Sanctions Appeal System: Time for a Change.
Many of our contributors have been concerned with this story:
DWP officials considered plans to begin charging sick and disabled to challenge benefit decisions, a secret internal document reveals.
Callous Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) officials considered plans to begin charging sick and disabled to challenge benefit decisions, a secret internal document reveals.
The document seen by Mirror Online reveals how officials believed the introduction of social security tribunal fees, mirroring those for employment tribunals, “could contribute a portion of the cost of running the tribunals system” – requiring claimants to pay to challenge potentially inaccurate benefit decisions.Only due to sheer incompetence has the document come to the attention of the media. Because bungling officials failed to redact it correctly, which would have protected the secrecy surrounding the proposals.
Officials also considered reducing appeal times from 12 to 6 months and draconian measures to cut the number of successful appeals, at a time when more than 50% of decisions are being over-turned in favour of the claimant at appeal.
They even planned to ‘remove payment of ESA (Employment Support Allowance) pending appeal’.
The Mirror where the story broke a few days ago said this,
The document appears to have been a response to the huge number of adverse benefit decisions which are overturned on appeal.
The DWP tried to stop the report being made public – but bungling officials failed to properly redact its contents.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith said: “This secret document shows the inner workings of a department that seems determined to make life harder for disabled people and low-wage working families.
The report concludes:
A DWP spokeswoman insisted the proposals were not taken forward by the Government as actual policies.
“These ideas were drafted by staff before the last election. They do not represent Government policy and have never been sent to Ministers,” she said.
The idea was not simply to make it harder for people to appeal – an obvious wish – but to reduce the very large number of cases going through the system.
Background DWP appeals (August 2015):
Government statistics show 50% of sanctions imposed against those on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are overturned on appeal since the new sanctions regime was introduced in October 2012.
Some 575,901 sanctions were challenged with an astonishing 285,327 being overturned.
Questions over new benefit sanctions warning system. December 2015.
An SNP MP has raised questions over a new benefit sanctions warning system to be trialled in Scotland next year.
The UK government has proposed telling benefit claimants two weeks in advance that payments are to be cut off, giving them more time to appeal.
SNP social justice spokeswoman Eilidh Whiteford said “tinkering around the edges” of the system would not resolve “the deep flaws at its core”.
The UK government said the new method would “strike the right balance”.
Under the current system, benefits are cut off immediately when a claimant fails to comply with rules set by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The system came under criticism when it emerged that 58% of people who lodged appeals in 2014 were successful in having sanctions overturned.
The new proposals, to be trialled in Scotland in 2016, would see claimants given a “yellow card” or warning when a sanction was triggered, giving them 14 days to appeal and provide evidence.
In October Iain Duncan Smith, the UK government’s work and pensions secretary, said: “During this time, claimants will have another opportunity to provide further evidence to explain their non-compliance.
“We will then review this information before deciding whether a sanction remains appropriate. We expect that this will strike the right balance between enforcing the claimant commitment and fairness.”
This is therefore a widespread problem – caused by the fact that sanctions have increased – beyond the problems faced by disabled people.
An estimated 80,600 JSA sanctions and 10,000 ESA sanctions were overturned in the 12 months to March 2015 via reviews, reconsiderations or appeals. This is a total of 90,600 cases where the claimant’s payments will have been stopped for weeks or months only to be refunded later. This figure peaked at 153,500 in the year to March 2014.
People involved in the process say that it is not simple to follow or easy to carry through appeals.
It is often incredibly, incredibly, slow.
80,600 JSA claimants have gone through a lot of misery for unjust reasons.
This story – about making things worse for one group of claimants – should be a call for a change to the whole system.
JSA sanctions If you don’t follow the rules when you’re on job seekers allowance, you risk being sanctioned. Here’s how to avoid having your JSA stopped.