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Govt slammed in disabled ‘shame’

Tories blow £39m trying to block benefits
Ryan Fletcher, Thursday, August 31st, 2017


The Tories blew £39m over a year in mostly fruitless efforts to block benefits for sick and disabled people, new figures show.

 

The cash was spent contesting appeals from thousands of people who believed they were wrongly denied government support.

 

Disability rights campaigners say benefit assessments, which are carried out by private firms, are not fit for purpose and are being manipulated to cut down on costs.

 

The Disability News Service has compiled a list of 200 cases involving alleged “dishonesty” by officials.

 

Hundreds of thousands of claimants have appealed decisions on eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

 

Approximately 20 per cent of the initial appeals – which the government decides internally – are successful.

 

However when claimants take their appeal to independent tribunal the figures rocket to 47 per cent for ESA and 61 per cent for PIP.

 

New figures

New figures published by the Independent reveal the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spent £22m processing first-stage appeals in 2016.

 

It then spent an extra £17m on tribunal costs during the same period.

 

Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field said the high success rate of appeals at independent tribunals raised fears over the government’s motivations.

 

He said, “There is a clear incentive here for the department: by doubling down on the quality of the initial assessment, it would save itself tens of millions of pounds each year.

 

“But the country as a whole also has a stake in improving this initial assessment: that is to prevent the injustice of human suffering, reported by food banks to be on an industrial scale, among some of our most vulnerable citizens who are on the brink of destitution.”

 

A DWP spokesperson insisted that the majority of successful appeals are because “people have submitted more oral or written evidence.”

 

Head of Unite Community Liane Groves said the Tories treatment of disabled people “brings shame on the country” and called on the government to change the way initial benefit assessments are made.

 

‘Appalling’

“The Tories treatment of disabled people continues to be appalling – that’s not just the opinion of Unite and disability campaigners in the UK, but also of the United Nations who have said that welfare reforms amount to ‘grave and systemic violations’ of disabled people’s rights,” Groves said.

 

“These latest figures reiterate that the Conservatives are determined press their ideological austerity agenda regardless of the damage it causes.

 

“A society can be judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable and the fact that the Tories spent such an inordinate amount of money on tribunals that more often than not ruled against them brings shame on our country.”

 

She added, “Reform needs to happen now, starting with the replacement of unfair work capability assessments with a system that does not seek to punish the sick and disabled.”

 

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