Esther McVey, secretary of state for work and pensions, admitted yesterday that up to 220,000 claimants could have been affected by the DWP’s attempt to discriminate against people with mental health conditions claiming personal independence payment (PIP). The DWP are taking on hundreds of extra staff to try to identify and contact affected claimants.
Last week we highlighted the DWP’s shock decision not to challenge the court decisions in RF and MH.
These were cases in which the DWP tried to defend its attempts to make it much more difficult for claimants with mental health conditions to claim the mobility component of PIP.
At the time it was believed that around 160,000 claimants could have been affected by the DWP’s attempts to change the law.
However, in answering an urgent question in the Commons yesterday, McVey revealed that the DWP now believe that the number of claimants affected could be as high as 220,000.
McVey told MPs:
“Up to 220,000 people could be affected. That is why we are taking the process very seriously. We as a Department will reach out to those people, once we know exactly what we are doing.”
According to McVey each affected claimant should get a letter from the DWP and receive backdated PIP:
“The Department for Work and Pensions will undertake an exercise to go through all affected cases in receipt of PIP and all decisions made following the judgment in the MH case to identify anyone who might be entitled to more as a result of the judgment. We will then write to the individuals affected and all payments will be backdated to the effective date in each individual’s claim.”
The task is a huge one and the DWP are “actively recruiting hundreds of staff for this at the moment”.
Public cash v crowdfunding
McVey also revealed that the DWP had spent £181,000 of public money on fighting claimants in these cases. She added that:
“ . . . a Department as big as the DWP expects the costs of court cases to be that high, and they are comparable with those of other Departments engaged in similar judicial review cases.”
Claimants, on the other hand, had just £8,000 in crowdfunding – much of that donated by Benefits and Work readers – to fight their corner.
We’ll continue to publish updates on this issue as it becomes clearer exactly how the DWP now intend to interpret the law and what guidance they issue to decision makers, health professionals and to staff tasked with identifying claimants who have lost out.
We have now updated our PIP claims guide in the members’ area to take account of the DWP’s decision not to appeal.