[Reproduced from the Benefits and Work Newsletter with permission and thanks]
The adverts were published this week.
86 new presenting officers are being recruited around the country to help the DWP try to reduce claimants’ success rates at PIP and ESA appeals.
But perhaps even worse than that, they are also going to be identifying cases which can be appealed to the upper tribunal.
This means that, for many hundreds of claimants, the months of stress will not end when they win their appeal. Instead they will then have to face the misery of more months of uncertainty whilst they wait for an appeal to the upper tribunal to be heard.
If the DWP’s further appeal is upheld then, at the very least, that will mean a return to another first-tier tribunal to try to argue their case again. In some cases, they won’t even be given the chance to do that.
We know that every presenting officer will have to meet key performance indicators. One of these is likely to be a minimum number of cases that they recommend should be taken to the upper tribunal.
If every presenting officer averages just one further appeal a month, this will still add up to over 1,000 PIP and ESA claimants a year affected.
Here at Benefits and Work, we are now starting work on a guide to defending your award at the upper tribunal.
We can’t prevent the presenting officers doing their worst. But we can ensure that our members have a clear guide through the procedure that they are forced to take part in – and a better chance of success as a result.
DWP PROTECT THEIR OWN
It probably won’t come as news to most of our readers.
But the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) has found that the DWP protects its staff by failing to properly investigate complaints against them, or even investigate them at all. This is in spite of the fact that managers have clear guidance that they should follow on how to deal with complaints, including collecting witness statements.
As a result, staff can treat claimants unfairly, rudely and even aggressively with little fear of any repercussions.
Cases cited by ICE include:
A member of staff at a Jobcentre made a threatening remark loudly to a claimant in the presence of other people, the DWP failed to gather any witness statements or investigate in any way.
A Complaints Resolution Manager for Jobcentre Plus failed to give the claimant information they asked for and hung up the telephone on them. When the claimant complained about the Complaints Resolution Manager, instead of investigating the DWP simply passed the complaint back to the same Complaints Resolution Manager.
A claimant alleged that he had experienced “threatening and inappropriate behaviour” from Jobcentre Plus staff and that they had failed to make adjustments for his mobility issues and delayed his appointment. When he complained about this, Jobcentre Plus apologised for the delay but ignored his other complaints entirely.
In each of these cases ICE upheld the complaint and the claimants received ‘consolatory’ payments ranging from £50 to £150.
But in none of these cases is there any mention of disciplinary action being taken against the staff involved.
Indeed, in the first case above, ICE went so far as to say that as it was now a year since the incident there was no point in even trying to collect witness statements.
At Jobcentre Plus, it seems, frontline staff are free to threaten claimants whilst managers can safely ignore complaints about such behaviour. The worst that will happen is that the taxpayer will have to foot the bill for a derisory ‘consolatory’ payment.