Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K) is an anti-poverty charity which combines direct help for people across London to solve their housing and benefit issues with national campaigning for social security and housing systems that work for all. This integrated model of working enables Z2K to directly help thousands of people access justice whilst also pursuing transformative change for hundreds of thousands nationally.
Z2K has been a part of Osborne Clarke's pro bono offering since 2019 and is open to all employees, not just lawyers. Pro bono volunteers take part in Z2K’s Tribunals Project, which was formed as a result of Z2K seeing an increase in the numbers of disabled and unwell Londoners coming for help with their disability benefits after they have been stopped by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). As a result, their lives are turned upside down as the income they rely on is stopped, and many will fall into rent arrears and are forced to rely on foodbanks.
The Tribunals Project helps people challenge unfair benefit decisions, and pro bono volunteers prepare appeals and represent clients at First-tier tribunal; supporting individuals to secure their legal rights and entitlements.
Brogan Stewart, a Real Estate Associate, working alongside Anna Lundy, a Senior Associate in Commercial and Regulatory Disputes, successfully appealed a recent DWP decision for Z2K client that had outstanding results for the client.
The client had been a victim of abuse and torture in his home country and had been granted asylum in the UK. He had a number of serious medical conditions both physical and mental, impacting on his daily life significantly. Incredibly, the client was originally awarded zero points by the DWP and was therefore not entitled to disability benefits. After a mandatory re-consideration (the first stage of appeal) led by Z2K, he was awarded nine points, which got the client a standard living rate of benefits, but the team felt the client should have received more points considering his health conditions.
Brogan and Anna reviewed DWP's prescriptive capabilities list, tailored the court application documents and pulled together a bundle, appealed the decision and attended the virtual hearing to support the client.
As a result, the client scored 35 points, which means not only is he entitled to increased benefits, he also gets them at an enhanced rate and they will be back-dated to early 2020. It's an outstanding result which the client described as "overwhelming."
Commenting on their success, Brogan said: "The project offers us a chance to apply our legal skills in drafting, negotiation and document analysis to make a tangible difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in London. I gained lots of experience and improved my drafting, interviewing and advising skills – all whilst making an impact. For the client, this result undoubtedly makes a big difference in his daily life and, I hope, his confidence."
Osborne Clarke's Z2K volunteers attend a mandatory training session provided by Z2K to cover welfare benefits overview, tribunal process, and the specific descriptors for disability benefits: Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) (and the same for Universal Credit) and Personal Independent Payments (PIP).
Osborne Clarke is committed to encouraging and supporting pro bono work. Colleagues across all levels of seniority make valuable contributions and the Firm donates around 2,000 pro bono hours a year towards helping others resolve legal issues. Osborne Clarke's involvement in pro bono programs is varied and includes: supporting asylum seekers with Asylum Support Appeals Project (ASAP) and managing benefits appeals with Z2K, assisting Westminster residents with a variety of issues at South Westminster Legal Advice Centre (SWLAC), advising charities referred to us via LandAid (the property industry charity); providing volunteer advisors to law centres; and assisting a wide variety of charities and social enterprises through TrustLaw (the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono service) and the Collaborative Plan for Pro Bono.