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.
Campaigner 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.
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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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.