Make no mistake – this is a plan to stop people who deserve sickness and disability benefits from getting them.
It is a continuation of the old Iain Duncan Smith “chequebook euthanasia” scheme in which the very ill are denied the money they need to live, driving them to despair and suicide.
Having represented a friend at an ESA tribunal, I am certain that the only reason that person was finally granted benefits was because of the threat of suicide prompted by the government’s behaviour.
This measure is intended to ensure that such warnings never reach benefit assessors’ ears, so the government can plead innocence again.
There is a consultation running on the proposals, and you can provide your opinion here.
The Benefits and Work website, from which the following excerpt is copied, suggests that the result is a “foregone conclusion” but that doesn’t mean we should let them say there was no dissent.
The government is poised to bring an end to the shaming success rates at benefits appeals, but they will do so by nobbling the appeals system rather than by improving decision making.
In the future many more appeals will be “on the papers” where success rates are drastically lower, hearings that do take place will be on the phone or via Skype type links and most appeals will be decided by a solicitor (often retired) sitting alone, without a medical wing member or a disability wing member.
The introduction of the mandatory reconsideration before appeal system was intended to bring appeal success rates for claimants crashing down to earth. In fact, whilst it has drastically reduced the number of claimants who lodge an appeal, success rates remain sky high.
A new online system of appeals brings the twin advantages for the government that it will hugely cut costs as well as cutting success rates.
The plan is to go almost entirely digital for many areas of the justice system, with Social Security and Child Support tribunals being “one of the first services to be moved entirely online, with an end-to-end digital process that will be faster and easier to use for people that use it.”
The proposed changes – which are currently open to consultation but are virtually certain to be adopted – include
More use of case officers for routine tasks
More decisions made “on the papers”
More virtual hearings
More cases resolved out of court
Simplifying panel composition
The whole plan is open to consultation until 27 October 2016. However, judging by other recent consultations, the outcome – regardless of the evidence submitted – is a foregone conclusion.
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