The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has inadvertently revealed a staggering piece of information about the way it deals with benefit sanctions.
The DWP: under the microscope
A story by Dan Bloom in the Mirror on Tuesday 21 August revealed the amount the DWP spends on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) mandatory reconsiderations. But it didn’t quite tell the whole story.
As Bloom wrote:
We obtained our figures from the… (DWP) through a Freedom of Information request.
They show the DWP ran up an estimated £199million in ‘direct operating costs’ between 2013/14 and 2017/18 dealing with the two stages of PIP and ESA appeals.
The first stage, internal reviews called Mandatory Reconsiderations, cost the DWP an estimated £50.7m for ESA and £43.4m for PIP over five years.
A mandatory reconsideration is the first re-assessment when a claimant disputes a DWP decision about their benefits. Labour MP Jack Dromey said that:
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The Mirror has exposed just how cruel Tory treatment of the vulnerable can be.
Hard-hearted Ian Duncan Smith and Esther McVey have wasted nearly £200million on denying desperately needed support for the sick and disabled.
Of course, if the DWP got its decisions right in the first place, claimants wouldn’t be forced through the stress of having to challenge it. This would then alleviate the need for the department to be wasting money trying to rectify its own bad decision making.
But what the Mirror didn’t calculate is the average cost per mandatory reconsideration. And this throws into question whether the DWP is actually spending enough on mandatory reconsiderations.
The Canary has crunched the numbers, and they show that:
- An ESA mandatory reconsiderations costs on average £74.
- A PIP mandatory reconsiderations costs on average £59.
So, the DWP is actually spending barely anything per claimant, especially for PIP. Based on an average DWP employee’s yearly salary, just over four hours would be spent looking at someone’s claim – if the DWP used the £59 just to pay a member of staff.
The DWP says…
A DWP spokesperson told The Canary:
We’re committed to ensuring that disabled people get the support that they need, spending £50 billion a year supporting them and those with health conditions. A relatively small proportion of all decisions are overturned at appeal – 4% for both PIP and ESA.
The fact the DWP thinks £59 is the value of someone’s concerns about their claim is damning. PIP claimants are often those who have the most complex health conditions. There’s already huge controversy surrounding the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and the private contractors which carry it out. But now, a claimant is effectively only worth £59 of the DWP’s time, when it’s making life-affecting decisions about them. This is a damning indictment of how little respect the department has for those it’s supposed to be supporting.
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