Sitting here alongside Lisa, in our home in southern Spain, I watch the political shenanigans in the UK over Brexit with both amusement and pity.
Amusement, because of the knots into which politicians contrive to tie themselves, and pity for residents of the UK who deserve a government that is fit for purpose. Unfortunately, events show that it isn’t.
And that goes much deeper than issues surrounding Europe. Those of us who have disabilities are well aware of this government’s shortcomings.
The latest wheeze of its Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is to introduce what are referred to as ‘text box tribunals’.
The idea behind it, supposedly, is to make life easier for claimants. Documents available online and use of video-conferencing for benefit appeals would, in theory at least, save claimants from the need to make long trips.
In reality, however, it is about cutting costs, and providing another obstacle for claimants to navigate before reaching an oral hearing.
Steve Donnison, director of Benefits and Work Ltd, explains: “Under the new Continuous Online Resolution (COR) system, soon to be piloted, most PIP (Personal Independence Payment) and ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) claimants who appeal a decision will have their case looked at by an online tribunal panel.
How online panels will operate
“The panel will review all the documents relating to the appeal and will then ask the claimant any further questions they think may be relevant. The claimant is given a deadline to respond to these questions. They do this by typing directly into text boxes in their Tribunals Service account dashboard.
“Once the text box tribunal has all the information it thinks it needs, it gives the claimant its decision.”
Claimants who do not agree with that decision, will still have the right to have their case heard at an oral hearing.
Donnison continues: “The new system will not allow the (online) panel to ask nearly as many questions as they would at an oral hearing.
“It will also not give the panel the chance to meet the claimant and form an opinion about their reliability as a witness. In the vast majority of oral hearings, panels have a high opinion of the claimant’s credibility.
“The success rate for paper hearings is dramatically lower than for oral hearings. Text box tribunal results will almost certainly fall somewhere in the middle.”
That would mean many thousands of claimants will have to endure a claim, a mandatory reconsideration and a text box tribunal before they can get to an oral appeal.
The appeal process was long enough already – now this “easier” online tribunal is just an extra step in the disgustingly long-drawn-out ordeal process.
I fear that not many claimants will manage to cope with it. At least that will be good news for the DWP and the Tribunals Service – just not so good for the rest of us.
This government is incapable of managing anything. Whether it is Brexit, disability benefits, or Universal Credit (don’t get me started), just to name a few,. There is chaos and pandemonium. The government is unable to govern. It is time for Theresa May and her pathetic cohorts to go.
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks. 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. More recently, he was a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. 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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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Ian is not a doctor, so cannot and does not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely his own unless otherwise stated.