The taxpayer is estimated to be spending over a £100m a year on benefit appeals by sick and disabled people – even though more than two thirds of tribunals rule in favour of the claimant.
The figures led to renewed calls by Unite for an overhaul of the “cruel” assessment regime for disability and illness benefits.
Shameless government ministers have spent around £200m over five years fighting to prevent sick and disabled people receiving benefits, while the Ministry of Justice spends tens of millions each year running the tribunals.
An estimated £200m was used to contest appeals for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) between 2013 and 2018, according to Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) data obtained by the Mirror through a freedom of information request.
During the same period more than 40,000 people have won appeals after being denied the benefits – worth up to £141 a week – with more than two thirds of current tribunals ruling in favour of the claimant.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Justice also racked up additional costs of £103.1m in 2016/2017 alone running child support and social security tribunals – four fifths of which involved PIP or ESA.
The combined total cost of both running tribunals and contesting PIP and ESA claims is costing the taxpayer more than £100m a year, according to analysis by the Mirror.
Head of Unite Community Liane Groves accused the government of “punishing” vulnerable people in order to pursue an ideological agenda.
“As well as causing horrific distress to sick and disabled people, the Tories’ cruel benefits system is wasting hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
“The government is well aware that seven out 10 appeals are found in favour of the claimant, so it can only be assumed that they are causing vulnerable people misery and wasting valuable resources to push an ideological agenda,” Groves said.
“It’s no coincidence that the government is going after those who are least able to defend themselves. They are certainly not expelling the same energy in trying to create a fairer economy or targeting super-rich tax dodgers.”
Groves said that the government needs to overhaul the assessment regime, which is run privateer firms Maximus and Atos.
She said, “As culpable as Maximus and Atos are, the pressure to make the assessments heavily weighted against claimants comes from the top. The government needs to overhaul the entire process so it is fairer and does not deliberately punish people for being ill or having a disability.”
DWP officials said the internal figures were not “official” and “should be treated with caution”.
A DWP spokeswoman insisted, “We’re committed to ensuring that disabled people get the support that they need, spending £50bn a year supporting them and those with health conditions.”