DWP loses fight to stop claimants appealing

from ‘Benefits and Work’

The DWP has lost its fight at the upper tribunal to prevent employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants going to appeal where the claimant is late applying for a mandatory reconsideration. The decision will also apply to all other social security benefits.

There is a one month time limit to apply for a mandatory reconsideration. The DWP can extend this time limit up to a total of 13 months where they judge that the claimant had good cause to be late.

For example, the claimant may have a mental health condition which made it difficult for them to deal with official correspondence and have been unable to get help until too late.

The DWP have been refusing to allow claimants access to the tribunal service where they are outside the one month time limit for mandatory reconsiderations. By refusing to issue a mandatory reconsideration notice the DWP can effectively block any appeal.

This means that the DWP can be completely arbitrary and unfair in decisions about whether a claimant has good cause and the claimant has no way of challenging this.

Two claimants who had initially been refused a mandatory reconsideration challenged the refusal to prevent them appealing to a tribunal and began proceedings for judicial review. At this point the DWP backed down and allowed their cases to proceed.

However, a panel of three upper tribunal judges held that the initial refusal was absolutely wrong and that claimants should have a right to apply to a tribunal, even when the DWP considers they have no good cause for their late request. It will then be for the tribunal to decide whether to allow the appeal to go ahead.

you can download the full decision from here: https://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3650-dwp-loses-fight-to-stop-claimants-appealing

 

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DWP spends £39m defending decisions to strip benefits from sick and disabled people

Government appeal process condemned as ‘traumatic’ and a ‘waste of time and money’

Ministers have spent almost £40m in an “appalling” attempt to stop sick and disabled people receiving the financial help they are entitled to, The Independent can reveal.

Freedom of Information requests have exposed how taxpayers’ money has been spent on futile legal battles to prevent vulnerable people receiving help. The hit to the public purse could also be far higher than the new data suggests because it is still unclear how much more the state spends running courts where sanctions are challenged.

The vast majority of appeals were lost by the Government last year, making the expense appear unnecessary. Early indications now show the problem is becoming even worse in 2017, with a 77 per cent rise in money spent trying to stop people from getting Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) payments.

Critics claim the situation has arisen because fitness to work assessments are deeply flawed, leading to incorrect decisions which need to be fought.

Senior Labour MP Frank Field, who worked as David Cameron’s poverty tsar, said: “What’s appalling is that the [Government] is prepared to spend £39m of taxpayers’ money against people who are desperately fighting off destitution.

New figures show that in 2016 the Government spent £22m processing claimants’ initial appeals against sanctions – a stage most people must pass through before they reach a tribunal.

It emerged earlier this year that government officials are given targets to reject four out of five initial appeals – known as mandatory reconsiderations – for some disability benefits.

Further data obtained by The Independentunder Freedom of Information law shows the Government then spent a further £17m fighting cases in the courts that were not settled at the initial appeal stage, bringing the total appeals process cost to £39m last year.

In the same period the Government lost 62 per cent of the tribunal cases in which it was attempting to sanction a claimant’s ESA – which supports people when impairments prevent them working.

They also lost 65 per cent of the cases in the latter half of 2016, the most recent period for which figures are available, relating to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a longer-term benefit.

But the defeats suffered by government lawyers are not persuading ministers of the need to change tack, with the figures actually pointing to a more costly appeals process in 2017.

read more here:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dwp-disabled-people-benefits-legal-action-lose-government-work-pensions-department-frank-field-mp-a7886166.html

DWP rejects PIP claimant’s appeal… before she receives decision notice

Fresh concerns have been raised about the integrity of the disability benefits system, after a disabled woman’s appeal against having her benefits removed was rejected before she was even told her claim had been turned down.

read more here: https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/dwp-rejects-pip-claimants-appeal-before-she-receives-decision-notice/

One-month time limit on appealing against a benefits decision is unlawful.

Top judges ruled a one-month time limit on appealing for benefits is unlawful – meaning people have been wrongly blocked from justice for years

Thousands of benefit claimants have won a landmark legal victory over the Tory government’s welfare regime.

