150 additional presenting officers are being recruited and trained by the DWP as it becomes ever more desperate to improve its success rate at personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA) tribunals.
In a written statement earlier this month Sarah Newton, the new minister for disabled people, revealed that presenting officers currently attend 23% of all first tier PIP tribunals, but the aim is to increase this to 50%.
No figures were given for ESA tribunals.
The news confirms figures given in the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) “Economic and Fiscal Outlook” document in March 2016:
“£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.”
The fact that the government is funding representation at tribunals for the DWP is particularly cynical given the figures published earlier this month showing that the number of claimants getting legal aid to help with social security appeals has plummeted by 99.5% as a result of massive cuts to the legal aid budget.
83,000 claimants received legal help in 2012-13, before the cuts came in. This plummeted to a tiny 440 claimants in the last financial year.
Sarah Wilson’s statement in full reads:
“The Department is in the process of recruiting, training and deploying approximately 150 Presenting Officers at Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance Tribunals in order to present the Secretary of State’s case and support the First tier Tribunal in arriving at the right decision.
“According to internal data, from April 2017 to date, the PIP Presenting Officers have attended approximately 23 per cent of PIP appeals at the First tier Tribunal. The aim is for the PIP Presenting Officers to attend approximately 50 per cent of all PIP Tribunal hearings.”