As welfare rights advice gets ever harder to find, there are a growing number of organisations and individuals offering commercial PIP appeal services, including no-win, no-fee. We’d like to hear from you if you’ve used, or considered using, one. 

We’ve also produced a ‘No-win, no-fee cost calculation tool’ so you can work out just how much such a service might set you back.

Advice agencies are increasingly overwhelmed as debt and housing problems hit more and more people.  And this year’s Law Society survey shows that 84% of the population no longer have access to a welfare legal aid provider.

So, it’s no surprise that every week Benefits and Work receives emails asking us if we will provide representation at an appeal or if we can recommend another company which will do so.

We always respond by saying that it’s not something we do and instead offer the address of the Advice Local website to try to find free representation.

But we do know that the vast majority of advice providers are massively overstretched and most people who want representation are unlikely to get it.

So, it’s not surprising that people turn to commercial services to get help, if they can’t cope with the stress of an appeal hearing unsupported.

However, we never pass on the details of companies offering representation on commercial terms, primarily because we have no objective way of judging whether they are good at what they do or not.

And, until quite recently, there were hardly any businesses offering such a service anyway.

But now, even the most basic web search will throw up lots of companies offering paid-for PIP representation, sometimes for a fixed-fee, but most often on a no-win, no-fee basis.

The usual rate is around 35% of the back payment.  Fixed-fee services tend to be in excess of £1,000.  But many firms do not tell you what their terms are, you need to contact them first to find out.

Some of these groups are Community Interest Companies, some are sole practitioners and there are even some solicitors firms offering first-tier tribunal representation.

Some companies give the names of their staff along with any qualifications or experience they have.  Others are entirely anonymous.

A few publish success rates, though there is no way of verifying these.

So, we thought we’d ask our readers, have you ever considered using one of these services?

If you went ahead, how did it work out?

If you decided not to, what put you off?

And what did you do instead?

Please leave your comments below but please also be aware that we are not going to name individuals or organisations.  So, if you do, we will edit names out of your post.

This is to avoid disreputable companies providing bogus glowing reviews of their own service and untrue criticism of their rivals.

But if you have a cautionary tale to tell or a positive experience to share, we’d like to hear it.

We’ve also created a PIP appeal, no-win, no-fee cost calculator to allow you to calculate the likely price of such a deal. 

The calculator page provides lots of other information too, including the high success rate for PIP appellants, the vast majority of whom are unrepresented.

And it looks at the different types of representation available and suggests some questions it’s worth asking before going down the paid-for route.

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    Porridge · 7 months ago
    I hope B&W is still monitoring this comments section because I want to share a bad experience I have had with a “welfare rights representative” which I found on the B&W forum. I asked someone to help me with my PIP appeal. This two man company has a salesperson and a separate person who does the paperwork. The salesperson ignored my initial email which wasn’t a good sign, communications were very poor overall. I felt that the initial award was not appropriate in terms of both length and the award components. The company charges 30 per cent of your back pay. The rep drafted the appeal submission but did not share with me what he said in it. The DWP immediately changed its mind but I did not receive a letter explaining what to. Instead I received the back pay into my bank. I paid the money to the company straight away the same day. I received no thanks, it was a very large amount of money for probably half an hour’s work on their part. I had always stated that this matter wasn’t over until I understood what the award was and I had always stated that length of award was the most important thing.

    Once the company had my money they dropped me like a stone and refused to carry on representing me in order to challenge the award length (even though I had a rock solid case and I had repeatedly made it clear that I was only willing to contract them if they challenged the length of the PIP award) and it gave me poor advice about it and discouraged me from even getting a letter from the DWP (which had gone missing on the post). Overall I feel brutally ripped-off and I feel these people are a pair of sharks. I will be reporting this company to Trading Standards and I will also seek further legal advice about how else to deal with these rogue representatives as they appear to have a business model which relies upon them making money out of vulnerable people who, due to government austerity, are unable to access appropriate advice services.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Hannah · 10 months ago
    Disability Advice Service, in East Suffolk are a charity who charge absolutely nothing. We have a 100% success rate at appeal and have volunteers that take clients to tribunal! Doesn't always pay to pay! 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Charlotte · 8 months ago
      @Hannah Hi Hannah, is this Service only available to people who live in Suffolk? Thanks 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Elaine · 10 months ago
    Hi I just wanted to say that not all services that offer first tier representation/support have unjust fees. We are a Dorset based not for profit charity who have a small fixed fee and I believe a reasonable fixed no win no fee. Unfortunately we have to try to cover some of our costs, in an ideal world our service would be 100% free. I also believe that most services go above and beyond for their clients. Having said that, nobody should be over charged and should always know what the fees upfront. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    David Elsam · 10 months ago
     Not strictly a commercial service, but when my wife first came off invalidity benefit and onto the  new ( at the time) incapacity benefit, we went to a local advice centre to speak to a chap who did benefit related work for a local solicitor. He completed the forms for us for a small fee, we submitted them to the DWP and her benefits continued. A few years later she was up for review again and in the meantime this chap had become a self employed welfare rights adviser, working from home. He completed the incap form in what I thought was a rather rushed manner, and charged us 25 quid. Fortunately her claim was again accepted by the DWP. Fast forward 2 more years, she went to the same man to have an ESA form completed and he didn't answer the door at the agreed appointment time( it later turned out that he had issues with alcohol). So we completed the form ourselves, her claim failed and she successfully appealed with the help of the local council's welfare rights people. Since then I've done the PIP forms for her using the Bens and Work guides and my own experience as a Citizens Advice adviser, and we've had no further problems. 

