If DWP lawyers don’t attend tribunals it means benefit claimants AREN’T cheating, Daily Mail!

Daily Fail Logo

The Fail has struck again with a comically inaccurate piece about benefit appeal tribunals.

“Benefits claimants cheats (sic) are able to keep money they are not entitled to because government officials fail to turn up to legal hearings,” thundered the piece by MailOnline political editor Matt Chorley, who should know better – both in terms of grammar and logic.

“The Department for Work and Pensions sent lawyers to just four per cent of tribunals held last year to rule on decisions to cut benefits.

“It means that in many cases people are able to successfully argue in favour of keeping their money, because the government has failed to turn up to challenge it.”

No – that’s not what it means.

If the DWP has made a decision not to send lawyers to defend the cancellation of a claimant’s benefit, it means they expect the facts to speak for themselves – or they do not believe they have a high enough chance of success to justify the expense. Logically this would mean they believe the claimant is correct and deserves the money.

So the real story is that tribunals are finding 49.613 per cent of benefit claimants who appeal to them have been wrongly stripped of benefits by poor DWP decisions (explanation below).

The story goes on to say that “official figures also show that the DWP is more likely to win cases if it manages to send someone to the tribunal”. This does not support the Fail‘s claim that cheats are winning cases; it corroborates the fact that the DWP sends lawyers when it believes it can win a case but legal representation is necessary.

The facts are buried deeper in the story, where we find (in figures borrowed from the Daily Telegraph) that between April and December 2013, only 4.3 per cent of cases had an official from the DWP – and claimants won their case in 41 per cent of those. That’s 1.763 per cent of the total.

When there was no presenting officer from the DWP, that figure rose to 50 per cent – half of the remaining 95.7 per cent of tribunals. Half of 95.7 per cent is 47.85 per cent. Add that to the 1.763 per cent and you have the percentage of claimant wins.

It still means the DWP is winning more than half of its cases!

The scandal is that it is causing unnecessary hardship to around 124,400 people, if the Fail is right in saying there were 250,000 benefit tribunals last year.

And Fail readers know it, if the story’s Comment column is any indicator. Keith Hudson writes: “They only turn up if they think they will win or that the Tribunal will rule in their favour anyway. The true waste of money is in the number of appeals that the DWP force through to this stage knowing full well they’ve broken the rules.”

This is also the view of ‘Pixie’, who writes: “WOW DM you need to revise that first sentence! There are plenty of people who appeal who are NOT cheats!”

And so on, down the line. This is the legendary right-wing Daily Mail comment column, yet even here people are turning against the pro-Tory attitude pushed by the mainstream press.

With Iain Duncan Smith appearing on the BBC’s Question Time on Thursday, this is another opportunity to point out the huge amount of damage being caused by his fatally – and the term is used literally – flawed policies.

That’s if the Beeb has the bottle to allow such a question.

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21 thoughts on “If DWP lawyers don’t attend tribunals it means benefit claimants AREN’T cheating, Daily Mail!

  1. leonc1963

    They forget the evidence presented by the claimant which is what wins the case and why the DWP does not turn up as they know a win for them is unlikely based on the evidence they have already seen.

  2. leonc1963

    They sent mine to appeal Mike when I asked for an Anytime Revision on the back of the MM and DM case, they did this knowing full well it was out of absolute time of 13 months why did they do this? to avoid having to send out an anytime revision decision notice which I could appeal on

  3. Gen William Taggart

    Just to clarify, a DWP Presenting officer is not a lawyer, they are a standard member of staff. The DWP only send lawyers to Judicial reviews.

    I the majority of cases, a DWP presenting officer will only attend, were a case has been adjourned and that Judge has given directions for a representative of the secretary of state to attend at the next hearing.

    It is extremely rare for the DWP to send a presenting officer to a normal 30 minute hearing.

  4. Steve Cheney

    It is always nice to see the Mail completely misjudge its readership. Don’t get me wrong: a lot of those readers are still terrible people, and in any case, they don’t hate being lied to and manipulated (badly) enough to stop reading the damn thing. But still…

  5. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    This is the Mail trying to put a pro-government spin on the fact that claimants are winning about 49 per cent of appeal cases against the DWP. As Mike points out, if staff from the DWP don’t turn up, then it means that they recognise they’re in the wrong. This shows just how venomous the Mail’s hatred of anyone on benefits is, as well as their complete ignorance of a fundamental principle of British: you are innocent until proven guilty, and the onus is on the prosecution to prove guilt, not the defendant to prove their innocence. Now I admit, all this could simply be ignorance on the Matt Chorley’s part, but somehow I very much doubt it. It’s another example of the Mail’s determination to demonise and malign the very poorest in society, just as only a month or so ago they tried vainly to tell the world that people forced to use food banks were also scroungers.

  6. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady

    William Taggert is correct. DWP have a solicitors office (commonly referred to as “Sols”) who will engage the services of a barrister if the case is of particular importance with far reaching consequences. The basic and standard cases are dealt with by DWP presenting officers, usually higher executive officer (HEO) grade who have received advocacy training. The presenting officers do not have to turn up, but the tribunals take a dim view if they don’t and would expect them to have a reasonable excuse and ask for postponement or adjournment. In some cases, the judge will request a presenting officer to attend by way of directions.

  7. Tony Dean

    What both newspaper articles miss out is that when a claimant is represented at a tribunal 90% plus win their case.
    The problem being in most cases a claimant has to represent themselves.

      1. Tony Dean

        So does this, ( I can’t see the Daily Mail printing it.)

        http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2790-dwp-overturns-more-than-half-of-its-own-decisions-under-new-mandatory-reconsideration-system

        DWP overturns more than half of its own decisions under new mandatory reconsideration system

        Category: Latest news
        Created: Monday, 09 June 2014 13:50

        The figures for reconsideration success were given by Judge Martin in the April edition of the Judicial Information Bulletin, which goes out to all tribunal members.

        According to the judge, by 21st February 2014 the DWP had received 82,798 mandatory reconsideration requests and made a decision in 70% of cases, with decisions taking on average 13 days from the date they were received.

        DLA decisions overturned 55.9%

        ESA decisions overturned 23.0%

        JSA decisions overturned 30.1

        PIP decisions overturned 13.9%

        UC decisions overturned 71.1%

        It is extraordinary that the DWP is overturning a massive 71% of its own decisions in relation to UC, but at least they have the excuse that it’s a new benefit. But to be getting it wrong in more than half of all DLA decisions is even more astonishing.

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