Benefits and Work has had over 300 responses to its survey on the LEAP review into errors of law by the DWP. The responses suggest that the DWP has rigged the system to give as few awards as possible and make challenges to decisions very unlikely.
As a result, although close on a million claimants have been refused arrears under LEAP, we have heard from only three claimants so far who lodged an appeal.
Yet each of these claimants got substantial awards when the DWP backed down before a hearing could be held. One received £12,000, one got £5,000 and the other £3,000.
The LEAP review
In a decision known as MH, it was found that the DWP had been misapplying the law in relation to psychological distress and following the route of a journey.
Claimants should have been awarded the standard rate of PIP mobility if, because of overwhelming psychological distress, they needed someone with them to follow the route of an unfamiliar journey or if they could not undertake a journey at all.
And they should have been awarded the enhanced rate if they could not follow the route of a familiar journey without having someone with them for the same reason.
Instead the DWP had been awarding just 4 points, not enough for any award of the mobility component at all.
The LEAP review also relates to another case called RJ, in which the DWP was found to have got the law wrong in relation to safety and supervision. That issue is not covered in this article.
The DWP claim to be checking the cases of 1.6 million PIP claimants to make sure they have the correct award and writing to them with the results.
Where are all the decision letters?
According to the DWP’s figures, back in January 890,000 cases had been cleared against MH since June 2018. By the time we did our survey in April, that figure should have been over the million mark.
Yet the overwhelming majority of people who responded to our survey said they hadn’t had a letter connected to this review – even though the survey was directed at people ‘who have received news from the DWP that your LEAP review has been unsuccessful’.
Our newsletter goes out to very nearly 100,000 people. We would expect that number to include a reasonable proportion who were covered by the LEAP review.
So why do so few people recall getting a letter?
One possibility is that because of the way the letter was written, people did not did not realise it was a LEAP review letter and no longer remember having got it. The letter was headed
Personal Independence Payment
Changes in PIP law – we have looked again at your PIP and it has not changed
This would be enough to persuade many people to read no further.
The only information given about the MH decision in the letter is:
MH v DWP tribunal judgement. This relates to how ‘overwhelming psychological distress’ is considered when assessing the ability of someone to plan and follow a journey. This change applies from 28 November 2016.
No attempt was made to explain what the decision said or who might be affected.
The other possibility is that the DWP have not written to the majority of people who have been reviewed.
No knowledge of review
Many people had not only not received a letter, they had heard nothing about the LEAP review from anyone but Benefits and Work. By not effectively publicising the review, which involves 1.6 million people, the DWP are ensuring that most people have no understanding of whether or how they might be affected.
This is the first time I have heard of this.
The first I knew about this was reading your news letter
This is good news from the DWP’s point of view. If claimants don’t know about the review and the DWP don’t send them a decision letter, or send them one that explains nothing, they will never know that they may be missing out on thousands of pounds in arrears.
Didn’t understand the review letter
As we’ve seen the LEAP letter explained virtually nothing about the MH decision or who it might affect.
Didn’t know what the letter meant until I’ve read this news letter
Didn’t really understand stand what the letter meant had no one to help me
I don't understand what the letters mean and have to get them explained and most time put them away as it's about work out money
Again, it’s a win for the DWP. People are unlikely to challenge a decision if they don’t understand what it is about.
We heard from people who had written to the DWP after learning about the LEAP review, but had received no response.
I wrote a letter last year asking them to look at my claim again. I receive ESA also and registered as severely disabled. I got no reply. It took me a very long time to face up to writing that letter.
I cannot understand why I have had no response. My letters were sent recorded delivery and the last was 3 months ago Not to get any response means I cannot even challenge anything. Also I do not understand why they haven’t even responded to say we are looking into this.
I have wrote to them back in November 2020 asking them to look into my claim again, which they haven’t replied back yet to me.
Here the DWP are using the standard technique of ignoring people in the certain knowledge that a high proportion will give up and go away.
Claimants who contact the DWP about the review by telephone have been routinely fobbed off.
I didn't receive a letter but rang DWP, they told me my claim had been looked at but there would be no change.
I sent the letter in October but they only acknowledged it in February when I called up to ask if they had it but they said it had been flagged to be looked at - but they were not very helpful and said that everyone who was supposed to be paid was most likely paid.
I called the DWP re. the review of all cases and have been told that I have to wait until they get round to me.
Told review would take place at a future date unspecified.
