DWP benefit appeal rules defeated in the High Court after one man's legal fight

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DWP benefit appeal rules defeated in the High Court after one man's legal fight

Post by Tobias » Wed Aug 12, 2020 1:48 pm

Thousands of ESA claimants had their human rights breached after being forced to go through a 'Mandatory Reconsideration' - after a 55-year-old benefits advisor fought for justice

Benefit appeal rules which left thousands of disabled people stuck in the system without cash have been ruled unlawful.

The High Court said people found ‘fit for work’ had their human rights breached after they were forced to go through an extra step before they appeal.

Claimants can only start fighting a benefit decision at a tribunal once they’ve had a ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’ (MR).

MRs give the government a chance to reverse wrong decisions but they’re dubbed a “barrier to justice”. Until last year, fewer than a fifth overturned the original fit-for-work decision.

And many people seeking Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) got no payments during their MR - despite getting them during the rest of their appeal.

The High Court has now declared those ESA claimants suffered a breach of human rights.

Mr Justice Swift said the unpaid extra step was an “unjustified impediment to the right of access to court.”

More than 400,000 ESA claimants have fought MRs since 2013. The charity Z2K believes around half may in the group whose human rights were breached.

But the victory may be too late, as most people who would claim ESA are now on Universal Credit instead. The DWP has no plans to remove MRs from Universal Credit - because the ruling referred to ESA.

The DWP has also not guaranteed compensation for those who lost out in the past.

Marc Francis, director at the charity Z2K, demanded ministers go further, scrap MRs altogether and compensate those "ripped off".

Branding the ruling “brilliant” he said: “For too long, MR has been a barrier to justice. Ministers must now fundamentally reform this discredited assessment and MR process."

The ruling on July 24 was won by a 55-year-old benefits advisor, who waged a one-man legal fight after his case got stuck in the system for four months.

Michael Connor, from Staffordshire, has anxiety and depression and cares full-time for his Parkinson’s sufferer mother Ida, 78.

He had his ESA stopped in October 2018 after failing a fit-for-work test. But his application for an MR wasn't rejected until March 2019 due to a filing error.


The law graduate quit his job at Wolverhampton City Council to mount a judicial review.

He represented himself at the court against two DWP barristers - helped by a crowdfunding campaign and a friend.

He told the judge the rules threw thousands into “legal and financial limbo distress and destitution”.

Mr Connor told the Mirror he had a “bee in his bonnet” about MRs as they “put off” people from appealing.

He said: “My whole life, my whole vocation has been to fight to make sure the lives of vulnerable people are not denied.”

The case challenged ‘regulation 3ZA’, created in 2013, which forces ESA claimants to fight an MR before an appeal.

The judge said the law gave the DWP an “advantage” which “comes at a cost to ESA claimants”, adding: “There is no explanation for that.”

And he said there is “no evidence” the DWP’s aims would be compromised if it decided to keep paying claimants throughout an MR.

More than 400,000 ESA claimants have had to go through an MR since they were introduced in 2013.



For years, less than a fifth of MRs overturned the original decision.

But MRs were reformed in 2019 and since then far more find in favour of the claimant - up to a record 82% in April.

The number of ESA claimants fighting an MR has also plummeted as Universal Credit rolls out, hitting just 1,106 in April.

The DWP will not appeal the judgement and is now “carefully considering” how to respond.

But a spokesman said: “Our aim is to ensure every claimant gets the right decision for them as soon as possible and the mandatory reconsideration process remains an important part of this.”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/ ... d-22503558

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Re: DWP benefit appeal rules defeated in the High Court after one man's legal fight

Post by Tobias » Wed Aug 12, 2020 1:53 pm

Thank you Michael, for all your hard work and tenacity

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