Controversial medical tests by a private sector company at the centre of the government’s drive to cut the benefit rolls are failing genuine claimants.
In the week that it emerged that ministers have been forced to spend millions of pounds hiring more than 80 new judges to tackle a costly backlog of welfare claimants appeals (Salary £101,000 pro rata) against the loss of their benefit, I tabled a parliamentary question to the minister which confirmed that;
• Of 667 cases heard 218 or a third of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) appeals were decided in favour of the appellant on appeal (1st April-30th Sept 2011)
• Of 119 cases heard, 38 or a third were decided in favour of the appellant on appeal during September 2011
• 741 individual cases were not determined within the Dept Work & Pensions 35 day target (October 2011).
Across the UK welfare appeals are up a colossal 72% on 2008/09.
Charities and individuals have criticised the “work capability assessment”, which has determined entitlement to benefit.
I am not surprised by the figures as Charities, Law Centres and Citizens Advice have all criticised the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). My concern surrounds the poor decisions by those carrying out the WCA is fuelling appeals which are conducted by Atos Healthcare, a private company.
Some cases are taking up to a year to go from lodging an appeal to having the final tribunal hearing date according to Duncan Lewis Solicitors, the UK’s biggest benefits legal department.
I am calling for a regular audit to ensure that the decisions about eligibility “are consistent, robust and evidence-based”.
The Government are failing far too many genuine benefit recipients who are forced to appeal due to an unacceptable high degree of poor decision making. This is further compounded by the slow appeal process leaving people in limbo at a time of stress and anxiety.
At a time when funding to advice agencies is being cut the figures demonstrate that people need increased access to advice in order for them to claim the benefits to which they are entitled.