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The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is the key welfare benefit that people can apply for to cover their increased costs of living arising from a disability. It is a lifeline of support and assistance for activities that many would consider mundane: feeding, dressing, transportation and so on.
However, the process of apply for PIP is anything but simple. PIP applications have to be made on paper, using a handwritten, repetitive document which runs to multiple pages. The questions are highly nuanced in language and complex to complete. It’s no surprise that the rejection rate of claims by the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) is high – but estimates suggest that three in four applicants, with the right legal assistance, go on to win their appeals at Tribunals.
While the appeals may eventually be in favour of the claimants (or, at least, those that are able to appeal), the delay in payment of 10 weeks – and now even longer due to COVID-19 – can have a traumatic effect on applicants. Additionally, the heath checks that follow as part of the DWP’s assessment process are often considered demeaning. Many even feel that they are designed to ‘trip them up’.
At LexisNexis, we wanted to do something to change this. And we started by doing what we do best – solving problems with technology solutions.
We believe in advancing the Rule of Law around the world – so much so that we make it the central objective of our organisation. We even have our own not-for-profit entity established specifically to tackle rule of law challenges – the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation – and we have been recognised by the United Nations for its work strengthening equality under the law, transparency of law, independent judiciaries and accessibility of legal remedy.
The Rule of Law is most basically defined as the concept that all are equal under the law – no matter who you are, the law applies equally to you and treats you the same. The Rule of Law also requires that everyone has access to the legal system – to protect themselves and to pursue and enforce their rights.
In the UK, our strategy has always been to focus on what we have as an organisation – people, tools, assets, skills and knowledge – and then look at how we can apply that to make a difference. In the case of the challenge with PIP, it was all about using our technology skills to try and change the process.
In order to make the process easier and simpler for claimants to get help, LexisNexis has launched Digital PIP – a free-to-use website where you can complete the form online.
Digital PIP seeks to give claimants and those supporting them an efficient way of completing the form, as well as the best chance of receiving the financial help that they desperately need.
LexisNexis’ teams, who specialise in making legal processes simple and effective, have volunteered more than 700 hours of time to create and promote Digital PIP, and LexisNexis has committed to not commercialise the tool in the future.
The tool includes in-built guidance to help users answer the questions accurately (and to save them referring to external materials), as well as an easy to use interface so that you can check your progress towards completing the form. When you are finished, you can print the form and attach it to your paper form before submitting to DWP. Given the sensitive nature of the data placed in the form, LexisNexis does not track data entry or usage, meaning users can work on Digital PIP with confidence.
Independent legal clinics around the country – from Exeter to Liverpool to London – have started using Digital PIP in their advice sessions with clients. Many have reported time savings compared to working on the paper form, often upwards of 35%.
More needs to be done to support the free legal advice community, which (taken together) is the biggest provider of legal advice in the country – covering almost twice the volume of work as the paid-for legal sector.
Digital PIP is just one example of how companies can use their skills to make a difference to people’s lives and advance the Rule of Law. We would encourage other companies to join with us in this mission and think about what skills are inherent in their teams and just what they could achieve.
In the meantime, LexisNexis is continuing on its mission to advance the Rule of Law – using more technology solutions to solve simple problems and help those that need it most.
LexisNexis, the rule of law and diversity
Press release: United Nations Foundation Honours LexisNexis CEO Mike Walsh with Global Leadership Award for Advancing Rule of Law
Why is advancing the rule of law so important?
No one is above the law—the importance of advancing the rule of law
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Director, Customer Success and Engagement
Exec Sponsor, Rule of Law and CSR
James works for LexisNexis, a leading global provider of legal, regulatory and business information, technology and analytics, and is based in their London office. He joined LN in 2012 as its UK General Counsel and was promoted to its board 2 years later. In 2015, James also took on responsibility for leading the UK Rule of Law and CSR programmes. He is currently on secondment in a business role, as the Director of Customer Success and Engagement.
In addition to his duties as UK General Counsel, James also led the legal function for LexisNexis South Africa and for regulatory media organisation MLex after its acquisition in 2015.
In line with a personal passion for access to justice, James leads LexisNexis’s work in the UK on advancing the Rule of Law, with a focus on supporting digitisation in the free legal advice community. He also heads up the UK CSR programme, encouraging employee volunteering and giving, making a positive impact on society and the communities around us.
In his current role, James runs a team of c.40 individuals that sit at the front-line of our business, ensuring customers get the most value from our products and future customers can make informed and objective decisions when moving to services and tools within our product portfolio.
James began his career in private practice (at SJ Berwin), specialising in contracts, IP, IT, outsourcing and other commercial matters, before moving in-house to investment bank Barclays Capital in 2010.
Away from the office, James is a Trustee for the London Legal Support Trust, an Officer of the International Bar Association, and an FA Level 1 Football Coach.
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