The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has splashed out nearly £200 million of public money in a cruel and heartless bid to deny sick and disabled people the disability benefits they desperately need, it has been reported.
Figures obtained by the Mirror through a Freedom of Information request reveal the DWP has spent an estimated £199 million contesting Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance appeals, since 2013/14.
Official figures show that more than 400,000 sick and disabled people have successfully appealed PIP and ESA decisions since 2013. Around 69% of PIP decisions were overturned at tribunal between October to December 2017 alone.
Appeals consist on two stages, beginning with Mandatory Reconsiderations (MR) followed by an independent tribunal if a claimant doesn’t agree with the first stage of appeal.
The Mirror reports the DWP has spent an estimated £50.7m for ESA and £43.4m for PIP over five years. The Department also spent and estimated £58.7m for ESA and £46.2m for PIP appeals.
The true cost, however, is likely to be much higher because it doesn’t include the cost of tribunal hearings themselves, which are paid for by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). The Mirror reports that the MoJ spent £103.1m on social security and child support tribunals in 2016/17 alone, with four out of five of these tribunal hearings being for PIP or ESA.
Shadow DWP minister Jack Dromey MP said the shocking revelation “exposed just how cruel Tory treatment of the vulnerable can be”.
“Hard-hearted Ian Duncan Smith and Esther McVey have wasted nearly £200million on denying desperately needed support for the sick and disabled”, he said.
“Claimants, sometimes dying, have had to wait for up to a year for their appeals to be heard. And to add insult to injury 7 out of 10 win on appeal”.
Labour MP Frank Field, chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, told the Mirror: “The Department is spending mega sums of money defending its own poor decision making, and putting claimants through the wringer in the process.
“DWP is already planning substantial improvements to the assessment processes, including recording assessments. But it must push harder and demand better from its assessors. It simply cannot afford not to.”
A spokesperson from the disability charity Scope called on the Government “to urgently overhaul both the PIP and ESA assessments so they work for disabled people”.
“Flawed assessments are leaving huge numbers of disabled people without the essential financial support they are entitled to”, the spokesperson said.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We’re committed to ensuring that disabled people get the support that they need, spending £50 billion a year supporting them and those with health conditions.
“A relatively small proportion of all decisions are overturned at appeal – 4% for both PIP and ESA.”