If the DWP reckons it’s getting decisions right, why are people still suffering?

He knows he's in trouble: Mike Penning, shortly after removing his foot from his mouth while talking about 'mandatory reconsideration'.

He knows he’s in trouble: Mike Penning, shortly after removing his foot from his mouth while talking about ‘mandatory reconsideration’.

The minister for disabled people, Mike Penning, seemed to think he had something to celebrate this week, after official figures showed the number of benefit decision appeals dropped by 79 per cent between January and March this year (compared with the same time in 2013).

He said it means the government’s new ‘mandatory reconsideration’ process is helping people to challenge wrong decisions earlier and helping target government support on those who need it most: “Getting more decisions right the first time avoids the need for protracted tribunal appeals… This new safeguard gives claimants the chance to raise their grievance promptly, provide further evidence and have their claim reassessed without the unnecessary stress of an appeal.”

How wonderful for him.

Does the man with learning disabilities who was living on a paste made of flour and water, after his benefits were suspended, feel the same way, one has to wonder?

How about the woman with breast cancer who was forced to stop chemotherapy – putting her life in danger, one must presume – because she was assessed as ineligible for benefits?

The fact is that ‘mandatory reconsideration’ was brought in to make it harder for benefit claimants like these to challenge a decision that they are capable of work.

If a claimant is unhappy with an adverse decision, they can demand a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ and it will be revisited, usually by a different decision-maker – but the Department for Work and Pensions will not pay even the ‘assessment rate’ of the benefit that has been claimed until a new decision has been reached, and there is no time limit within which the DWP must carry it out. Once a decision has been made, and if it is favourable, there is no guarantee that the benefit will be backdated to cover the whole period since the original claim.

If the claimant is still unhappy about the decision, they may then take it to appeal. This is unlikely as, by then, they will have been forced to live without any means of support for an extended period of time and other benefits such as Housing Benefit may have been denied to them because of the DWP’s adverse decision.

This is the whole point of the nasty game – cutting the number of appeals. When a benefit case goes to court it is both expensive and potentially embarrassing for the Department for Work and Pensions. Of course it is – when a judge tells a government representative that their decision has been irrational or needlessly cruel, it’s a slap in the face for both the decision maker and, ultimately, the government whose benefit ‘reforms’ made that decision possible.

‘Mandatory reconsideration’ was brought in at the end of October last year, and the figures for January to March are the first quarterly statistics to indicate its effect.

Mr Penning said: “This new safeguard gives claimants the chance to raise their grievance promptly, provide further evidence and have their claim reassessed without the unnecessary stress of an appeal.” Would this be “unnecessary stress” to DWP employees? Claimants now have even more “unnecessary stress” to handle.

It should also be noted that we can’t trust the government’s statistics on the number of appeals it has been handling.

A Freedom of Information request by the iLegal website has revealed that, between April 2012 and June 2013, the DWP received 406,070 ESA appeals – and officially recorded outcomes of only 12,800. What happened to the rest?

It seems Mr Penning has learned to speak with a forked tongue.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy Vox Political books!
The second – Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook
The first, Strong Words and Hard Times
is still available in either print or eBook format here:


17 thoughts on “If the DWP reckons it’s getting decisions right, why are people still suffering?

  1. Pingback: If the DWP reckons it’s getting decisions right, why are people still suffering? | lawrencerowntree

  2. pippakin

    Reblogged this on Political Pip Spit or Swallow its up to You and commented:
    I and I’m not convinced anyone can possibly understand how someone with learning, physical difficulties and life threatening illnesses such as cancer can be expected to hold jobs and/or continue to work. In the case of learning and other disabilities didn’t there used to be government subsidized work places? Hmm. Remploy and such, what happened to those? And in the case of any serious, life threatening illnesses such as cancer who the hell expects a sufferer to be able to work through the hospital appointments, reaction to treatments and downright enormous stress they are under?
    This government doesn’t have to worry about the cost of the NHS it won’t be long before they have killed off anyone who needs it and privatised the shell of what is the one thing everyone in the UK is proud of and wants to expand.

    David Cameron, who took every advantage of NHS and social services when he needed them, should be ashamed of himself and the disgusting spivs he leads.

  3. Joanna

    Mike I was looking at the link of the man eating flour and water paste, You ought to look at a lot of the most noxious comments there, they are truly disgusting! Including calling people on benefits scum!

  4. amnesiaclinic

    Well done Bournemouth for getting a Local Poverty summit going and then getting the local press to publicise the horror stories.
    This is the only way to defeat them; come together and support each other in getting the message across to the public.

  5. Norma Roberts

    More DWP doublespeak! If there is a mandatory reconsideration of the initial DWP decision, which then leads to a different decision, how on earth is that classed as getting it right first time? If it had been right first time, there would have been no need for a mandatory reconsideration in the first place!

    I wonder if they have any figures available yet for the number of decisions overturned, in the claimants favour, via mandatory consideration, since it started in October? Also, it would be handy to know how many cases have been dealt with at mandatory consideration, this figure could then be added to the number which have to go to actual appeal, and, I am sure we will see that the total number of people, wanting their decision to be looked at again, is much the same as it has been since this whole charade began. I feel another FOI request is in order!

  6. Maria

    What a complete load of government lies, again. My partner has been claiming invalidity benefit for the last 15 years up until last November when his ESA ran out. We live in Spain in a caravan because the climate is so much better for his health.We have been without any source of income since then. Yes, he had the right to appeal but as the government stopped his healthcare cover at the same time, he couldn´t get the evidence he needed to support his appeal and so the date came and went with us left unable to contest the decision. He has now had to borrow money to fly back to Uk to try to resolve this matter. If it wasn´t for the kindness of neighbours supplying us with food, I don´t know what we would have done to survive. The whole thing has caused him ( and myself) untold stress. His health is declining because we can no longer afford to buy his medications. We have almost split up because of the stress but we are all we have.I don´t see too many MP´s suffering from their austerity measures.But what is new, governments have always attacked the weakest, the very people they were voted to protect.I hope my partner has some success but I don´t know if he will even be able to return to me and if he will get any joy from the UK. Sad state of affairs.

  7. Pingback: If the DWP reckons it's getting decisions right...

  8. Pingback: Time to write to Olivier De Schutter? | glynismillward189

  9. Pingback: ‘Mandatory reconsideration’ – more money-saving by sending the sick to their deaths | Vox Political

Comments are closed.