Note: This should now be read alongside my next blog on Muddled language, as it appears that the DWP did not mean what it said in answer to the FOI request.
From time to time I have been invited to help seriously disabled people attain their rights after their applications for appropriate benefits have been turned down by agents appointed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). In the old days they would have been able to challenge the lawfulness of the rejection by an immediate appeal to a tribunal. Now, however, they are compelled to submit their application to “mandatory reconsideration” within the Department. This takes up a lot of time, and I have seen many cases in which their application was again inexplicably turned down before they were allowed to appeal, successfully, to a First Tier Tribunal. This earlier blog of mine illustrates some of the problems. And here is another, although that one ultimately ended up happily, after three years of agonising delays.
New statistics have shown that in 87% of these mandatory reconsiderations the original decision is upheld. Now we have learned, through the response to a Freedom of Information request, that one of the DWP’s Key Performance Indicators – a management device through which the relevant civil servants’ achievements and promotion prospects are measured – is that the decisions in at least 80% of these cases should be upheld in the department’s favour following mandatory reconsideration.
This appears to be an absolutely outrageous interference by the executive with the rule of law.
It is bad enough that applicants are compelled to go through this process, instead of merely having the opportunity to opt for it as a way of trying to avoid the cost and hassle of tribunal proceedings. But it is altogether unspeakable that DWP managers seek to incentivise those who turn these applications down – and what is more, they do not make this policy public.
It would be good if this extraordinary disclosure were to provoke uproar in the highest places.