Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The DWP and Christmas some information

People sometimes argue that it must cost the DWP more to go through the mandatory reconsideration and appeal process than it would to pay benefits in the first place.

But tucked away at the back of a document published by the DWP this month are the average costs for PIP and ESA challenges.
It turns out the DWP can knock out a reconsideration decision for under £40 and an appeal can be done for under £100.

That kind of money would pay for very little time for a case manager to actually spend reading through the documents and properly considering the issue for a reconsideration.
It certainly wouldn’t pay for additional evidence.
More likely it’s enough for a very quick flick through the papers, maybe a phone call and then cutting and pasting some standard phrases refusing to change the decision.
And for an appeal, which might run to over 100 pages of documents, £100 isn’t going to pay for more than the time needed to collate the paperwork and send it to the Tribunals Service.
Which explains why Sir Ernest Ryder, senior president of tribunals, recently told a gathering of barristers that most of the decisions that the DWP tries to defend at tribunals are so bad that they have no case at all and cannot hope to win.
But if Sir Ernest Ryder is bemused by the number of hopeless cases that the DWP allow to go to appeal, these figures should make the reason clear.
Because first the DWP refuse benefits to hundreds of thousands of people who are actually entitled to them.

Then they make all those who challenge the decision go though a dispiriting and generally hopeless reconsideration process, which costs the DWP very little
The DWP know from experience that the vast majority of claimants will be physically or emotionally unable to pursue their case all the way to a tribunal and will give up as soon as they realise that their mandatory reconsideration has been unsuccessful.

Others will drop out during the appeal process itself.
A small number will make it all the way to the appeal hearing and, in the majority of cases, leave the DWP unable to defend a clearly unjust decision.

But the DWP will regard that as a tiny price to pay compared to the hundreds of millions saved by making unjust decisions and then forcing people to go through the cut-price mandatory reconsideration process. The real price for the taxpayer is very much higher, of course.
There is the cost of the panel members, the venue, travelling expenses, photocopying, postage and more.But as long as the DWP aren’t picking up the tab, why would they care?

One of the reasons so may people don’t get the benefits they are entitled to is the abysmal quality of the face-to-face assessment reports for PIP and ESA.

Even so, many people will be shocked to learn that almost 60% of Capita assessment reports for PIP were found to be unacceptable at one time and no ESA or PIP provider has ever met their target for the proportion of acceptable reports.
The figures, revealed in the same document that disclosed the cost of appeals above, show that in February 2015 56.1% of Capita reports were considered to be of such poor standard that they were classed as unacceptable.

This did not, it should be noted, prevent them from still being used to decide entitlement to PIP.
In February 2016 the proportion of unacceptable reports still stood at 30.4%.
However, in March 2016 the DWP changed the way that reports were assessed and Capita’s performance suddenly improved so much that the percentage of unacceptable reports fell to 15.8% overnight.

Atos, or IAS as they now prefer to be known, have never plumbed quite the same depths as Capita.
But in June 2014 29.1% of their PIP assessment reports were deemed unacceptable.
This has now fallen to 6.2%.

The contract with the DWP requires that no more than 3% of PIP assessment reports are judged to be unacceptable. This has never been achieved.
Unacceptable reports for ESA are generally at a much lower level. Maximus, or CHDA as they prefer to be called, recorded an unacceptable level of 10.3% in May 2015.
This had fallen to 7.9% by October 2017.

However, the target for ESA reports is that no more than 5% should be found to be unacceptable. Again it is a target that has never been met.
Yet these same unacceptable reports are still being used to make decisions on PIP and ESA entitlement.

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