In a Commons debate on 25th Nov 2013, Esther McVey claimed that mandatory reconsiderations for employment and support allowance (ESA) should take just 14 days, provided that no further information is needed:{jcomments on}

There are no plans to introduce a timescale for completion of the mandatory reconsideration process, however, the process will be monitored to avoid any unnecessary delays. The time it takes to complete a mandatory reconsideration will vary depending on the circumstances of the case, but DWP will contact the claimant once the mandatory reconsideration process is complete.

"If no further information is needed and the case is straightforward, the mandatory reconsideration process for employment and support allowance could be completed relatively quickly. We would usually expect this to take around 14 days, but it could take longer. For example, if further information is needed, the law states that DWP have to give people one month to provide it and this may be extended further at the decision maker's discretion, so cases like this may take longer.”

McVey also confirmed that ESA will be backdated to the date of the disallowance decision if successful at appeal or on reconsideration:

“If the original disallowance decision is overturned at appeal, payment of employment and support allowance will be reinstated and backdated to the effective date of the decision in their case. Any payments owed for this period will be restored. Equally, if the original disallowance decision is reversed after mandatory reconsideration and no appeal is then necessary, payment of employment and support allowance will be reinstated and backdated in the same way.”

The minister also insisted that claiming JSA during the mandatory reconsideration stage will not prejudice the decision on disallowed ESA:

“The DWP decision maker’s decision at the mandatory reconsideration stage for employment and support allowance is intended to be an independent step in the process, therefore, whether the claimant has claimed jobseeker's allowance or not in the intervening period, this will have no bearing on the mandatory reconsideration decision. Work Capability Assessment decisions are binding—a jobseeker's allowance decision maker cannot decide that a claimant is too ill to work if this contradicts the ESA decision maker's decision. However, the claimant must agree to the jobseeker's agreement/claimant commitment to be eligible.”

McVey's comments do not, however, answer the question of whether ESA will be paid back to the date of the original decision when an appeal is successfully lodged or whether back payments for this period will only be made if the appeal is successful.

McVey's statements also don't, in any way, prevent a tribunal taking into account a claimant's jobseeking activities whilst they were waiting for their appeal to be heard, provided the claimant's condition has remained unchanged between the original decision and the appeal.

Finally, McVey's answers add weight to the belief amongst some claimants and advisors that it may often be prudent not to seek or provide any additional evidence at the reconsideration stage as this may lengthen the period when the claimant is on JSA or without benefit entirely.  Instead, many may choose not to engage with the reconsideration process and only seek additional evidence once the appeal has been successfully lodged.

Source: Hansard


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