HATED 80 IS AXED; BENEFITS CLIMBDOWN COMES YEARS TOO LATE FOR MANY Tories finally drop the target to reject four in five appeals after ruining countless lives.
Byline: TORCUIL CRICHTON Westminster Editor
A CRUEL target forcing 80 per cent of despairing benefit claimants' appeals to be rejected has finally been dropped by the Department for Work and Pensions.
In a major climbdown, the Government have signalled they will abandon targets they set staff to turn down four of five appeals they are called on to reassess.
The target was widely blamed for many sick and vulnerable people having their benefits cut and being declared fit for work despite appealing the decisions.
Thousands of families were plunged into poverty after having their benefit appeals rejected - while the Daily Record reported that some disabled people had tried to take their lives after being declared fit for work.
The move to scrap the target, confirmed to MPs yesterday, is a major victory for disabled organisations and the Record, who campaigned on behalf of claimants.
The end for the mandatory targets was signalled in a letter to the Work and Pensions Committee, who were told the target was being scrapped by Tory benefits minister David Gauke.
Committee chairman Frank Field said: "It is great news that the target has been dropped.
"This is a victory for thousands of PIP and ESA claimants, and for anyone going through this process, who can go to the first stage of appealing a decision with more confidence that the reconsideration will be fair and impartial."
Chris Stephens, an SNP member of the committee, agreed.
He said: "This is significant progress but as a committee we know there is more work to do to make the system more respectful and fairer for claimants.
"The move by the department to scrap the 80 per cent rejection rule will now mean that claimants who ask for a reconsideration will have their claim assessed on its merits, and will consider each individual and their personal circumstances."
The scrutiny of the committee has already led to the rolling back of some of the ludicrous assumptions shaping DWP policy.
Stephens, the MP for Glasgow South West, said: "We have already taken evidence from PIP and ESA claimants, and read testament in the Daily Record which is eye opening.
"Sadly, they are typical examples of the unfair treatment meted out to claimants."
He added: "The evidence made it clear that contractors, by their own admission, do not allocate specialists to assess claimants.
"Mandatory reconsiderations are often rejected simply to meet targets imposed by DWP."
Since 2013, benefit claimants who want to appeal against a decision made by the DWP have had to request a mandatory reconsideration before being able to go to a tribunal.
Staff look at the application again and have the power to overturn the decision. Many cases for claims for disability benefits.
But in response to a Freedom of Information request, the DWP revealed earlier this year that a key measure of the performance of mandatory reconsiderations - the first step in the benefits appeals process - is that 80 per cent of the original decisions are to be upheld.
In fact, DWP staff maintained 87.5 per cent between April last year and March.
CHANGE Benefits minister David Gauke