Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are benefits meant to financially support disabled people.
Unfortunately, due to years of cuts and change in regulations, disabled and people unfit for work are finding it harder and harder to access this kind of support.
Last week the Work and Pensions Comittee in the House of Commons came out and accussed the poor decision making behind many cases of ESA and PIP claims. The concerns were to do with the Department for Work and Pensions’ contractors Atos, Capita and Maximus—to carry out accurate medical assessments, and the fact that a great number of cases end up in tribunals before they get resolved.
The Comittee revealed that 290,000 people claiming PIP and ESA only received the correct award after challenging DWP’s decisions about their disability benefits.
As an advice centre for disadvantaged migrants we can definitely see this happening more often than not.
In our centre, 8 out of 10 cases involving PIP and ESA go to tribunal before they get solved, and when they do, most of these cases are won in favour of our clients.
We are aware that there might be a higher percentage of Eastern European clients that go to a tribunal than the average percentage. And that might be because of the nature of our work – clients come to us when really desperate, sometimes they apply themselves or via friends or accountants, and their application goes wrong, or because non UK citizens need to bring furrther proof (for example, completing the habitual residency test) and so on.
Often, our clients end up in several tribunals before they get their rightfully benefits reinstated.
Case Study: Mr. A.
We recently had a client, Mr. A., who, a few years ago, had his leg amputated above the knee due to cancer. Back when he was doing chemotherapy, we helped him get his ESA, but we had to prove his Permanent Residency status in a tribunal. Unfortunately, after his medical assessment, he lost his ESA, was declared fit for work, and was asked to claim JSA instead.
In reality, his situation proved impossible for him to find a job. Even though we helped him appeal this in another tribunal, DWP didn’t change their decision.
Moreover, when he first came to our centre, he was just being migrated from DLA to PIP, which initially he didn’t get. We requested mandatory reconsideration, and he was finally awarded PIP for 2 years.
In 2017, when it was time for the renewal of PIP, DWP again decided, after a medical assessment, that he was not entitled to the benefits. Surprisingly enough, although he is missing a leg, he got 0 points for mobility. We knew right away that we would appeal, which we did, but the decision was not reconsidered, therefore we ended up in a tribunal again, for the 3rd time in his case. We were certain that the mobility points should be awarded, and they were, we won the case, and he was awarded PIP, yet again.
We strongly believe that this should have been resolved when we requested a mandatory reconsideration.
We are certain that the goverment could save a great deal of money and resources if less cases would come to unnecessary tribunal hearings.
Unfortunately, this is one of many cases that we have been dealing with that repeatedly went to tribunals, it rarely happens that the DWP reconsider their decisions, because of the internal targets that staff are imposed.
We would like to see a simplified process that would save the government money, save advisers time and that is more centred around vulnerable clients’ needs.