Saturday, 14 September 2013
Reporting of appeals is NOT good enough. The DWP are hiding information.
The latest DWP Work Capability Assessment highlight a worsening problem within the department.
It's their complete failure to produce up to date records of the results of appeals made by Employment & Support Allowance claimants against decisions to refuse them their benefits.
It's hardly surprising that Iain Duncan Smith is stalling his appearance before a select committee which was due to take place in September. His excuse being that his Department's annual records won't be ready in time - a somewhat bizarre state of affairs coming from the man who continually tries to reassure Parliament that his plans to implement Universal Credit are well 'on track' to transform the lives of 8 million households when in reality his 'national' roll out has after 3 years in government so far only hit two jocentres dealing with the simplest of Jobseeker Allowance claims.
We have already highlighted how benefit appeals are rising to shocking proportions with over 1.3 million being heard since the Coalition too up office at a total cumulative cost of half a billion pounds.
The most controversial appeals concern the Employment & Support Allowance. Their is clear evidence from the HMCTS Tribunal records that up to December 2012 no less than 833,299 appeals have been received at Tribunals with many more additionally being made directly made to the DWP - a figure which will now almost certainly considerably exceed 1 million by the time additional 'requests for reconsiderations' have been taken in to account.
No excuse for delays
The DWP is rapidly being exposed as a department which simply can't keep up with the pace of the welfare reforms set by Government ministers. The latest DWP assessment statistics produced this week show that up to November 2012, 3,441,200 Work Capability Assessment outcomes have been recorded but when it comes to appeals the department's figures aren't even up to date as far back as May 2012 - 15 months behind time.
It is beyond inexcusable that as the date of the publication of these latest statistics on the 25th July 2013 the DWP has only managed to collate a total of 332,400 'outcomes' arising out of its own reconsiderations and the 833,299 cases which have been dispatched to the Tribunals.
There is little sign that the DWP is doing anything to keep on top of things. The equally under pressure Tribunals have managed to produce up to date records going back to last Christmas and yet 7 months on the DWP has done nothing to input the results - you have to wonder why?
Perhaps the clue is in the results?
The DWP has earned a reputation for being all too eager to let us all know how many thousands have been found fit for work. Indeed, a glance at the latest data for new ESA claimants tells us that up to November 2012, 946,100 claimants have been supposedly found 'fit for work'.
But a glance at the same data when 'adjusted for appeals' tells us that the 946,100 'fit for work' figure falls to 820,400 after inputting the results for 332,400 appeals & reconsiderations. A reduction of 125,700 in the numbers found fit for work appears to be a figure which the DWP wants to suppress rather than promote - you have to wonder why?
The latest figures reveal that the numbers of 'unknown outcomes' has now risen to 514,100 as of May 2012 - in the last statistical release the figure was 481,700. It's a figure which 15 months on is likely to be much higher. Again you have to wonder why the DWP is doing so little to get up to date and make the results of appeals more widely known.
When you break the figures down after appeals & reconsiderations you see that 428,200 new ESA claimants in the 'Work Related Activity Group' increases to 542,600 and the 310,000 placed in the Support Group rises to 321,300 - figures which would be even higher if the DWP sorted out the 514,100 unknown results.
What we can also see from these latest figures is that of the 542,600 claimants placed in the Work Related Activity Group (from a fit for work decision adjusted after appeal for a new ESA claim) 116,600 are being placed in the group after an appeal and 82,600 after claimants have asked for a reconsideration - again bear in mind the 514,100 unknown outcomes.
What these figures are showing is that in addition to the huge number of 833,299 cases going to appeal tribunals a fair percentage are also saying to the DWP 'I'm not happy with your original decision, I want you to look at it again' (a reconsideration is in effect still an appeal because unless the DWP changes the decision the claimant can and often will go on to dispute their case before a Tribunal.
My guess is that up and down this country the DWP is sitting on top of well over half a million appeals as evidenced by the high numbers still languishing in the assessment phase.
The question is are they doing so deliberately to play down results that show more and more claimants are having decisions found in their favour? - something which this government would find deeply damaging to its never ending scrounger rhetoric.
This is both chaos and an act of deliberately withholding appeal results - it's nothing short of a scandal that IDS can't own up to the increasingly obvious evidence that his handling of welfare reforms has become nothing short of inept.