The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has had quite a week, lurching from one crisis to the next. And on Friday 15 June, the secretary of state for work and pensions, Esther McVey, topped it all off by dropping a crucial written statement on parliament. She then effectively ran off for the weekend.
Another day, another DWP scandal
As The Canary previously reported, judges forced the DWP to admit it had been incorrectly interpreting its own guidelines for Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The department’s climb-down was in relation to two court cases where it had previously denied two disabled people PIP. This was on the basis they did not meet some of its criteria for the “daily living” component of the benefit.
After tribunals disagreed and told the DWP it must give the two claimants PIP, the department was going to appeal. But on 30 May, it told law firm Garden Court North Chambers it was withdrawing the appeals. The DWP also said it will be reviewing all PIP claims this may affect. It basically got it wrong.
Anger in parliament
During an angry parliamentary exchange on Monday 4 June, Labour’s Debbie Abrahams and others probed McVey as to how many people could be affected by this latest scandal. A previous case where the DWP was forced to admit it had been interpreting the PIP guidelines wrong left it reviewing 1.6 million peoples’ claims.
McVey repeatedly deflected MP’s questions, prompting anger from opposition benches. But on Friday, she made an admission.
In a written statement, she said:
Last week I came to the House to answer an Urgent Question regarding two PIP appeals… (known as AN and JM) that I had withdrawn. I was unable to comment on a related case that was pending an appeal… (known as LB) as it concerned ongoing litigation…
The LB case involved [pdf, p1] the same part of PIP regulations as the AN and JM cases. McVey said the DWP had decided not to appeal the LB case. This meant she could now reveal how many people the DWP’s rule misinterpretation could affect.
My Department has now begun work to apply the law as stated… We expect that around 1,000 claimants will be affected.
Drop and run
McVey’s written response left Abrahams unimpressed:
It is just not good enough for Esther McVey to make these written statements this time on #PIP – the work & pensions secretary MUST come to the House to answer questions and to be held to account. #undemocratic https://t.co/ZBZ77Gw7eO
— Debbie Abrahams MP (@Debbie_abrahams) June 15, 2018
This is good news for around 1,000 disabled people. But what the DWP won’t be reviewing is all the people it has previously said didn’t qualify for PIP. Some of these claims may have been denied because the DWP misrepresented its own rules.
As The Canary exclusively reported, we now know that around 381,000 disabled people who previously received Disability Living Allowance (DLA) were reassessed as not needing PIP. Overall, between April 2013 and April 2018, the DWP told [pdf, p3] some 1.4 million people they didn’t qualify for PIP. So, for the sake of those affected, we must find out how many of these were because the DWP got its own rules wrong.
In the meantime, McVey and her department are becoming more embattled by the day.
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