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DWP confirm existing ESA claimants will not be affected by £30 a week cut – sort of

Welfare Weekly Freedom of Information (FOI) request:

“Proposed changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will see payments for new claimants placed within the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) reduced by around £30 a week, bringing the sickness and disability benefit inline with Jobseeker’s Allowance.

“The Government has stated that existing claimants will be unaffected by these changes. It is, however, unclear as to whether existing claimants who are found ‘fit for work’ following reassessment who then successfully contest the decision, either through mandatory reconsideration or tribunal, will be affected by the proposed changes.

“In these instances, where a claimant has wrongly been found ‘fit for work’ and denied the ESA WRAG rate, what protections are in place to ensure they then will not be made to take a £30 a week hit when their ESA payments are reinstated?

“Similar concerns exist regarding existing ESA claimants within the Support Group, whose level of support is reduced following reassessment. Will these people also be affected by the proposed changes to ESA WRAG?”

DWP response:

“Where a claimant claims ESA before 3 April 2017 and is found fit for work at reassessment, the policy intent is to pay the work-related activity component where that decision is revised on mandatory reconsideration or at tribunal and the claimant is placed in the work related activity group.

“Where a claimant in the Support Group, before 3 April 2017, is re-assessed and placed in the work related activity group, they will be entitled to the work-related activity component.”

Welfare Weekly follow-up FOI request:

“In your response you state: “Where a claimant claims ESA before 3 April 2017 and is found fit for work at reassessment, the policy intent is to pay the work-related activity component where that decision is revised on mandatory reconsideration or at tribunal and the claimant is placed in the work related activity group.

“Where a claimant in the Support Group, before 3 April 2017, is reassessed and placed in the work related activity group, they will be entitled to the work related activity component.”

“Does this then mean that claimants who successfully contest a decision to deny or reduce ESA will receive the same amount they had received prior to the reassessment and initial decision?

“Or does it mean the value of benefit they receive following appeal or mandatory reconsideration will be same as those who claim after 3 April 2017 (e.g. around £30 a week less than they had been receiving prior to reassessment)?”

DWP response:

“A successful appeal against a decision made before 2 April 2017 will return the claimant to at least the benefit level they were receiving at that time. No benefit is lost, and their award will not be affected if the tribunal decision is made after 2 April.”

Conclusion:

Whilst this is good news for those who lodge an appeal before the cut-off date, questions remain in relation to existing ESA claimants who are reassessed after this date and then successfully appeal against a decision to reduce or stop benefit.

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