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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Cut price defences – so government department doesn’t fear appeals

Many people believe it would cost the government less to pay disability benefits from the beginning, rather than face appeals.

The benefits, Employment and Support Allowance, and Personal Independence Payment, are claimed by people with disabilities. These include those of us with disabilities resulting from diseases such as MS, or other causes.

I was one of the many who thought the appeals were expensive. Now, though, figures found in the back of a new department for work and pensions (DWP) document show a different story. 

Indeed, it seems the UK’s DWP can make a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ decision for less than £40. Further, appeals can be handled for under £100 each.

For that sort of money, you have to ask how much commitment the department is devoting to reconsiderations and appeals. In short, not enough time for the decision-maker to give any real attention to each case.

appealsCampaigner and claimant-helping website workandbenefits.co.uk agrees. It says: “More likely, it’s enough for a very quick flick through the papers, maybe a phone call and then cutting and pasting some standard phrases refusing to change the decision.

“And for an appeal, which might run to over 100 pages of documents, £100 isn’t going to pay for more than the time needed to collate the paperwork and send it to the Tribunals Service.”

That’s ridiculous, but it is cheap! And that’s why the DWP does it.

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Sir Ernest Ryder (pic: judiciary.gov.uk).

It doesn’t care that it’s defence of decisions, at appeals, have been rubbished by a top tribunal judge. Sir Ernest Ryder, senior president of tribunals, says most of the benefits cases that it hears are based on bad decisions where the department has no case at all.

Tribunal appeals: DWP defences poor

He told barristers, at a meeting of the Bar Council, that the quality of evidence provided by the DWP is so poor it would be “wholly inadmissible” in any other court.

Ryder also said tribunal judges found that 60% of cases were “no-brainers” where there was nothing in the law or facts that would make the DWP win.

He added that he and his fellow judges were so incensed by the volume of such cases that they were considering sending them back. Either that, or charging the DWP for the cases it loses.

However, the new figures do point out the DWP’s logic.

Step one: the DWP refuses benefits to many thousands of people who should receive them.

Step two: the DWP makes all those who challenge the decision go through the dispiriting reconsideration process.

The DWP knows that most claimants will give up as soon as they realise that their mandatory reconsiderations have failed. Others will drop out during the appeal process itself and never reach a tribunal.

Of course, some do stay the course and do have a tribunal hearing, leading to:

Step three: the DWP resists the appeal but, in most cases, is unable to defend a clearly unjust decision.

The sad truth is that the DWP saves so much money through incorrect and unfair decisions that it can well afford the tribunal losses. Perhaps, Sir Ernest is right – the DWP should be made to pay, financially.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Assessment complaints for disability benefit up nearly 900% in a year

Complaints about assessments for a key government disability benefit have rocketed by 880% in 12 months, according to official figures. It is a benefit paid to people with diseases like multiple sclerosis and those with other disabilities.

Yes, claimants’ complaints about assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), that totalled 142 in 2015-16, rose to 1,391 in 2016-17.

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Photo: The Independent

Furthermore, if that was not shocking enough, it gets worse. The UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has produced figures that show that the number of complaints about PIP assessments that were upheld. Over the same time, these rose from 67 to 545 – an increase of more than 713%. To me, that is a sad commentary on the lack of quality of the assessments and honesty of the assessors.

The facts were revealed by Penny Mordaunt, minister for disabled people, in answer to a parliamentary question from Stephen Kinnock.

assevssmentsBenefitsandwork.com, the campaigning website, commented: “In our last newsletter we highlighted the case of a PIP claimant who had used a secret recording of his PIP assessment to win his appeal tribunal.

“Given this level of doubt about the trustworthiness of assessments, and given the difficulties the DWP place in the way of claimants wanting to openly record their medicals, covert recording seems more and more reasonable.”

Not fit for purpose

According to Disability News Service, Kinnock claimed the figures were “further evidence that the PIP system is not fit for purpose”, despite the assessment system being in place for more than four years. He said:

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Stephen Kinnock MP.

“While the scale of this is truly shocking, it is not in the least bit surprising, because week after week I hear from my constituents about how claimants are treated, how they are humiliated, belittled and denied basic human dignity.

“Government has been told by MPs, claimants and by disability experts that the system needs reviewing.  

“Instead, they have carried on regardless with their ideological drive to remove the help which people so desperately need, so that they are able to manage the basic daily costs of living with a disability.” 

A spokesman for the DWP is reported to have been unable to offer any explanation for the huge rise in complaints. He commented: “Complaints may be made for a variety of reasons and there is no evidence to suggest that there is dishonesty in the assessment system.”

Yeah, right!

Assessments appeals going online

PIP assessments appeals, and those about other benefits, are set to change. This is because HM Court and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has reached stage two of the roll out of online hearings.

It says that virtual hearings and online hearings using ‘rapid messaging’ will become a reality over the next 18 months. Apparently, it will be possible to appeal online and track the progress of the case by text, email or online.

Many are likely to welcome the chance not to have to attend a face-to-face hearing. However, paper hearings have a very much lower success rate than in-person hearings. Claimants may well seek physical hearings, if the same low success rate applies to ‘rapid messaging’ hearings. 

HMCTS says in-person hearings will still be available “for those that need them”. My question is: Who will decide if a claimant is in ‘need’ of one? It should not be the DWP.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

 

 

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