The data is only real when someone looks for it
Following on from the article yesterday, (DWP spent £100m on disability benefit appeals over 2 year period), I have copied Frank Field’s letter to Esther McVey below, which highlights the discrepancy between what McVey informed the Work and Pensions Committee when they asked her to provide evidence regarding the costs of disability benefit appeals and mandatory reconsiderations in an inquiry into disability benefits, and the details provided, following a timely Freedom of Information request.
Figures obtained by the Press Association through a Freedom of Information (FoI) request show that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has spent £108.1 million on direct staffing costs for ESA and PIP appeals since October 2015. The cost covers mandatory reconsiderations, an internal DWP review, and appeals to tribunals run by HM Courts and Tribunals Service.
This staggering amount of money is being spent on the administrative costs of a Department fighting to uphold the outcomes of its own incompetent and deeply flawed decision-making. This is unacceptably leaving thousands of ill and disabled people having to fight to receive lifeline support to which, as the high proportion of successful appeal outcomes informs us, they are legally entitled. Furthermore, when provided with a second chance to remedy incompetent decision-making at mandatory review, the Department has persistently continued to uphold the original flawed decision in many cases.
Since October 2015, 87,500 PIP claimants had their decision changed at mandatory review, while a further 91,587 claimants went on to win their appeals at tribunal. In the first six months of 2017/18 some 66% of 42,741 PIP appeals went in the claimant’s favour, highlighting that both the original decision-making process and mandatory review are failing to effectively ensure eligibility for support is fairly and accurately assessed.
The figures for ESA since October 2015 show 47,000 people had decisions revised at mandatory reconsideration and 82,219 appeals went in the favour of those let down by the current system of assessment and DWP decsion-making.
It’s as if the system is weighted to refuse as many people as possible their lifeline support.
So far in 2017/18, 68% of 35,452 ESA appeals have gone in favour of the claimant.
Conservative peer Baroness Altmann, a former minister at the DWP, said the money could be spent on benefits for those who need them, rather than on the costs of fighting their claims.
“Disability benefits need an overhaul and, of course, we must not let people make bogus claims, but the extent of the appeals we are seeing clearly indicates that something is seriously wrong with the system,” she said.
Figures released to the select committee’s inquiry show further costs to taxpayers.
The Ministry of Justice says it spent £103.1 million on social security and child support tribunals in 2016/17, up from £92.6 million the year before and £87.4 million in 2014/15.
Around 190,000 cases were cleared with or without a hearing in 2016/17, the Ministry told the committee.
The select committee is due to publish the results of its inquiry into PIP and ESA on Wednesday.
Chair Frank Field has written to Esther McVey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, in the wake of the figures to question why MPs were not given such information.
DWP gave the committee the average costs of a mandatory reconsideration and appeal for PIP and ESA.
However, Field, a Labour MP, said the committee was unable to work out the full cost of the appeals process.
This was because it was told information on PIP appeals was not available on whether they were appeals from new claimants or those being reassessed, which have different costs.
The information released to the Press Association was broken down into costs for new claims and those undergoing reassessments.
Here is Field’s letter:
From the Chair
9 February 2018
Rt Hon Esther McVey
Secretary of State
Department for Work and Pensions
PIP appeal data
During our inquiry on PIP and ESA assessments, your Department kindly provided to us estimated unit costs of MRs and Appeals. This indicated that different costs are attached to PIP appeals depending on whether they relate to new or reassessed claims.
Seeking to understand the financial implications of appeals for the Department, Committee staff inquired on 30 January:
Of the 170,000 PIP appeals since 2013, how many were for new claims and how many were reassessments?
We were duly informed:
The information on the number of PIP appeals is from HMCTS published statistics and this information is not available from HMCTS for new claims and reassessments separately.
We were therefore unable to estimate the full cost of appeals to your Department, although the Ministry of Justice informed us that in 2016/17 its appeals expenditure was £103 million. 1
It was with some surprise, therefore, that we today received data released in response to an FOI request. This provided estimated costs per month spent on PIP appeals—broken down by new and reassessed claims.
You will be aware that we are shortly due to publish our report. That this data was provided in response to an FOI request, but not for our Report, is doubly regrettable since the key theme of our report is the need to introduce much greater trust and transparency into the PIP and ESA systems.
Might you please explain how this occurred?
1 Cost of Social Security and Child Support appeals, of which the majority relate to PIP/ESA.
I don’t make any money from my work. But you can help if you like by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.