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Greater Manchester Law Centre recovers £1m for people wrongly denied benefits

A LAW centre established in Manchester two years ago has recovered £1 million for people wrongly denied benefits.

The city has seen 11 law centres close since 2013, when the government launched an attack on legal aid.

Greater Manchester Law Centre (GMLC) was opened in 2016 by volunteers following a fundraising campaign.

It is staffed mainly by volunteers, including qualified barristers, solicitors and law students.

The achievement of the £1 million milestone in recovered benefits includes financial support for those unable to work and payments to assist with costs caused by long-term ill health or disability.

“We are proud of our work to fight for people being denied the benefits they are entitled to,” a GMLC spokesman said. “These payments can be life-changing and the process is extremely stressful and difficult for anyone without representation.

“Our work has now contributed over £1 million to the Greater Manchester economy.

“But crucially, we recognise that these people should not have had to appeal their benefit decisions in the first place, and it is damning that they may never have received their entitlement had it not been for representation provided by the voluntary sector.”

GMLC was established with two aims — to provide local residents with legal advice and access to justice. The centre in Moss Side also campaigns for welfare reform.

Disability Minister Sarah Newton, in response to the work and pensions select committee inquiry into personal independence payment (PIP) and employment support allowance (ESA) assessments, said the government is “committed” to improve its assessments, communications and decision making.

However the committee, while welcoming the government's "generally more positive tone," said the pace of change in improving claim forms and introducing video recordings of assessments has been "regrettably slow.”

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