I asked for this after announcement re mental health and mobility award - I work for Citizens Advice, benefits is part of my work, including PIP. They just said (phone conversation) he gets nothing and it won't change.
I called the DWP last year and was informed that I was one of the persons down to get this back payment from 2016. Interestingly I called them again 2 weeks ago and the person was very cagey and told me I would have to wait and see!
Again, the technique of wearing people down and lowering their expectations will mean that the number of challenges to decisions, if they are ever actually communicated, will be tiny.
Not aware of appeal rights
We asked people who had been told they did not qualify for an award of arrears why they had not challenged the decision. In many cases claimants were simply not aware that they had a right of appeal.
I didn't think I could appeal, plus I would be afraid of losing my award.
I took the DWPs decision for granted and thought it was correct. Having second thoughts now having seen your article. I think I've been a fool.
Cos they told me that I was not entitled to extra points so I believed them
I thought that they made a decision and that was that.
I didn’t realise I could argue this at that point in time. I basically just put it away and ignored it.
I did not know that I was able to challenge the decision and would not have been sure how to anyway.
I was not well enough due to my Mental Health and I wasn't really aware I could challenge it.
When I realised that I was able to I thought it was pointless as I had not done so within an appropriate timescale
In fact, the right to challenge the decision was not put in the body of the letter, before the signature. Instead, it was on a separate page of general ‘bumph’ about other benefits and changes of circumstances. No information about how to get help from an advice agency was given, yet details of how to get budgeting and savings advice were provided.
Too worried to challenge
The DWP can also count on fear to reduce the number of challenges. If they unfairly refuse an increase or a backdated award to claimants who are already getting some rate of PIP, a very large proportion will be much too afraid to challenge the decision in case they lose what they already have.
Was frightened I would lose my award entirely if I challenged them.
I was afraid they would take away all my money.
Don't want to lose what I'm getting re award for personal care.
I have been dragged to Tribunal, every time my PIP has come up for renewal. I dare not do anything that would jeopardised my award.
I have Autism and ADHD don't go out alone, was worried about losing Care component
Lack of help to challenge
Challenging a decision via the mandatory reconsideration and appeal process is a complex business. Some claimants would be willing to undertake it if they have help, but funding cuts and the pandemic have ensured that such help is increasingly difficult to find.
I would like to challenge it but feel I need qualified legal help to do it
I didn't want to jeopardise my existing PIP award by questioning the above DWP decision. I was unable to get legal advice/advocacy or support at the time.
I wouldn’t know where to start?
Effect on mental health
For some claimants, the mental distress caused by contact with the DWP means that attempting an appeal without a great deal of support is unthinkable.
I had tried to challenge the decision on the original award and mentally could not cope with it. Therefore when received the letter dated 28th May 2019 I just filed the letter away. Otherwise it plays on my mind causing a number of other issues on my Mental Health.
I have never experienced the stress the claim procedure put me through. It took me years, yes years to come to terms with what i endured. I do not think i could survive a repeat.
My sons mental health is such that he is terrified, paranoid and begs me not to speak with them in case they take what he has away or insist on assessment. He cannot attend assessment. Last one on paper. His MP – [name redacted] will not help much with benefits, told me 'People try to pull the wool over our eyes.' What can you do with that mentality?
Clearly entitled but still had nothing
Some claimants received the enhanced rate of the mobility component because of the MH ruling when their award was subject to a planned review. However, they have still not received the backdated award they are clearly due.
I received enhanced mobility at my last assessment and only backdated a few months and was told I would get the remainder in time, still waiting
Received enhanced on both parts from standard daily living. Decision maker told me I was absolutely right about the MH ruling and a separate team will be looking at it for me and they will be I touch in due course. This was in July 2020 I have since wrote to them stating I feel like I’ve been forgotten etc and received a letter back saying they are still working on my file.
Yet the DWP claim that they are now much better at identifying claimants most likely to get an award and ‘This has allowed the exercise now to be focused on these claimants and ensure they receive payments as quickly as possible.’
So why are these claimants still waiting?
At every step of the way, the DWP have rigged this review so that only a tiny proportion, less than half of one percent rather than the 14% they originally claimed, of claimants will get an award.
And they have so arranged matters that hardly anyone will challenge the decision.
Yet as we saw above, the arrears involved amount to very considerable sums.
And in all cases the DWP gave in and handed over the money before the matter got to an appeal tribunal.
It’s almost as if there are details about the way this review is being carried out that they don’t want anyone to know about
But we will keep digging.