A disability charity has revealed that on average a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision on someone’s benefits is overturned by the department itself or a tribunal every minute of the working day. The charity is calling for an overhaul of the process of claiming disability and sickness social security. But is it going far enough?
DWP: a wrong decision every minute
As PA reported, the charity Scope has revealed that a mistaken benefits decision is overturned on average every minute of the working day. It was looking at the social security benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP). It can help people with the extra living costs associated with people’s long-term conditions. PIP is split into two parts: mobility and daily living. But often, DWP decisions on claimant’s entitlement to PIP are wrong.
PA noted that applicants who are unhappy with a DWP decision can appeal through mandatory reconsideration. This is where a different DWP adviser looks at the case again. They then decide if the outcome should be changed. If it’s not changed, people can appeal the DWP’s decision to a tribunal that’s independent from the department. It’s mandatory reconsiderations and tribunals that Scope looked at.
It analysed government data on mandatory reconsiderations and tribunals. It shows more than 12,000 disabled people are having wrong PIP decisions overturned every month. Between July 2019 and June 2021, on average, there have been 12,579 successful appeals every month. So, this equates to 1.3 decisions per minute of the working week, based on five eight-hour days.
PA reported that Scope wants the assessment process for PIP changed. It’s calling for claimants to have the right to request a specialist assessor when they apply for PIP. More than 10,000 campaigners have backed the disability charity’s petition. Scope has launched a campaign called Disability Benefits Without The Fight. It wants the government to make sure disabled people get the right decision the first time around.
James Taylor, executive director of strategy at Scope, told PA:
These wrong decisions throw a person’s life into turmoil. Having to fight for financial support puts a huge toll on disabled people’s mental and physical health and can plunge families into poverty.
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Disabled people must be able to get disability benefits without the fight. [They] are being systematically failed. The benefits system should work for disabled people, not against them.
We’ve heard from huge numbers of disabled people who felt their assessors did not understand their condition or how it affects their life. The system is getting it wrong far too many times.
The DWP says…
The DWP, however, is adamant that the system is working. It told PA that of 4.4 million initial decisions between April 2013 and March 2021, 9% had been appealed and 5% overturned at tribunal.
A spokesperson said:
For the majority of PIP claims, we get decisions right and all assessments are carried out by healthcare professionals trained to consider the impact of someone’s health condition or disability, but we are exploring what more we can do so the welfare system better meets the needs of disabled people through our Health and Disability Green Paper.
But even Scope’s figures do not include the reported four in 10 PIP claimants who do not appeal the DWP’s decisions due to the mental distress of the process
Tinkering around the edges
However, some disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) think that simply tinkering with the DWP assessment process is not enough.
Inclusion London and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) believe that DWP processes need completely overhauling. In 2019, they made proposals based on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The two DPOs said that, among other things, the DWP needs to completely change assessments. Inclusion London and DPAC said:
- The assessment / benefit process must be must user-led: a self assessment process (with external verification) delivered through peer-led DPOs
- It must be based around the following three questions (drawn from personal budgets):
a) How do you want to live and what do you want to achieve?
b) What stops you living that life?
c) What would help you live that life?
- The assessment/benefit process must express and reflect the UNCRPD – it must explicitly support disabled people to live independently with choice and control.
Scope’s proposals will do little more than keep the current system in place. If DWP processes are to truly reflect the support needs of chronically ill, sick, and disabled people, they need to place those people at their heart. Nothing less will do.
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