Secondary Specialisation: Peter’s story

There are thousands of vulnerable people across England and Wales who are unable to access justice because of changes to the legal aid system brought about by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 which came into force on 1 April 2013. This story is an example of how LawWorks can assist someone who has nowhere else to turn for help.

Peter has struggled with chronic depression and anxiety for most of his adult life (he is now 68). He is often consumed by extreme lethargy and fear and is unable to communicate, even with close friends. Feelings of guilt and shame frequently engulf him as he feels he has failed by not being able to overcome his illness and return to work. Thoughts of suicide are often overwhelming. For sixteen years Peter was entitled to the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as a result of his condition, which was reviewed three times and finally awarded indefinitely. However, a year ago Peter was invited to apply instead for a new benefit, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) as DLA was being phased out. After a short interview with an assessor, which he found shattering, Peter was informed that one component of his PIP had been removed completely and the other had been substantially reduced for a number of reasons, including the fact that the assessor thought he “looked well” and “did not look tired”.

Peter was not able to pay for a solicitor and was no longer entitled to legal aid so sought help with challenging this decision from Advising London who were able to put him in touch with LawWorks. LawWorks, in turn, was able to refer Peter to James, a solicitor trained by LawWorks to support individuals appealing against PIP decisions. James took a thorough history of Peter’s mental and physical health and prepared submissions on his behalf to put before a tribunal panel. Peter attended the tribunal with James, fearing the worst but, to his surprise, the hearing was over in four minutes with the judge stating that she believed that the Department of Work and Pensions had “ignored the clear medical evidence regarding your mental health” put before them. Both components were reinstated, with one at the higher rate. 

Peter was left with a mixture of emotions after the hearing. On the one hand he felt enormous relief but on the other felt traumatised by the whole experience, and very angry that he had been put through many months of anguish as a result of the original decision. He dreads going through the whole process again in four years’ time.

About James and LawWorks, however, he has nothing but praise. He described LawWorks as “an incredible asset to the community” and felt that he had been treated by James “with great respect and professionalism” throughout the process. Had he not found LawWorks, he doubts he would have achieved the same outcome on his own. Although things will never be easy for Peter, he is now at least able to live an independent life.  What he would like to be able to do more than anything is to support others who are finding themselves facing the same insurmountable problems, through no fault of their own.