It’s probably an understatement to say that this wasn’t the election result the majority of our readers wanted.
And when we said last week that we would send out a brief post-election update today, we were hoping to have some optimistic news.
But the chance of seeing an end to the roll out of universal credit, the removal of private sector companies from benefits assessments, an increase in ESA for claimants in the work-related activity group and all the other improvements that parties other than the Tories promised, have now been crushed.
The one consolation, if it can even be called that, is that it is very unlikely we will see any sweeping changes to the benefits system in the next few years.
If the Conservative mantra for the election was ‘Get Brexit done’ the DWP’s mantra for the next few years will be ‘Get universal credit done.’
There is likely to be little enthusiasm for taking on new challenges whilst the incredibly delayed and utterly flawed roll out of universal credit continues to lurch towards its distant goal.
Aside from rolling out UC, we will see the continued attempts of the Tribunals Service to move as many appeals as possible online.
And the Conservative manifesto made it clear that the use of the Human Rights Act and judicial reviews to wrest justice from over-powerful government departments will be made more difficult.
This last move comes as no surprise given the role that the courts played in making the last 12 months grim ones for the DWP.
It began with the news that Amber Rudd, remember her, was having to postpone legislation to transfer millions of legacy benefits claimants onto UC and go ahead with a pilot only, such was the concern that the whole thing was going to be a PR disaster for the Conservatives.
This was followed by the announcement that claimants in receipt of the severe disability premium (SDP) would no longer be moved onto UC by natural migration, due to a court defeat for the DWP the preceding summer.
Still in January, there was the revelation that far from cutting the cost of disability benefits by 20 per cent as the DWP intended, PIP had resulted in an increase in costs of 15 to 20 per cent.
In February the DWP had to widen the scope of its project to check whether claimants who were moved from incapacity benefit to ESA were given the wrong award. It now covered 600,000 claimants.
In April, the Royal College of GPs was amongst those demanding the DWP rewrite its misleading fit note advice to claimants because it was endangering patients health. The DWP bowed to pressure and complied.
May saw the start of a fight back against the DWP’s fake news campaign in support of UC.
It would end with the advertising watchdog finding the DWP guilty of publishing misleading adverts.
September witnessed the demise of Amber Rudd after less than a year in office. Her replacement, Therese Coffey, has yet to make her mark. Judging by how long previous ministers have lasted, she will not have long to do so.
Also in September we had the news that the success rate for both PIP and ESA appeals had risen again to an all-time high of 75%.
In October, the DWP revealed that it had so far paid out over £37 million in to claimants who lost out on the severe disability premium (SDP) when they were migrated from legacy benefits such as ESA and UC.
Still in October, the DWP announced that, following another court case it had lost, it would be checking yet more PIP decisions to see if claimants were entitled to additional payments.
November saw Benefits and Work readers crowdfund a legal bid to end the DWP’s cynical practice of forcing claimants to undergo a mandatory reconsideration before they can appeal a decision. The case should be going ahead soon.
And so, into a new year in which we will hope for further victories for claimants before attempts to nobble the judicial system can be put in place.
Whatever the coming months bring, we plan on still being here to support claimants, as we have done for the last 17 years.
Meanwhile, in this brief period of calm, we would like to wish all our readers a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
We’ll be back on 15 January.
Steve Donnison and The Office Team
Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666