The DWP is overturning more than half of its own decisions in relation to some benefits. This has been revealed by Judge Robert Martin the outgoing president of the social entitlement chamber which deals with benefits tribunals. The DWP itself has yet to publish any statistics about the 'mandatory reconsideration before appeal' system introduced last year.
'Mandatory reconsideration before appeal' was introduced for personal independence payment (PIP) and universal credit (UC) from April 2013 and, for other benefits, for decisions made on or after 28 October 2013. It means that before a claimant can appeal a decision they have to ask for it to be looked at again by the DWP. Only once they receive written notification of the result of the reconsideration can they lodge an appeal, if they are unhappy with the revised decision.
The figures for reconsideration success were given by Judge Martin in the April edition of the Judicial Information Bulletin, which goes out to all tribunal members.
According to the judge, by 21st February 2014 the DWP had received 82,798 mandatory reconsideration requests and made a decision in 70% of cases, with decisions taking on average 13 days from the date they were received.
DLA decisions overturned 55.9%
ESA decisions overturned 23.0%
JSA decisions overturned 30.1
PIP decisions overturned 13.9%
UC decisions overturned 71.1%
It is extraordinary that the DWP is overturning a massive 71% of its own decisions in relation to UC, but at least they have the excuse that it’s a new benefit. But to be getting it wrong in more than half of all DLA decisions is even more astonishing.
Atos pulled out of the contract for carrying out DLA medicals, other than terminal illness cases, last year. Since then decision makers have been left to look up the effects of conditions in guidance issued by the DWP – and available in the members' area of Benefits and Work site – or on the internet.
This may go some way to explaining what is such a shameful level of error in DLA decision making. But it does not in any way excuse it.
For the moment then, it seems that even for ESA challenges – with a success rate of 23% - there is a reasonable chance of getting the decision overturned prior to a tribunal hearing.
Judge Martin’s article, ‘Dark matter’ can be downloaded from the Rightsnet discussion forum.