They understand their rights and are able to make choices based on this
- They have greater knowledge of the benefits system and are able to navigate this
- Are better able to contribute and take part in community activities
- That those who want to are empowered to support systemic change
- They improve their financial situation (financial benefit mentioned above)
- They keep their homes and no longer rely on the use of food banks to survive
This project helped Ahmed*, a 40 year old man suffering from a form of learning disability since birth. This disability means he is unable to understand and interpret verbal and written information and has resulted in him being illiterate and having only extremely basic numeracy. He also suffers from diabetes, eye problems and Osteoarthritis. In March 2016, he was awarded PIP at the enhanced rate for both the Daily Living component and the Mobility component of PIP. In May 2018, a review of the entitlement to PIP reduced the award to the standard rate for both components, and in August of the same year, the award was reduced further for standard rate for Mobility and no award for the Daily Living component. After Morrison & Foerster’s intervention at tribunal, the client’s weekly income went from £22.65 to £145.35 as he was awarded enhanced for both components; allowing Ahmed to live securely.
Of the collaboration, Z2K’s CEO Raji says, “This partnership is invaluable to a small charity like Z2K and for our clients who otherwise would find it difficult to navigate such a complex system. With the support from Morrison & Foerster, they have tremendous success with representing people to receive the benefits they were wrongly denied. We are incredibly grateful for this pro bono support.”