Victory — govt drops 80% target rubber-stamping benefit refusals

Kathy Mohan Theresa May
Kathy Mohan confronting Theresa May in May 2017 about refusal of benefits.

The Work and Pensions Committee of MPs has secured a commitment from the government to stop rubber-stamping benefit refusals at the first stage (mandatory reconsideration). This is a result of the 4,000+ testimonies to the inquiry into the ESA and PIP tests, mainly from disabled claimants, about this injustice, and evidence from the DWP union PCS saying:

“Our members have continually reported that there is pressure to turn out numbers, both in relation to original decisions and Mandatory Reconsiderations. This means that original decisions can be rushed. There is then a similar emphasis on the number of Mandatory Reconsiderations which are cleared per day. This means that, as it is much easier to confirm the original decision than change it, more MRs simply “rubber stamp” the original decision. The timescale of 28 days for producing further medical evidence is often too tight, this means MRs are often considered without relevant information that would support the claimant.”

Below is the Committee’s own press release:

Victory for claimants as Government agrees to drop MR measure

13 December 2017

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.

Pressure to turn out numbers

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.

Victory for PIP and ESA claimants

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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