The DWP has been given £22 million to recruit presenting officers in an effort to reduce the number of claimants winning their personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA) appeals.
The Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) “Economic and Fiscal Outlook” document lists the following amount:
“£22 million to DWP to recruit presenting officers across 2016-17 to 2017-18 to support the department in personal independent payments and employment and support allowance tribunals.”
Buzzfeed is reporting that the money will pay for 180 new presenting officers.
The number of PIP appeals is expected to skyrocket over the coming two years as the forced move from DLA to PIP takes place.
In addition, the proportion of successful PIP appeals has increased with every quarter since the benefit was introduced. PIP claimants won in 60% of cases from July to September 2015, up from 56% in the previous quarter.
58% of ESA cases are also won by the claimant.
The DWP is also concerned by the way that tribunal judges have been interpreting the very badly drafted PIP legislation in favour of claimants. In particular, the widening of what counts as aids and appliances for PIP activities by judges is what led to the disastrous attempt to change the point scores for PIP.
In theory, presenting officers should act a s a ‘friend of the court’, helping judges to reach a fair decision. In reality, they will be sent by the DWP to try to discredit claimants and argue as forcibly as possible for the DWP’s interpretation of the law to be accepted.
Attending an appeal tribunal is likely to be an even more gruelling process for claimants over the next few years.