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.
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.