The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has had to carry out what appear to be as many as nine or even 10 costly trawls through the records of disabled people unfairly deprived of benefits in just two years.
DWP quietly slipped out its latest admissions last week in response to a legal ruling that found the department had made serious errors in relation to claims for personal independence payment (PIP).
The announcements were spotted by the Benefits and Work website.
Because of the refusal of DWP’s press office to answer questions about the latest reviews, it is not clear how many there have been in total, but it appears that there have now been at least nine, or even 10, with as many as eight related to PIP.
In addition to the two revealed last week, there appear to have been as many as eight other reviews launched by DWP during 2018 and 2019 as a result of court and tribunal rulings.
The two latest reviews follow an upper tribunal ruling on 28 November 2016 which found that DWP had been wrongly deciding some PIP claims.
But DWP continued to make errors in the assessment process after that ruling.
The first review relates to the way DWP assesses the extra help disabled people need to follow a special diet.
DWP is now reviewing PIP claims which might have been entitled to a higher rate of support and some claimants who were originally found ineligible for PIP, and it says it will be backdating any claims that were wrongly decided after 28 November 2016.
The second review relates to the way DWP assesses the need for supervision, prompting or assistance to manage medication and monitor a health condition.
This review will only affect those whose claims were decided by DWP between 28 November 2016 and 16 March 2017, the date the government changed the law to take account of the tribunal ruling.
Neither of the new reviews will see claimants invited for face-to-face assessments.
The two latest reviews mean DWP may now have had to launch nine or 10 such trawls through its records as a result of serious errors by its senior civil servants.
In June 2018, DWP 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 (at the time) an estimated 10,000 PIP claimants set to benefit by £70 to £90 per week by 2022-23.
In the same week, DWP 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).
Another review was thought to have been launched last year so that DWP could trawl through the files of thousands of 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.
This may relate to one of last week’s two reviews, which also concerns support for taking medication and monitoring health conditions.
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 came as a result of the botched migration of 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.
Last week, DWP adjusted its estimates of how many claimants would receive arrears through this review, from a previous estimate of 210,000 to about 120,000.
A seventh review began in January this year, following an upper tribunal ruling in November 2017 in the case of a claimant moving from disability living allowance (DLA) to PIP who had his DLA stopped because he had failed to attend an Atos face-to-face assessment, even though the upper tribunal found he had had “good reason” for not doing so.
DWP said at the time that it expected about 4,600 claimants to benefit from a review of such cases.
The eighth review followed a Supreme Court ruling in July that found that more people with mental distress who have problems with social situations should receive PIP.
DWP’s press office was asked late on Tuesday afternoon to answer a series of questions about the reviews, some of which were merely seeking clarity, but it has refused to answer any of them.
Shortly before noon today (Thursday), DWP produced the following statement: “There are a variety of reasons why a review is undertaken, including legal judgments that are the result of new judicial interpretations of the benefit.
“We are dedicated to ensuring everyone receives the benefits they are entitled to.”
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