Page 15 - Reforming Benefits Decision-Making -(updated - August 2021)
P. 15


          “many aspects of the design and rollout of [Universal Credit] have suggested that
          the Department for Work and Pensions is more concerned with making economic
          savings and sending messages about lifestyles than responding to the multiple needs
          of those  living with a  disability,  job loss, housing insecurity, illness, and the
          demands of parenting.”

          1.1   The benefits decision-making system forms a huge part of the administrative
               justice landscape in the United Kingdom however, the system is performing
               poorly. Individuals often lack knowledge as to their possible entitlements; the
               application process can  be inaccessible and  confusing; and many are
               incorrectly denied benefits to which they are entitled, or have their benefits
               stopped or  reduced when they  are wrongly sanctioned. Challenging
               incorrectly made decisions is often stressful and lengthy and many individuals
               give  up when faced with  a long fight  for  their entitlement.   Being denied
               benefits can have a devastating  impact on individuals’ and their families’
               lives. It can plunge people into debt, forcing them to rely on food banks, result
               in eviction  from  their homes  and exacerbate or create health  issues.   As a
               result there is a fundamental lack of trust and confidence in the system.

          1  P. Alston, ‘Statement on Visit to the United Kingdom by Professor Phillip Alston, United National
          Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights’ (November 2018) p.5.
          2   As explained in  Chapter 3  there is a two-stage process to challenging a  benefits decision: (i) an
          internal review by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) (or Department for Communities in
          Northern Ireland) called mandatory reconsideration; and if that  is not  successful claimants may (ii)
          appeal to an independent tribunal. For example, since PIP was introduced in 2013, up to September
          2020 4.2 million initial decisions have been made by the DWP. Mandatory reconsideration has been
          requested in 965,260 or 23 per cent of cases. In 81 per cent (779,590) of cases the award has remained
          unchanged following the mandatory reconsideration. However, only 379,630 claimants go on to lodge
          an appeal after a mandatory reconsideration, despite the fact that 67 per cent of appeals that reach a
          hearing our successful (Statistics do not include decisions made by the Department for Communities
          which are recorded separately) (DWP, ‘Personal Independence Payment statistics to January 2021’,
          Table 5A (March 2021)).
          3  The Low Commission, Getting it right in social welfare law: the Low Commission’s follow-up report
          (2015), G. McKeever, M. Simpson and C. Fitzpatrick,  Destitution and Paths to Justice  (The  Legal

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