National Pro Bono Week: “pro bono support can help people effectively to put forward their case when dealing with a system that is slow, bureaucratic, and often unforgiving.”

£23.70 a week is the amount awarded at the Standard Rate of the mobility component of the Personal Independence Payment (“PIP”), the benefit that helps people living with long term health conditions or disabilities.  For Sarah*, a client referred by Z2K, that £23.70 a week was life changing.

Several years ago, Sarah was riding as a passenger in a car when it was involved in a serious collision.  She suffered physical injuries that, despite surgery and years of arduous physical therapy, left her in pain and unable to walk more than a few metres.  She found it difficult to leave home.  The business that she ran went under.  Depression followed.  From being an outgoing person with a career and friends, her world shrank to the four walls of her flat.  

The mobility component (that £23.70 per week) was enough for Sarah to take a taxi to a friend’s house once a week.  Some weeks, that visit was the only social contact Sarah had. 

But Sarah’s initial assessment – a tick-box exercise conducted (inevitably) by an outsourced provider and upheld on mandatory reconsideration – found that she was no longer entitled to the mobility component. 

Helped by Z2K, Sarah appealed the decision.  The system is complex and did not recognise the real-life difficulties she faced.  Because of the pandemic, it took months for the appeal to be listed.  Sarah was left frustrated.  When a hearing date finally came, Z2K put the two of us in contact.

Lockdown meant that we couldn’t meet in person, but we spoke on the phone.  We went through her case, her history, and the bundle provided by the DWP.  With the hearing 10 days away, I prepared written submissions to explain to the Tribunal why the initial assessment was wrong and why it should be put right.  

The hearing itself took place remotely.  The panel, which included a judge and a doctor, asked Sarah questions.  How often do you leave home?  Can you walk as far as the length of two London buses?  Can you come back again?  Is that with or without a walking stick?

The hearing lasted for over an hour.  Sarah did not find it easy.  But the Tribunal was well-prepared and willing to listen.  Sarah was able to put across her story.  

Working with Sarah (and other clients referred by Z2K), I have seen up-close how pro bono support can help people effectively to put forward their case when dealing with a system that is slow, bureaucratic, and often unforgiving.

+++

Sarah and I spoke again about a week later, the day that the decision arrived by post.  The appeal had been successful, and her entitlement restored.  She was pleased and relieved that it all been worthwhile.  We chatted for a few minutes.  Lockdown was easing and her son was planning to come home from university.  Later that day, she was going to visit a friend for tea.  She had already booked the taxi.

*name changed for confidentiality reasons.

Daniel Gritten

Counsel

Hogan Lovells International LLP

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