A claimant thanked Benefits and Work members after his victory in the High Court, which ruled it is unlawful for the DWP to force Income Related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants to have a mandatory reconsideration before they can lodge an appeal.
Last November we asked readers to help fund an attempt by a claimant Michael Connor, who was also a law graduate, to have the mandatory reconsideration process ruled unlawful.
Our members responded with great generosity, to the extent that the original target of £3,000 was smashed. Over £7,500 was raised in the end.
Connor had been forced to wait 18 weeks by the DWP whilst they carried out a mandatory reconsideration of his ESA decision. During this time he had no right to claim ESA at a rate paid to claimants once they have successfully lodged their appeal.
The court found that forcing a claimant to wait until until an appeal is lodged to be able to receive ESA again was in breach of their right to a fair trial.
Judge Swift ruled:
“It is anomalous that the payment pending appeal arrangements for ESA under regulation 30(3) of the ESA Regulations do not extend to ESA claimants who are required by regulation 3ZA to request the Secretary of State to revise a decision and await her decision on that request before initiating an appeal.
“My conclusion is that regulation 3ZA of the Decisions and Appeals Regulations is a disproportionate interference with the right of access to court, so far as it applies to claimants to ESA who, once an appeal is initiated, meet the conditions for payment pending appeal under regulation 30(3) of the ESA Regulations.”
Sadly, the ruling does not apply to other benefits such as PIP or DLA.
Nonetheless, it is an important victory and it means that ESA claimants, who are often faced with the prospect of many weeks without funds if they wish to appeal, are now in a much better position when challenging a decision.
Connor had particularly warm words for Benefits and Work readers after receiving the decision:
“The judicial review was only made possible by the support of Benefits and Work members. Without this support ESA claimants would still have to endure the draconian mandatory reconsideration process without any appeal pending benefit. Benefits and Work is the leader in grassroots support for benefit claimants and I am honoured to have their support”
You can read the full decision here.