Three top judges today ruled a one-month time limit on appealing against a benefits decision is unlawful.

Instead the judges said the time limit should be 13 months after someone’s benefits are rejected.

The Upper Tribunal, which rules in the most serious benefit disputes and includes a High Court judge on its panel, said its decision is likely to affect “many thousands” of cases “at the very least”.

Carla Clarke of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), which brought the legal challenge, said the result was “fantastic”.

She added: “It stands to provide justice for significant numbers of families wrongly denied the financial help to which they are entitled.”

CPAG brought the case on behalf of two women with serious mental and other health issues.

read more here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/thousands-benefit-claimants-win-legal-10931703

 

DWP admits staff have a target to reject 80% of appeals – and achieved 87.5%

DWP admits staff have a target to uphold 80% of ‘mandatory reconsiderations’ (ie reject appeals) and achieved 87.5%

>DWP Response to a Freedom of Information request:

The key measures which are used by the Department for Work and Pensions to monitor Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) performance are:
a) 90% to be cleared within target.
b) 80% of the original decisions are to be upheld.
The performance measures for April 2016 – March 2017 are:
% MR Cleared within target = 70.2%
% MR Original Decision Upheld = 87.5% <

See the DWP’s original response here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/402400/response/978248/attach/html/2/FOI%201740%20response.pdf.html

I, Daniel Blake director Ken Loach appears at vigil for ‘fit to rule’ man who died on way home from job centre

AWARD-winning film director Ken Loach appeared at a vigil yesterday (Wednesday) for a man ruled “fit for work” who died from a heart attack on his way home from a Jobcentre. And he likened the case to the desperate central character in his campaigning film I, Daniel Blake.

Lawrence Bond, 56, who had multiple health problems, died in the street after leaving the Jobcentre in Kentish Town Road, Kentish Town, two weeks ago.

Around 50 people were outside the centre, alongside Mr Loach and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, yesterday afternoon to mark his passing.

Mr Bond was ruled “fit to work” in July and his incapacity benefit – now known as Employment Support Allowance – was cut. He was awaiting the outcome of an appeal at the time of his death.

Asked if he recognised comparisons that had been made to the eponymous character Daniel Blake, who dies while attending a review of his fit-to-work ruling, Mr Loach told the New Journal: “Absolutely. He was a man of similar age, he was a man who has worked almost all his life. It’s absolutely comparable and it’s a monstrous injustice and the government should be driven from office. If they don’t know what they’re doing, they’re not competent. If they do know, they’re not fit.”

The newly-appointed shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, Debbie Abrahams MP, was also at the vigil organised by Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group and WinVisible disabled women’s group. The crowd called for an end to cuts to the welfare budget and chanted “we are all Lawrence Bond”.

read more here: http://www.camdennewjournal.com/ken-loach-i-daniel-blake-kentish-town

Woman with MS had benefits cut because she could squeeze assessor’s thumb

A multiple sclerosis sufferer who had her mobility allowance axed because she could squeeze a person’s thumb has won a victory to have her benefits reinstated.

Mel Wiseman, 43, is unable to walk unaided for more than five metres and struggles to put her own clothes on.

She qualified for disability benefits but had her £87-a-month personal independence payment (PIP) cut after being ruled fit to work.

The decision was made after Mel, from Leicester, demonstrated to officials that she was able to squeeze someone’s thumb.

Assessors from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) visited her at home last July and decided she was no longer eligible for PIP.

Mel and her husband Charlie, 44, who is his wife’s full-time carer, appealed the decision after claiming her benefits were unfairly stopped.

The DWP has now reviewed the case and agreed to re-instate the benefit and has increased it to £301 to include mobility and daily living allowance.

The payment has been backdated to August and in addition the case will not need to be reviewed for another four years.

read more: http://metro.co.uk/2017/01/02/woman-with-ms-had-benefits-cut-because-she-could-squeeze-assessors-thumb-6356537/