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The fight to outlaw mandatory reconsiderations has begun, thanks to Benefits and Work members, but more help is needed.

Last week we revealed that Michael Connor, a former welfare rights worker and now legally qualified, had launched a challenge to the lawfulness of mandatory reconsiderations.

The High Court judge in the case said that there was force in the argument that mandatory reconsiderations are “a disproportionate barrier to access to a court” and allowed the challenge to go ahead.

However, with just one day to go to pay the initial £770 court fee last week, Connor’s crowdfunding was still almost £300 short.

Within hours of us publishing an appeal, Benefits and Work members stepped in and donated enough cash to ensure the case could proceed.

The crowdfund now stands at £1,135 with a target of £3,000.

More funds are needed to cover the costs of filing documents and applying for directions in the ongoing judicial review process.

There is also the possibility of an appeal to the Supreme Court by either party.

In the unlikely event that any funds are left at the end of the procedure, Connor says he will donate them to one or more welfare rights charities.

There is no doubt that Connor, with twenty years experience as a welfare rights worker and a distinction in both his Masters in Law and his Legal Practice Certificate, has the skills to build the case.

He is also in talks to get a barrister to present the arguments without charging a fee.

The nub of the argument is that putting the barrier of a mandatory reconsideration in the way of claimants is a breach of their human right to a fair and prompt hearing of their case.

The introduction of mandatory reconsiderations immediately slashed the number of claimants making it to an appeal. It fell from over 500,000 to 112,000 in the course of the year after the new system began.

The average time taken to conduct mandatory reconsiderations for PIP has, by the DWP’s own figures, more than doubled. It now takes an average of 69 days, up from 32 days a year ago.

And the actual wait is even longer because the DWP only start the clock from when they register the request, which can be over a month after they receive it.

Worst of all, the success rate for mandatory reconsiderations is just 15% for PIP, compared to a massive 75% success rate when a claimant actually gets to an independent tribunal.

The unfairness of the mandatory reconsideration system is clear.

And just a few weeks ago the Supreme Court used the Human Rights Act to outlaw part of the bedroom tax regulations.

So, whilst there is no certainty of success, this is the best chance claimants are likely to have of seeing the end of the cynical and bitterly unfair mandatory reconsideration system.

Benefits and Work readers have funded successful appeals in the past. Most notably you funded an appeal relating to changes to PIP which made it harder for claimants with mental health conditions to get an award of the mobility component.

On that occasion Billie was asking for £3,000 to fund her appeal. She ended up with over £8,000 thanks largely to Benefits and Work readers.

The case, based again on human rights law, was won and over 1.6 million PIP claims had to be looked at again to see who should get higher awards.

Michael Connor’s case presents another opportunity for readers to be part of a historic fight for justice.

His crowdfunding page is here.

Comments  

#4 buddha*3 2019-12-05 14:57
I understand the importance of taking action regarding MRs. I would have preferred it if this stage of appeal was treated seriously by the DWP, with many more decisions being overturned, making it unnecessary for claimants to have to go to Tribunal. A court is a much more stressful environment and some of us will struggle to appear in person. We also shouldn't have to be legal experts on benefit law to receive what we qualify for.
I hope if this challenge is successful, we have a more accurate assessment process and correct decisions made in the first instance. Not confident that will happen though.
I had 2 decisions changed at MR stage, a huge relief for me. I know this is unusual but it would have been much worse for me if I didn't have that chance and had to go to court for a tribunal. The whole process is so exhausting - I haven't recovered from it 2 years on.
Solidarity to everyone going through this process and good luck to Michael Connor on this case. I still support it even though I got lucky with my MRs.
#3 Crazydiamond 2019-12-05 14:16
Mandatory reconsideration s were introduced for one reason, and one reason only – to deter claimants from lodging an appeal against adverse benefit decisions.

The notion that it was to reconsider the case and/or allow a claimant to obtain further evidence is bogus, because as has been pointed out there is no time limit for a mandatory reconsideration , and it is patently clear that the DWP can without any statutory time limits string the whole process out. This effectively starves a claimant into submission, for example, to surrender their ESA claim and be forced to claim Universal Credit with all the harsh conditions that it entails, if they want any payment whilst the mandatory reconsideration process takes place.

If there was any truth in what the DWP claim, then they should pay the appropriate amount of benefit until the mandatory consideration has occurred, and not to wait until an appeal is lodged. Surprisingly, the mandatory reconsideration process does not apply to all benefits. If you wish to dispute a Housing Benefit decision, you can lodge an appeal at any time. It therefore begs the question as to why it applies to some benefits, but not all of them?

Good luck Mr Connor, in your quest to seek justice.
+2 #2 DianaW 2019-12-04 12:44
As I recall (from an agonising solitary battle to overturn a grossly wrong WCA three years ago), it's only after the DWP has gone through mandatory reconsideration but refused to change its decision that the claimant is supposed to be told (but often, as in my case, is NOT told) that they can apply to have their previous benefit restored until the tribunal has decided their case.
If that's correct, then it's another respect in which MR is used to prevent legitimate claimants who have been badly treated on a WCA from surviving financially - by cutting off their benefits for the entire period from the initial stoppage to however long after the MR decision it takes for the claim to reinstate the benefit to succeed and be implemented. That could well take months.
The added stress which that imposes on a legitimate claimant is obvious. By definition, someone who is already unfit for work will already be stressed - if only by managing their disability and living, often for extended periods, on a very restricted income. Just completing the enormous WCA form is hugely stressful in itself. Dealing with an unhelpful assessor and analysing the defects of the nonsensical report form, which does not accurately reflect what the claimant has said at the assessment, is worse. Finding out how to seek MR and arguing that effectively is appallingly hard, particularly when it turns out that the DWP was ignoring the merits of individual claims and, instead, blindly prioritising targets for how many claims they can refuse.
Good luck with arguing this case, which I very much hope may succeed.
+4 #1 TraceZee 2019-11-27 09:07
My pleasure to donate. Best of luck Michael

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