    Would we use a commercial service in future to help us complete benefit forms? Probably not, because of the excellent free advice available on this website. However, I can fully appreciate why some people might choose to pay for advice, though checking reviews of the advice providers first would surely be essential. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Maria Nelson · 10 months ago
    I looked into this years ago and frankly this is very open to be abused to exploit the disabled by middle classes and solicitors and the DWP. So no I wouldn’t they are thieves preying on the vulnerable and it is very open to being abused by DWP workers and legal teams. So when we go down this path we are wide open to having it exploited and everyone deliberately failed at the bottom to feed the middle.  I would for a 1 off set fee if I won but none of the taking 10% donations afterwards 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Lynne · 10 months ago
    I used a Non Profit CIC, no win, no fee - 50% and worth every penny. I had absolutely no problem in paying for the support, as I went from ZERO points to enhanced for both parts. The expertise and advice was superb. But it's a very bad reflection on the DWP that so many people need to receive help and support to get justice.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Eleanor · 10 months ago
    Yes, I have an energy limiting condition and am too unwell to handle long forms and long phone calls. I used a low cost non profit where the small team are experienced and I understand only take basic salary and office costs. They charged me £25 - £50 up front, and then asked for a donation of 10% of any back payment received. I recommend them, careful, thorough, efficient, they need to be sure you are genuine as their reputation is also on the line. I dont know what I would have done otherwise as I live alone, had no carer at the time and would have had significant difficulties navigating for example the need for a long assessment phone call. They were able to get a paper assessment for me and helped me make sure my application was thoroughly evidenced.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Darren adcock · 10 months ago
    I used [redacted] a few years ago, got me support group rate ESA. Was easy working with them, and they attended with me for assesment. I think they've changed their system to a subscription service. But I might be wrong. Greater Manchester law center did my last pip claim all the way to just befor tribunal, got me an award and was easy to work with them. Obviously neither process was great but made the world of difference having support.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Shirley · 10 months ago
    I never have, and support other people in their PIP claims, as I found the move from DLA (lifetime) to PIP so traumatic, I had to help others. I started supporting a friend, and it's grown from there. I only take one at a time, as it takes too much energy to do properly. I've only lost once, and that was when I was asked to help at Tribunal stage, not before. I do not charge; it would be immoral to do so, and also refuse gifts, as I know the person I've supported needs every penny they rightly receive. I love beating the DWP/ATOS/Maximus into submission!
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      netcoach1 · 8 months ago
      @Margaret C Well done for your excellent work.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      netcoach1 · 8 months ago
      @Shirley It's not immoral for a fee to be charged, if your as good as you claim to be you will  have studied the system as have other people and deserve a fee for their hard work and the pressure that comes with making that claim.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Margaret C · 10 months ago
      @Shirley
      It's wonderful that you help people for free. Whereas I'm employed albeit in a different part of the public-service sector for a non-profit. I receive a salary for my work. I often have to explain that my organisation has no choice but to pass on their operating costs to my clients to survive. We have helped hundreds of people over the years and I certainly don't think it is fair of you in suggesting that charging for a service is immoral.
      Bottom line is; surely it's up to one's own personal judgement whether to choose to pay a fee or not.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Asiya · 10 months ago
      @Shirley Wow you’re a rare gem then, not many people will do that. God bless you! 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Christine Johnson · 10 months ago
    Hello I didn't even know anything like this was around and ive been running fibro support groups for over ten years and never heard anyone say about anything like this. I have said for a long time we should have a solicitor at tribunals. More so since my last one which was just awful and i felt very much on trial. I was talking about fibro fog and as an example i said i have even had it where i forgot for a split second how to drive me car. And straight away the judge said i have you have told dvla and you insurance company to which i replied yes i have because i have but kind of felt she would have chucked the book at me if i hadn't done that. Also she asked if i had been on holiday and where i got my hair done which i don't think were anything to do with PIP I felt like i was not allowed to go on holiday or get my hair done because i was now disabled. I really wish there was someone who could come to tribunals and assessment that could make sure they were done properly and fairly and no lies were told and could step in if things are not been done right. Because even if you have someone with you from CAB or another service they are not allowed to say anything. There needs to be something put in place to help disabled people so they don't feel on trial .
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      denby · 10 months ago
      @Christine Johnson So agree Christine. I got ticked off for offering replies on behalf of our daughter at Tribunal when she was sobbing too much to speak. Even on plain factual bits which I knew. And the staff were very off about letting her dad sit in the back row for moral support. Him being there was also to reduce the trauma afterwards of trying to recount all the happenings. He did get in, but it should never have bee argued about as Tribunals are actually PUBLIC.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Porridge · 10 months ago
    I thought, before reading the above, that I just happen to live in a welfare advice desert. When I moved here there was a law centre which offered free welfare support for obviously deserving cases. But it shut down about ten years ago. We only have the CAB, and to be honest with you it is very poor quality, although I hate to say it or to have observed that. When I needed support, the Benefits and Work guides were actually much, much more informative and helpful than the person at the CAB was. 

