A DWP memo reveals that a ‘significant number’ of tribunal cases from up to eight years ago are either still not completed or the tribunal decisions were never acted upon . In some cases this has led to overpayments which are not going to be recovered, whilst other claimants are still waiting for their appeal to be heard.
The DWP memo, which Benefits and Work originally requested under the Freedom of Information Act several months ago, is dated 8 April 2014 and is headed ‘Outstanding Appeals Exercise’.
It reveals that:
A significant number Appeals are outstanding at Her Majesties Courts and Tribunal (HMCTS), some dating back to 2008. An exercise is now being undertaken to complete any outstanding actions on these cases.
The memo explains that, even where hearings have been completed, many tribunal decisions appear to have been lost either in the post or at some point in the DWP’s post handling process.
The DWP expects that most cases will only require administrative action on their part. However:
“. . . in some ESA WCA cases where the claimant lost their Appeal and the outcome is still outstanding there may be an overpayment of ESA. Claimants will not be asked to repay this overpayment but will be offered the chance to make an immediate reclaim for ESA or JSA if require.”
One welfare rights worker on Rightsnet has posted that his client is still waiting for an incapacity benefit appeal to be heard, even though there have been no new claims for incapacity benefit since 2008.
Another poster has a client who has remained on the assessment rate of ESA since February 2011 after losing an ESA appeal and being told by the tribunal that he would be sent for another medical
The memo does not give precise numbers of those affected or any estimate of the amounts of incorrectly paid benefit.
However, that plan began to unravel as early as July of this year when the DWP realised that Atos owns all the hardware required to run the LiMA software used in WCAs.
As the Central Government Computing website revealed, the DWP were having to pay Atos an extra £10 million to carrying on running all the hardware for assessments for an additional year whilst a new IT provider is sought. The new contract runs into 2016 with options for it to continue right into 2020.
Meanwhile, however, there is still no sign of a company stepping in to carry out the actual face-to-face assessment. The possibility of Atos being fully replaced by the end of the year now seems very slim as another of IDS’ projects misses its deadline.