ABA champions pro bono scheme

AN AMBITIOUS pro bono project has been launched in the US to provide a lawyer to help each of an estimated 150,000 disabled and impoverished children due to be cut-off from a federal supplemental security income (SSI) fund.

Two American Bar Association (ABA) committees – the Center for Pro Bono and the Standing Committee on Lawyers' Public Service Responsibility – are to coordinate the project, prompted by rule changes tightening up eligibility for the fund.

The fund currently provides grants to around 985,000 children with disabilities who come from low income families, but the rule changes are expected to take approximately one third of these children out of the programme.

Around half of these are expected to appeal against the decision, according to the ABA.

The Center for Pro Bono is hiring a special project director on a 12-to-18-month contract to help co-ordinate the project.

“The government is preparing to serve letters on those who are no longer entitled to SSI. Terminations will begin by late spring and then the appeals will start,” said Bonnie Allen, staff counsel at the Center for Pro Bono.

“We have to be operational within three months, which is a huge undertaking.”

Allen said she was not sure how much of a difference the pro bono effort would make but that she was sure that “having legal representation will give each child a better chance in the appeal stage”.

She added: “We are hopeful it will make a big difference to people at the lowest end of the economic scale.”