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The Mandatory Reconsideration system was introduced on October 28, 2013, and This Site reported in 2015 that the proportion of ESA decisions overturned by MR had fallen from 35 per cent to 20 per cent – in line with the DWP’s then-secret target.
By the 2016-17 financial year, 87 per cent of MR requests were resulting in the original decisions being upheld.
The fact that the DWP had a target to reject 80 per cent of ESA – and later PIP – appeals at Mandatory Reconsideration was not made public until mid-May this year (2017), when the admission was made in response to a Freedom of Information request.
The revelation prompted an immediate chorus of outrage from organisations that work to protect people with long-term illnesses and disabilities, who rightly pointed out that having a target means the Department for Work and Pensions cannot be trusted to carry out MRs in a trustworthy manner – people who deserved their benefit would be denied it in order to allow the DWP to meet its quota.
Their concerns have been upheld by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, as you can see in the extract from the UK Parliament website below.
The DWP’s response was to categorically deny the existence of the target and to claim it was simply an “internal measurement”. But the Department has still agreed to drop it.
But will this happen?
It has taken four years to establish that the DWP has this target and force the Department to scrap it. During that time, hundreds of thousands of claimants have had decisions to reject their claim for ESA or PIP upheld. The fact that these decisions were target-based and not evidence-based casts doubt on the entire process.
And what has happened to the people whose claims have been rejected?
It seems clear to This Writer that every claim rejected under the former system should be re-examined – independently. We need to know how many erroneous decisions were not identified and corrected.
Dropping the target alone will leave the job half-done. We need to know how many people were falsely denied their benefits and we need justice for those people.
When may we expect it?
In response to pressure from the Work and Pensions Select Committee the Department for Work and Pensions has announced that its target for upholding original PIP and ESA decisions at the first stage of appeal, known as Mandatory Reconsideration (MR), will be dropped.
On 28 November the Committee wrote to DWP with concerns about MRs, which had come up in the Committee’s current inquiry into the medical assessments carried out by ATOS, Maximus and Capita to inform DWP’s decisions on awards of disability benefits PIP and ESA.
The Committee had heard of “pressure to turn out numbers” in relation to both the original decision and at MR stage, and that MRs simply “rubber stamp” the original decision. The DWP revealed in an FOI request in May 2017 that one of the performance indicators for MRCs was that 80% of the original decisions are to be upheld. The Committee queried how a target for upholding original decisions could be compatible with ensuring that questionable reports are thoroughly investigated, and erroneous decisions identified and corrected. MR should be an important extra safeguard, but instead appears to be creating another “hurdle” in a process that is already arduous and stressful for many claimants, as the Committee has heard directly in nearly 4,000 individual accounts submitted to it.
The Department’s response “categorically state(s) that there has never been a Mandatory Reconsideration target for upholding original decisions”, and that the 80% target, “an internal measurement only used to indicate areas” where there were problems with the original decisions being made, will be dropped.
Commenting on the response, Rt Hon Frank Field MP Chair of the Committee, said
“It is great news that the target has been dropped and we congratulate the Department on this response. This is a great victory for the thousands of PIP and ESA claimants who have responded to our inquiry, and for anyone going through this process, who can now go to the first stage of appealing a benefits decision with more confidence that the reconsideration will be fair and impartial.”
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