Meanwhile, over at the DWP...
SEARCH FOR PIP CLAIMANTS ENTITLED TO MORE
A shameful 7 months after it lost a PIP court case, the DWP has finally backed down and changed the way it makes decisions about PIP.
It has also begun searching for thousands of claimants who have lost out as a result of the delay.
Until last week, the DWP had argued that a claimant could only score points for being unsafe if harm was likely to occur on more than 50% of the occasions on which they attempted an activity.
But, in back March a panel of upper tribunal judges held that the decision maker should look at whether there is a real possibility that harm might occur and also at how great the harm might be. The greater the potential harm, the less likely it needs to be that it would happen on any specific occasion.
It has taken the DWP an almost criminal seven months to update their guidance to health professionals and decision makers
The DWP believes that an extra 10,000 claimants will benefit by £70 - £90 a month as a result of the change.
Penny Mordaunt, former minister for disabled people, told the Commons earlier this month:
“In the case of existing claimants the Department for Work and Pensions will undertake an exercise to go through all existing cases and identify anyone who may be entitled to more. We will then write to those people affected and all payments will be backdated to the date of the change in case law.”
However, few claimants would trust the DWP to identify all those who should receive a higher award, or any award at all if you got nothing. It would definitely be worth getting advice if you believe your case should be looked at again, especially as the DWP seem to be focussing almost exclusively on claimants with epilepsy.
AS FEW PIP SAFETY AWARDS AS POSSIBLE
Whilst the DWP have no choice but to change the way they assess PIP claimants on safety grounds, new guidance to decision makers issued following Mordaunt’s statement show that they aim to change as little as possible.
The new guidance gives five imaginary examples of claimants who will need their claims reconsidering in the light of the upper tribunal ruling.
As a result, the number of claimants who get an increased award is . . . can you guess?
Yes, it’s zero.
Not one of the claimants in the guidance is better-off because their safety has been properly taken into account.
Tribunals, however, may take a very different view.
Especially in light of the utterly scornful ‘no-brainer’ opinion of DWP appeals voiced by the senior president of tribunals below.
Sir Ernest Ryder, senior president of tribunals, has condemned the the DWP for forcing so many claimants to go to appeal when it is a ‘no-brainer’ that the DWP will lose.
According to Ryder, the percentage of appeals that the DWP lose has risen from 44% in 2007 to 61% now.
He told a barristers meeting that the quality of evidence put forward by the DWP was so bad it wouldn’t be accepted in any other court.
In relation to PIP and ESA medical assessments, Ryder said that often the tribunal didn’t “even know what the professional qualification or registration number was of the author” and that “in expert evidence terms in any other organisation you and I know of, it would be wholly inadmissible.”
Ryder added that judges had done a spot check on outstanding cases and found that “60% of it is a no-brainer” that the DWP are going to lose.
The Tribunals Service are now considering either sending cases back to the DWP where there is no reasonable defence to the appeal or charging the DWP for defending such cases.
MASSIVE DROP IN LEGAL AID CASES
It may be no coincidence that the standard of appeal submissions has plummeted at a time when only a tiny number of claimants are fortunate enough to have a representative.
The number of claimants getting legal aid to help with social security appeals has plummeted by 99.5% as a result of massive cuts to the legal aid budget.
Figures produced by the government show that the 83,000 claimants received legal help in 2012-13, before the cuts came in. This plummeted to a tiny 440 claimants in the last financial year.