The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been criticised for abandoning a commitment to review over a million disability claims for possible errors resulting in underpayments.
The DWP originally promised to review all 1.6 million Personal Independence Payments (PIP) claims, following two Upper Tribunal cases brought by MH and JR (full names have not been disclosed) relating to ‘psychological distress’ and carrying out activities ‘safely’.
However, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Justin Tomlinson has announced that the Government has so far paid out £28 million in PIP undepayments, and will only in future review the claims of those claimants it believes “are most likely to benefit”.
In a written statement to MPs, Justin Tomlinson said: “The MH decision changed how overwhelming psychological distress is considered when assessing someone’s ability to plan and follow a journey.
“The RJ decision concerned how we decide whether someone can carry out everyday activities safely or not, and whether they need supervision.
“We are committed to ensuring everyone with a health condition or disability gets the support they are entitled to. This is why we have dedicated substantial resource to checking claims, so that we can pay eligible people as quickly as possible. We remain on track to finish this exercise in 2020.
“Thanks to our continuous monitoring of the exercise, we know which claimants are most likely to benefit. This now allows us to focus on those cases and to make backdated payments to eligible claimants more quickly.
“We will write to all other claimants in scope of the exercise, explaining the Upper Tribunal decisions and how they can get in touch with us if they think they may benefit and want to ask us to review their case.”
He continued: “Since the exercise began on 25 June 2018 up to 05 January 2020, we have cleared 720,000 cases against the MH decision and 820,000 cases against the RJ decision, with most cases being cleared against both Upper Tribunal decisions.”
“In total, we have paid £28 million in arrears to 5,900 claimants”, he said.
Responding to the announcement, Disability Rights UK Welfare Rights and Policy Officer Ken Butler said: “This is retrograde step in ensuring disabled people receive their correct disability benefit entitlement.
“When it committed itself to a review, the Government said that claimants would not need to write to DWP in order to receive their correct award and that it would only review that aspect of a claim that related to the two legal judgments.
“The number of PIP back payments made is already far less than originally projected.
“In 2018, the DWP said that it believed up to 220,000 people might be entitled to a higher award. But, with over 800,000 reviews carried out, only 5,900 awards have been made at a cost of just £28 million – less than 1% of the original cost estimate.
“Many disabled people will be fearful of asking for a review on the grounds that it could lead them to instead being awarded less or no PIP benefit.
“The real distrust in which the DWP is held means that any reassurance that the review request will be restricted to the MH and RJ judgments is likely to be disbelieved.”