Frank Field’s letter regarding the DWP’s non-existent/existent data: a Schrödinger kind of paradox

cat schro

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. 

Key facts

  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spent £108.1 million on Personal Independent Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) reviews and appeals since October 2015
  • Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spent £103.1 million on social security and child support tribunals in 2016/17
  • Around two-thirds of PIP and ESA tribunals have been won by claimants this year
  • More than 300,000 PIP and ESA decisions have been changed at review or appeal since October 2015

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:

letter head

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.Franks sig








A critique of the government’s claimant satisfaction survey

DWP spent £100m on disability benefit appeals over 2 year period

Thousands of disability assessments deemed ‘unacceptable’ under the government’s own quality control scheme

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9 thoughts on “Frank Field’s letter regarding the DWP’s non-existent/existent data: a Schrödinger kind of paradox

  1. Frances Parish (DWP) Ref: FBH 16540
    Dawn Johnson (ICE) Ref: DWP 01260/16
    Upper Tribunal Ref: CE/3787/2016

    Dear Sir / Madam,

    It is not my intention to waste any more time! But, for the sake of common decency, I must inform the holders of Audio CD Ref: Official E397-16 a forth copy will be released to the National Press, shortly.
    Unfortunately, the Department for Work & Pensions did not take the appropriate action after the telephone conversation of the 19th April, 2016 and are fully responsible for wasting the Courts time is theirs.
    Knowing I was not entitled to benefits under the work-related group, they still made the same recommendations to the 1st Hearing, (May, 2016).
    I strongly believe this also demonstrates the DWP’s reluctance to find me employment or to pay benefit entitlements and in the process making a complete “mockery” of their procedures.
    I was made aware, benefits were not payable with the work-related early October, 2015 and it was the JobCentre at Boston, who informed me a Medical Assessment would be required to place me in the “Support Group”.
    Even this experience was degrading – when told permission should be granted to visit my sons over the Christmas / New Year period of 2015.
    The Medical Report contained no substance and only proved the Healthcare Professional had good “cut and paste” techniques by stating I played dominoes – 8 times in his findings.
    Although, my eyes were tested soon after my stroke of November, 2011 and re-tested January, 2016 – the HCP declares: “Observation and examination did not indicate any significant problem with vision”. Despite the fact the “Limited Capability for Work Questionnaire” states: “Vision impairment – incomplete “field” – left eye – surrender of licence to DVLA early 2012” and a Certificate of a Person Partially Sighted is now provided.
    There is no reference to “lack of energy – can sleep ten hours at night and still need two hours in afternoon – can complete fifteen minutes of work – then need one hours rest” – Physical Functions, section, 10. OR Other Information: Dr. David Mangion advised me to take early retirement and avoid stressful situations, if possible – before stroke 08.11.11. These conditions were fully explained to the HCP within Dr. Mangion’s letter of the 21st January, 2016, plus the additional problems of prostate cancer and bowel / bladder incontinence.

    Further evidence was given by Dr. Anton Kiss, the GP, who declared “I would never work again” in March, 2015 and Liz Ford of the Stroke Association, who pinpointed the needs of “Post Stroke Fatigue” sufferers.

    The long investigations by the DWP, (November, 2016 to January, 2017) and the CHDA, (July, 2016 to September, 2016) proved nothing and their conclusions were against the information for which I previously submitted, i.e. my telephone conversation of the 19th April, 2016 and my 3 page letter dated the 16th July, 2016, to Natalie Vickers of CHDA failed to discover the HCP’s lies I STOPPED ALL MEDICATION – APRIL / MAY 2015.

    The truth demands respect!

    Yours most sincerely,

    Maurice Spencer

    5 South Terrace, Boston, Lincolnshire. PE21 6BA.

    Mobile 07777697778

    Liked by 1 person


    Dear Alison,
    Thank you for your kind letters and with the greatest of respect, it is NOT my responsibility to chase the CHDA or wait for the conclusions of Independent Case Examiner.
    If the HCP attends the Medical Assessment, he must answer all sections of the Application Form (ESA50) and read any relevant, mandatory evidence provided.
    Please find attached the omissions, which were advised to the DWP, within the Statement of Reasons for Decision, issued against the Appeal Hearing of the 15th August, 2017 i.e.
    The Report by the HCP stated that no descriptors under Schedule 2 applied and Regulations 29 & 35 did not apply”
    The DWP should now raise their complaint with the CHDA, regarding this “short-change” and insufficient, “high quality service”
    Should you doubt the information or qualifications of Dr David Mangion, I also attach his contact details. I am positive he will confirm my intentions were the same in November, 2011, when I had my stroke, as January, 2016, when writing his letter.
    Finally, I would repeat, once again, I have never taken anti-depressants and medication relating to IBS was stopped April / May 2015, prior to the Medical Assessment of the 27th February, 2016.

    For the attention of Lindsay Tickle – Head of ESA Mainstream Operations DWP
    Copy to: Mr Simon Car – the Office of Sir Ernest Ryder – Senior President of Tribunals
    Copy to: Natalie Vickers – Customer Relations Manager CHDA
    Copy to: Mr Matt Warman –Member of Parliament for Boston and Skegness

    Dear Lindsay,


    May I please refer you to the e-mail below, dated 28th June, 2016 – requesting an urgent meeting?
    Considering I have further evidence to support my “instructions” of the 19th April, 2016. I would like to repeat this request and would suggest a member of the judiciary and the CHDA are also present.
    I tried to avoid any court proceedings April to June, 2016 and strongly feel had my recently made recommendations been implemented, all these e-mails could have been prevented.
    I also attach the “Final Response” letter from the CHDA, which is irrelevant to my earlier correspondence to them and the decisions made by the First-Tier Tribunal, July, 2016 and August, 2017. SC/306/16/00164.
    Your prompt attention is now required.

    Liked by 1 person

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