Sobbing decision makers are desperately trying to persuade claimants not to lodge appeals following an unsuccessful mandatory reconsideration, a senior welfare rights worker has revealed. It is the first evidence that DWP staff are coming under pressure to meet targets for cutting appeal numbers for benefits including employment and support allowance (ESA), personal independence payment (PIP) and disability living allowance (DLA).
The DWP introduced a new, much more complex system for challenging benefits decisions in 2013. The mandatory reconsideration system obliges claimants to first ask the DWP to look at a decision again and then, if they are unhappy with the result, to lodge an appeal with the Tribunals Service themselves.
The new system applied to universal credit and PIP decisions from April 2013 and to ESA and other benefits from 28 October 2013.
Back in December 2014 we revealed that there had been a fall of more than 50% in the number of challenges to ESA decisions following the introduction of the mandatory reconsideration before appeal system.
The fall in the number of actual appeals has been unprecedented, with 92% fewer ESA appeals being lodged.
At the time we suggested that the fall in challenges was likely to have been caused at least in part by an array of dirty tricks being employed by the DWP.
Further evidence has now merged that, in the same way that Jobcentre Plus staff have targets for sanctions, decision makers have targets for preventing appeals.
Writing on the welfare rights workers website Rightsnet, one senior welfare rights worker reveals that two clients have told him independently that the decision maker was ‘in tears’ or ‘sobbing’ because the claimant insisted that they wished to continue with their appeal when their mandatory reconsideration was unsuccessful.
The senior welfare rights worker goes on to explain that two decision makers have told claimants:
“But don’t you understand, the whole point of mandatory reconsiderations is to avoid appeals because they’re expensive, time-consuming and usually pro-claimant and wrong. Even government ministers know that.”
In the past, decision makers were indifferent as to whether their decisions were appealed or not. It simply made no difference to them. For decision makers to be reduced to tears when a claimant informs them that they intend to appeal suggests that massive pressure is now being placed on them to stop this happening.
This is a time of continued staff cuts at the DWP. The threat of being put on a ‘performance improvement plan’, which could lead to cuts in income and dismissal, because too many of your decisions are being appealed, is a powerful one. It seems certain that, as with sanctions targets, the DWP will deny that any such threats are being made.
But, if they aren’t, what possible explanation could there be for the weeping decision makers?