Unless a court fee of £770 is paid this week, a ground-breaking challenge to the DWP’s power to cynically force claimants through a mandatory reconsideration before they can appeal will not go ahead.
The appeal is due to be heard in the High Court after being launched by a recent law graduate, Michael Connor, who is also a welfare rights worker with many years of experience,
Connor is crowdfunding to cover the costs of the case. So far he has raised £485 of his target of £3,000.
He has succeeded in persuading the High Court to judicially review the legality of the mandatory reconsideration system, which Connor is arguing is a breach of human rights law.
As Benefits and Work has pointed out on many occasions, the entire purpose of mandatory reconsiderations is to reduce the number of appeals by unfairly forcing claimants to jump through an additional hoop before they can appeal.
The number of social security appeals reached a peak of over 500,000 a year before plummeting to 112,000 in 2014-15, after the DWP introduced its cynical mandatory reconsideration before appeal system.
Since introducing mandatory reconsideration, the DWP has made efforts to further discourage claimants.
The average waiting time for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) mandatory reconsideration, for example, has more than doubled. It now takes an average of 69 days, up from 32 days a year ago.
The overall success rate for PIP mandatory reconsiderations is just 15%, compared to a success rate for PIP appeals of 75%.
However, of all those PIP claimants who complete a PIP mandatory reconsideration, just 41% then go on to lodge an appeal.
Under the old system every one of those claimants would have had their appeal dealt with by a tribunal, and three quarters of them would have won.
Instead, after being forced to wait months and then crushed by yet another refusal by the DWP, the majority now drop out.
In allowing the case to go ahead, a High Court judge wrote:
“Although it is difficult to challenge legislation, there is some force in the submission that a rule which precludes access to statutory rights of appeal until after determination of a mandatory reconsideration, rather than when it should have been determined, is a disproportionate barrier to access to a court.”
On his Crowdfunder page, Connor says:
“As the film I, Daniel Blake, highlighted many people die before their appeal is eventually heard, This is because of the lengthy and pointless DWP rule that stops people appealing. If my legal action is successful this unfair law will be quashed.”
However, he has now added an “Urgent Update” explaining:
“The fee to proceed of £770 needs to be paid this week! As you can see I am far from that. If you can help I and the thousands of benefit appellants that this case will help will be most grateful.”
You can visit the Crowdfunder page here.