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18 January 2011

After a quarter of a century devoted to helping thousands of claimants win their appeals and training hundreds of welfare rights workers in the art of  representation, Birmingham Tribunal Unit (BTU) looks set to close at the end of March.

Benefits and Work first learnt of the probable closure from a member who had received a letter from BTU warning them that they would be unlikely to be able to represent them at their hearing if it took place after the 31st of March. 

We contacted BTU who confirmed that Birmingham City Council has terminated all funding for voluntary sector advice providers and does not plan to recommission  further independent advice services before August 2011.  BTU is currently making applications to grant making trusts, but at such short notice and with their core funding lost, hopes for a last minute reprieve are not high.

The closure of BTU will not only be a great loss to residents of Birmingham, who have enjoyed some of the highest quality representation in the country.  It will also be a loss to welfare rights workers who have, in the past been able to benefit from the very high quality training in representation that the agency offered.

Sadly BTU is only one of many victims of the Coalition’s bonfire of the voluntary sector.