The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been forced to launch its seventh costly trawl through the records of disabled people unfairly deprived of benefits following years of serious errors by senior civil servants.
The minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, announced on the last day before parliament’s Christmas recess that her department would begin another new review this month.
It follows six other reviews launched by her department during 2018 to find disabled people who had been wrongly deprived of their disability benefits.
The latest review is necessary because of an upper tribunal ruling in the case of a claimant moving from disability living allowance (DLA) to personal independence payment (PIP) who had his DLA stopped because he had failed to attend an Atos face-to-face assessment.
The upper tribunal found that the claimant, OM – who had long-standing psychosis, and became agitated and aggressive around people he did not know – had “good reason” for not attending the PIP assessment that the government contractor Atos had told his wife he would have to attend in one of its London centres.
The upper tribunal found that OM should have his DLA reinstated until a final decision was made on his PIP claim, while he should also receive backdated payments from the date DWP stopped his DLA.
This same approach will now be applied to other cases where DLA claimants have had their benefits stopped for not having “good reason” for failing to attend or participate in their PIP consultations, or to provide the necessary information or evidence for their PIP claim, but were later found by DWP or a tribunal that they did have “good reason” for not doing so.
Newton (pictured) said DWP expected about 4,600 claimants to benefit from a review of such cases.
It has taken DWP more than a year to implement the tribunal’s ruling, which was handed down on 23 November 2017.
The review follows six others that DWP was forced to begin during 2018, all as a result of errors by senior civil servants in the department.
In June, Newton announced a review following a tribunal ruling delivered in March 2017 – concerning a PIP claimant referred to as RJ – on how DWP assesses whether disabled people can carry out activities safely and need supervision to do so.
This was likely to affect people with conditions such as epilepsy, with an estimated 10,000 PIP claimants set to benefit by £70 to £90 per week by 2022-23.
In the same week in June, Newton announced a review of an estimated 1.6 million PIP claims to find claimants who experience mental distress when making or planning a journey.
This followed a court ruling in December 2017 – in the case of a claimant referred to as MH – which found that new rules introduced that year by DWP were unlawful, “blatantly discriminatory” and breached the UN disability convention.
A third review announced in June 2018 related to the way DWP had been assessing an estimated 420 PIP claimants with haemophilia who have the associated condition haemarthropathy (a severe type of arthritis caused by bleeding into the joints).
A fourth review was launched so that DWP could trawl through the files of thousands of other PIP claimants who need support to take medication and monitor their health conditions, following two tribunal findings – in the cases of AN and JM – that found that DWP should have been scoring such claimants in the same way as people needing support to manage treatment therapies such as dialysis.
The fifth review followed a high court ruling in June 2018 that DWP had unlawfully discriminated against two disabled men who each lost disability premiums worth £178 per month when they moved to a new local authority area and were forced to transfer onto the new universal credit.
The sixth review followed the botched migration of an estimated 70,000 former claimants of incapacity benefit and other benefits to employment and support allowance (ESA).
DWP failed to realise that many of these claimants were entitled to income-related ESA – and therefore to associated disability premiums – rather than just the contributory form of ESA.
A DWP spokesperson said in a statement on the latest – seventh – review: “We accepted the judgment and we are committed to implementing it correctly.
“Making the necessary changes to guidance is complex and it is right we proceed carefully to ensure claimants receive the payments to which they are entitled.
“We have recruited hundreds of extra staff to complete these exercises as quickly as possible.
“We take matters relating to benefit underpayments seriously and will learn the lessons from the issues raised.”
By noon today (Thursday), she had declined to confirm that this was the seventh review to be launched by DWP in the last 12 months.
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