The DWP have failed to give an answer to any Freedom of Information Act requests relating to the LEAP review made by Benefits and Work, fuelling the suspicion that they have something to hide.
LEAP is a review of 1.6 million PIP claims set up because the DWP had been interpreting the law incorrectly. So far, the review is on course to pay out to only around 7,000 claimants in relation to one case, known as MH, when the original DWP estimate was that 164,000 would benefit.
As reported earlier this month, Benefits and Work asked the DWP for details of any algorithms being used to carry out the LEAP review.
The DWP’s response was to simply direct us to an unconnected parliamentary answer which denied that any algorithms were ever used by the department, but they did admit to using automated ‘business rules’.
We have now made a separate request for details of the business rules used in connection with MH and LEAP, because to us they sound very similar to algorithms.
In its most recent progress report the DWP claimed that 890,000 cases had been cleared against MH. We made a request to ask how many of those claimants had received a letter from the DWP giving them the results of their review.
The DWP once again pointed us to a parliamentary answer which appeared to say that all of these claimants had received a decision letter. But the answer also included a link to a previous answer which stated that:
“Through continuous monitoring of the exercise, we have been identifying claimants most likely to benefit, so that we can focus on paying these claimants backdated payments more quickly. We are writing to other claimants, explaining how we apply the Upper Tribunal decisions and letting them know they can get in touch with us if they think they are affected, and we will review their claim.”
This has left us uncertain how many of the 890,000 claimants have been written to with the result of a review and how many have simply been written to and told they can ask for a review. This is particularly the case as fewer than 4,000 of the 890,000 have actually been given a payment.
We asked for a review of the DWP’s answer but it remained unchanged. The matter is now with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
We also made a Freedom of Information request for copies of the expert advice and small scale case study which had been used by the DWP to come up with the original estimate that 164,000 claimants would be eligible for a back-payment in connection with MH.
But the DWP refused our request on the grounds that it would take one person more than 3.5 days to collect this information because it is “contained across multiple systems, from a significant time
past, and would require searching through a significant number of archived documents” and that it was therefore above the cost limit.
We don’t believe this to be true. The estimate was created for a document presented to MPs and ministers to persuade them of a need to change the law.
It isn’t credible to argue that the information for the report was never collected and collated but instead is scattered far and wide across the DWP.
We have asked for the decision to be reviewed and will, once again, take the case to the ICO if necessary.
What’s the secret?
There is a massive difference between the 164,000 people the DWP estimated would receive between £3,000 and £12,000 each in back-payments and the 7,000 people the DWP are on course to actually make a payment to.
The DWP have not addressed this issue in any way in their reports on the LEAP review. They very much do not want attention drawing to it.
Which is why we will carry on asking questions until we get some answers.