Two recent revelations show what a disgrace the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) really is. As it was making a “record number” of wrong decisions last year, dozens of senior staff received thousands in bonuses.
Meanwhile, a GP has spoken out about the impact that the DWP’s decisions are having on the NHS.
DWP bonuses are “right”
On 17 June, the Daily Record published figures from a freedom of information request. They showed that 61 senior civil servants within the DWP received an average of £9,600 in bonuses last year:
The most senior civil servants got between £9500 and £17,500 in performance awards, averaging £9600. More than 55,000 staff in admin, executive officers and higher executive roles got £500.
The department defended these figures. It told the Daily Record that “it is right” to support its employees’ good performance. Moreover, it said senior staff performance-based bonuses were “restricted to top performers only”. But SNP MSP Shona Robison pointed out that the DWP “scrapped the £10 bonus of people struggling over Christmas and inflicted cuts on low-income families across Scotland”.
The Canary previously reported that DWP bonuses in 2016/17 reached nearly £43m. And all of this comes as recent figures show the department is making record numbers of wrong decisions.
On 14 June, the Mirror revealed that a “record number” of people won appeals against DWP decisions between January and March. It said that claimants won 74% of the 21,995 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) tribunal appeals against the department. At the same time, 16,337 appeals overturned PIP decisions. The Mirror said both of these figures are record highs. The paper also highlighted that three-quarters of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) appeals are now being won against the government.
The government is spending millions of taxpayer’s money just for these appeals to be heard. The Ministry of Justice recently said that the cost of PIP hearings lost by the DWP in 2018 hit £26.5m. That figure doesn’t include the taxpayer money spent by the DWP in fighting appeals, which reached £90m over five years.
“Months of desperation”
One GP has also written an open letter about the impact that the DWP’s incompetence is having. On 18 June, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a column by Helen Salisbury. In it, she said that she’s spending “more and more time” writing reports for claimants going to appeal. Salisbury said that the “main grounds” for refusing benefits was a fit-for-work assessment. But, as the government’s own statistics show, nearly three-quarters of its decisions don’t stand up to scrutiny. Salisbury said that these create “extra work for doctors”. She also emphasised the effect that DWP assessments have on claimants:
Many of my patients with severe physical or mental health difficulties spend weeks in a state of heightened anxiety before an assessment. I know that it takes some patients all of their energy and resolve to get up, dress, and make it to a GP appointment on time. … A negative ruling by the Work Capability Assessment body is often followed by months of desperation as we appeal the decision.
It’s not a ‘broken’ system
Poor and vulnerable people face desperation, shame, and worse while trying to get meagre financial support from the government. In most cases, it appears the DWP has wrongfully inflicted most of these nightmares. Meanwhile, despite such high rates of incompetence, the department is handing its highest earning staff thousands more in bonuses.
It’s tempting to say that the DWP is running a broken system. But these issues have been highlighted time and time again, with the department doing little to change. As a result, it’s hard not to assume that the system is running exactly as intended.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?