OXFORD City Council is giving extra money to a charity helping people fight cuts to benefits.

Under cost-cutting measures, the Ministry of Justice is reducing the amount of legal aid that can be claimed by people challenging decisions about their benefits.

The extra £28,611 of funding to Oxfordshire Welfare Rights will help it cope with the rising numbers of people being told they are fit to find work, despite disabilities.

The cash will be used to help more of them challenge the benefits cuts.

The city councillor behind the decision, Antonia Bance, said: “The advice services in the city came to us to talk about how worried they were about the ending of legal aid.

“We thought it was really up to us to put money in and make sure that in complex cases where people get turned down for disability benefits, there is still recourse in Oxford to have these services available to help people.”

She said the cash meant people who were told they would no longer receive Employment Support Allowance, but were too ill or disabled to work, could challenge the rulings.

Oxfordshire Welfare Rights joint manager and specialist case worker Susie Drohan said the organisation would have to turn people away without the extra city council funding.

She said 96 per cent of the 300 cases taken to tribunal each year had been successful.

Oxfordshire Welfare Rights, which is part of the Barton-based Oxford Community Work Agency (OCWA) helped 1,500 people recover £2.5m in benefits in 2011.

Ms Drohan added: “For some years now organisations in the not-for-profit sector have been able to get contracts with the Legal Services Commission for legal aid.

“Over the last few years, the scope of legal aid has been reduced, the goalposts are being moved, and things are getting tighter and tighter.”

The Ministry of Justice told the Oxford Mail: “At more than £2bn a year, we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world which in the current financial climate we cannot continue to afford.

“Our measures target the legal aid system at the people who need legal support the most, and on the most serious cases.”

The extra cash – which will bring the total grant to the OCWA to £122,611 – is part of £1.46m in grants handed out to city bodies for the coming year. Projects receiving cash include support for domestic abuse victims, Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre helpline, arts projects around the city, and the city’s advice centres.

Organisations which successfully bid for smaller grants include Cutteslowe Seniors group, Blackbird Leys Credit Union, Donnington Doorstep Family Centre, the Elder Stubbs festival and Wood Farm youth club.