3 February 2010
The DWP have issued instructions to decision makers to ensure that claimants lose out because of long delays in arranging employment and support allowance medicals.
Problems have arisen because many work capability assessment (WCA) medicals are not being carried out within the 13 week assessment phase. In some cases claimants are not being seen by an Atos doctor until months after the assessment phase should have ended. In these circumstances a claimant who passes the WCA will get their work-related activity component or support component backdated to the start of the 14th week of their claim, when the assessment phase should have ended.
Difficulties occur, though, when people make a claim for ESA then end it because of a change in their circumstances, such as a return to work. Where this happens, after the assessment phase should have ended but before a medical has taken place, some people have put in a claim for arrears of the work-related activity component.
New guidance issued to decision makers, however, tells them that claimants should not be given the ‘benefit of the doubt’. Even where it is clear from the IB50 questionnaire submitted by the claimant that they would have been eligible to join the work-related activity group, decision makers are told that no arrears of benefit should be paid.
The guidance states that the award of a component can only be backdated after a medical and, as these claimants have not had a medical, they have no entitlement.
Whilst this may be a correct interpretation of the law, it is clearly absolutely unjust for the DWP to profit from failing to do their job properly. It would be entirely possible for the department to make ex gratia payments to individuals in these circumstances. Needless to say, they have no intention of doing so.