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The Conservative government have wasted over £100m of taxpayer’s money wrongly pursuing frivolous legal challenges against more than 170,000 disabled benefit claimants since 2015, figures obtained via a freedom of information request today reveal.
The shocking figures are so bad that one former Tory Minister was quoted as saying that ‘something is seriously wrong with the system’.
Since October 2015, 87,500 Personal Independent Payments (PIP) claimants have had the decision to their entitlement changed at mandatory reconsideration, whilst a staggering 91,587 won their appeals against the DWP’s entitlement-decision at tribunal.
As for the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), 47,000 people had their decision changed at mandatory reconsideration whilst 82,219 appeals against entitlement-decision went in favour of the claimant.
Furthermore, 66% of PIP appeals have been successful in the first half of 2017-2018, whilst 68% of ESA appeals have been successful in the same time frame.
The obviously faulty initial PIP and ESA assessment decisions have cost the DWP a total of £108.1m in direct staffing costs associated with fighting essentially frivolous appeals. They’ve cost the Ministry of Justice £103.1m in social security tribunal costs. Indeed, the cost of a single tribunal for the MoJ has doubled to £579 since 2015 because PIP cases are now a much larger proportion of the caseload.
PIP was brought in to replace the Disability Living Allowance under the Welfare Reform Act 2012. It is a benefit for people with disabilities who struggle to live independently, comprising two payments: daily living and mobility.
Ostensibly, PIP was intended to save the Government money. In pursuance of this, the criteria required to be satisfied in order to be able to claim the payments were made stricter. Whereas DLA had been means-tested and claimants self-assessed, PIP assessments were outsourced to private corporations, Atos and Capita (the company pitched to be the next Carillion).
PIP assessments are based on points awarded on the basis of claimants’ inability to carry out 12 basic, daily tasks.
The fact that the DWA has paid out over £100mn in fighting appeals against awards highlights that the cost-cutting measures haven’t really worked. Outsourcing and reducing PIP payments has led to increased cost in the long run. The same goes for the cuts to ESA allowance.
The news follows a High Court ruling that PIP payments are “blatantly discriminatory“, which spurred the Government to review all 1.6mn disability benefit claims. The results of the review could end up costing the Tories £3bn!
Indeed, the Work and Pensions Select Committee Inquiry was not even given the information as to the DWP’s legal fees, and the costs to the MoJ of facilitating their fights to uphold unjust awards, voluntarily. It has arisen following a Freedom of Information Request. Frank Field, the chair of the inquiry, has written to Esther McVey – Work and Pensions Secretary – to demand an explanation.
The news highlights once again the flawed economics of the supposed party of business. In the pursuit of short term savings, the Tory-run DWP has thrown money at doomed appeals to try and deny disabled claimants the help they need, and the help they are entitled to in law.
They have wasted money and time, and put deserving claimants through trial and tribulation all to uphold the failed ideological standard of austerity.
For any competent government, such a staggeringly needless waste of taxpayer’s money would surely sound the clang of hammer on nail for such a process. However, the Tories, needless to say, will carry on regardless, despite the overwhelming evidence against them.
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