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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

DWP spends £39m in pursuit of disabled people

The Independent reports that UK Government Ministers have spent almost £40m in an “appalling” attempt to stop sick and disabled people receiving the financial help they are entitled to.

They say that the hit to the public purse could also be far higher than the new data suggests because it is still unclear how much more the state spends running courts where sanctions are challenged.

Despite this huge expenditure the vast majority of appeals were lost by the Government last year. The paper adds that early indications show the problem is becoming even worse in 2017, with a 77 per cent rise in money spent trying to stop people from getting Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) payments.

The problem, as those of us who have been involved in appeals well know, is that fitness to work assessments are deeply flawed, leading to incorrect decisions which need to be fought:

New figures show that in 2016 the Government spent £22m processing claimants’ initial appeals against sanctions – a stage most people must pass through before they reach a tribunal. 

It emerged earlier this year that government officials are given targets to reject four out of five initial appeals – known as mandatory reconsiderations – for some disability benefits.

Further data obtained by The Independent under Freedom of Information law shows the Government then spent a further £17m fighting cases in the courts that were not settled at the initial appeal stage, bringing the total appeals process cost to £39m last year. 

In the same period the Government lost 62 per cent of the tribunal cases in which it was attempting to sanction a claimant’s ESA – which supports people when impairments prevent them working.

They also lost 65 per cent of the cases in the latter half of 2016, the most recent period for which figures are available, relating to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a longer-term benefit.

This money could be saved if the Government insisted that all those carrying out work capability assessments were fully qualified to do so, if civil servants stopped overruling assessments they do not like so as to meet targets, and if the process itself was made more humane. Reform is badly needed.
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