The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has splashed out more than £100 million in a cruel and callous attempt to deny disabled people the benefits they desperately need, damning new figures show.
Figures obtained through Freedom of Information laws reveal the department has spent an eye-watering £108.1 million in the last two years alone, on paying staff to help contest appeals lodged by claimants of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
This includes mandatory reconsiderations (the first stage of the appeals process), internal DWP reviews, and appeal cases heard by the Tribunals Service.
One former Tory minister described the amount as “staggering”, adding it “clearly indicates that something is seriously wrong with the system”.
The number of PIP decisions overturned on appeal has reached a record high, with around 66% of cases ruling in favour of the claimant.
Meanwhile, around 47,000 ESA decisions were revised after being reviewed, and a further 82,219 have been overturned in favour in claimants since October 2015.
Tory Peer, and former DWP Pensions Minister, Ros Altmann said the money would have been better spent on ensuring that people who need disability benefits get what they are rightfully entitled to.
“Disability benefits need an overhaul and, of course, we must not let people make bogus claims, but the extent of the appeals we are seeing clearly indicates that something is seriously wrong with the system”, she said.
Frank Field, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee (WPC), has now written to the DWP Secretary Esther McVey, demanding to know why MPs were not told about the exorbitant amount of public money used to fight appeals.
In his letter, Mr Field writes: “That this data was provided in response to an FoI request, but not for our report, is doubly regrettable, since the key theme of our report is the need to introduce much greater trust and transparency into the PIP and ESA systems.”
Mr Field claimed the DWP had only provided the Committee with details showing the average cost of a mandatory reconsideration and appeal for PIP and ESA, and not the full cost exposed in the FoI request, the Press Association reports.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We’ve already commissioned five independent reviews of the work capability assessment, implementing more than 100 of their recommendations, and two independent reviews of PIP assessments.
“Meanwhile, we continue to spend more than £50bn a year on supporting people with disabilities and health conditions.”