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

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Grandfather took his own life because DWP said he’d been overpaid – but wouldn’t reveal the amount

THE grieving family of a former coal miner who took his own life after being investigated by benefit fraud officers believe he would still be here if he had been told him how much money he needed to repay.

James ‘Jimmy’ Ballentine overdosed on prescription drugs on the day of his twin grandsons’ fourth birthday earlier this year – leaving beside him a suicide note to loved ones which read: “Sorry son you will have to bury me…forgive me leaving you with my debt, cannot take it anymore.”

The proud 60-year-old had months earlier learned he had over-claimed benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after receiving a letter from the Fraud Investigation Team.

Son Dale Ballentine, 34, told The Northern Echo that while making a new benefits claim late last year he declared he had savings of £7,000.

The father-of-two, who suffered from depression and other mental health issues including schizophrenia, was told he had been over-claiming for a decade as there was a means-tested £6,000 savings cap.

It is understood Mr Ballentine made efforts to find out how much money he owed but was unable to get an answer.

Dale, 34, said: “This is the whole point of our grievance – is if they told him up front (what he owed) I really believed he would have paid it, that would be the end of it and he would still be here.”

read more here: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/24/grandfather-took-his-own-life-because-dwp-said-hed-been-overpaid-but-wouldnt-reveal-the-amount/

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

DWP declared a ‘leading’ Disability Confident employer, despite UN rights violations

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been declared a gold-standard employer of disabled people under its own much-criticised scheme, despite being found guilty of “grave or systematic violations” of the UN disability convention.

Read more here: http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/dwp-declared-a-leading-disability-confident-employer-despite-un-rights-violations/

Thousands of disabled people to face inappropriate benefits reassessment this year

Thousands of disabled people who suffer from progressively worsening conditions will face reassessment for their benefits this year, new figures show.

Campaigners and MPs are now demanding changes to stop those with such conditions being repeatedly reassessed to claim personal independence payments (PIP).

Between April and October, 3,500 people suffering progressive conditions rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease and motor neurone disease were reassessed for PIP, according to a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Madeleine Moon.

SNP MP Carol Monaghan said she was dealing with four cases in her constituency of people who suffer from MS being reassessed for PIP, despite their condition only getting progressively worse.

“MS is a progressive condition, they’re never going to be any better than they are at the moment, so they should never be asked to go for a re-assessment,” she told the Press Association.

“Some of these people are still able to walk to a certain extent, so they get themselves in just about, and then they’re being told that ‘you look fine’. That’s like somebody ill going to a doctor and the doctor saying ‘yeah, you’re looking all right, I’m not going to bother doing any tests’. It’s a medical condition – it’s not about how somebody or somebody presents. It’s actually about a diagnosis that’s given by a medical professional, and this simply isn’t happening.”

In 2015/16 2,400 people with these conditions were reassessed for PIP, according to the figures obtained by Ms Moon, compared with a total of 200 in the previous two years.

Read more here: http://www.careappointments.co.uk/care-news/england/item/41618-thousands-of-disabled-people-to-face-inappropriate-benefits-reassessment-this-year

Universal Credit Cock-ups: the Computer Industry Speaks.

“Basic flaw rests in the idea that we can “personalise” benefits for millions of people. There are just too many moving parts; and in a system with millions of iterations, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. “ Following the advice of many people on this Blog, I have been looking at what the […]

via Universal Credit Cock-ups: the Computer Industry Speaks. — Ipswich Unemployed Action.

DWP deliberately blind to the failures of its cruel sanctions regime

Letters: The DWP‘s cruel benefit sanctions regime is leaving vulnerable people without the means to support themselves. So why isn’t anyone listening?

If you commit a crime, no criminal court in the UK is allowed to make you go hungry as a punishment. But if you’re late for an appointment at the Jobcentre, they can remove all your income and leave you unable to feed yourself or your family for weeks at a time.

Britain’s Welfare System is badly broken. There are thousands upon thousand of recorded narratives of the severe damage sanctions do to our fellow citizens in the UK.

read more here: http://www.welfareweekly.com/dwp-deliberately-blind-to-the-failures-of-its-cruel-sanctions-regime/