    I would be happy to  pay for a qualified solicitor or barrister about £1,000 to represent me at a first or second tier tribunal IF they first spent a bit of time examining my evidence and IF they provided me with an honest and experienced view as to whether or not they thought I have a good chance to win a tribunal. At least lawyers and solicitors are professionals which have governing bodies and strict rules that they must abide by and if you feel ripped-of or messed-around there is a clear complaints process. I would be very cautious about paying for the services of unqualified or inexperienced “welfare advice” services in the web. I would have no idea if £1,000 is a reasonable lump sum to pay as a fee for that type of service or whether there are any experienced and qualified solicitors and barristers out there would could offer that service: a directory of legally qualified professionals in the field of welfare appeals would be really helpful.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Joyce W · 10 months ago
      @Porridge
      Nice idea Porridge. But in my real world, I found it impossible to find a qualified solicitor or barrister able to represent me for £1,000. So I ended up choosing for what I thought was the fairest option, No win-No fee. As far as I'm concerned, my fee was worth every penny spent. As what was more important to me was the recognition and also being awarded PIP.
      Personally, I do not agree with anyone who charges any up-front fee or an hourly rate from people, who are obviously struggling financially.
      It just reeks of profiteering!
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Su · 10 months ago
    I am a Support Worker and have never lost any claim, be it PIP, UC Support Group or ESA Support Group. I have recently acted as a rep for one of my young people who had scored a "big fat zero" throughout the claim process. Even though a tribunal is extremely stressful, even for me as a rep, my young person was determined to show them that what the DWP/Assessor had said was totally incorrect, and the tribunal found in her favour. 
    I have often been told by family and friends to do these claims as a job and help people, but I would find it impossible to charge anyone for going through these processes. They are challenging, depressing, stressful and then to add to the already crippling anxiety companies/individuals will benefit from your misery or if you don't win, they won't understand how completely distraught you will feel; it's just a job to them and you are one of a number. 
    I am very pleased for Big Bird that you were successful. I do not believe for one minute that all companies offering a service will always act in the person's best interest. It's a sad reflection of the times that there are fewer places offering free advice, and those that do, are oversubscribed. 

    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      netcoach1 · 8 months ago
      @Dempsey Well said.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Dempsey · 10 months ago
      @Su
      A bit of balance is only fair:  There are some very good paid-for organisations out there and I think it's unfair to say that people are just a number to them. There are many advisers that work tirelessly for the person they represent and passionately care about the person they are helping. It's simply not fair to tar everybody with the same critical brush.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Rosie · 10 months ago
    When the DWP introduced the risible Mandatory Reconsideration it seemed that the real reason behind it was a cynical ploy to put claimants off going down the appeal route.  PIP claimants are probably the most likely to be unable to cope with the additional stress of an appeal. Big bird's experience of using a professional appeals service highlights the way that the DWP "plays the game"; the fact that they seem to treat it as a game at all is really depressing.  Finding the right person or organisation to help you through the appeal process will be the key to success. Sadly there will be any number of organisations that will only be interested in taking as much money as they can from PIP claimants, whether by way of large up front fees for unwinnable cases or big percentage fees on a "no win, no fee" basis. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Big bird · 10 months ago
    I used a well known company located up north. Having lost my pip award at review, and no change at MR, I sought help for my appeal. In a nutshell they compiled the appeals paperwork where it was concise in argument and use of medical evidence of observed functional limitations/symptoms. Having someone 'on my side' was a huge psychological boost to counter the stress of fighting.  

    Within a month of submitting the appeal I was contacted by dwp offering to reinstate award in full for 2yrs. Prepared with advice from the company I argued for, and was given a five year award.  The company waited until I had received my lump sum of several months back pay before I paid their bill which cost half of one month's award.    Worth. Every. Penny.    

    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Veronica Gaud · 10 months ago
      @Yvonne
      Its a matter of judgment for You to decide hun. But I would check out any reviews before signing up with anybody. My fee was 75 percent, but the lady who represented me (now retired) had a great reputation and was brilliant. And more importantly, I won, which I wouldn't have done without her knowledge of the law and years of experience.
      Getting the cheapest sometimes isn't always the best - Buy cheap, get cheap lol.
      Best of luck with everything.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Yvonne · 10 months ago
      @Big bird Do you know the name , are you prepared to share , I’ve been quoted on a no win no fee basis with VAT it equates to 70 percent of arrears 

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