Real Issues with Welfare reform – Part II

On April 8 I wrote my first official DEAEP Blog, regarding the support we offer, this week Alex & I attended his Tribunal. we arrived at the venue, in a central hotel, to find the tribunal receptionist was extremely chatty; he happily informed the room that there were people from all over the UK, booked to attend, he went on to state every one of the claimants had waited for well over a year to get a hearing! He also informed us that for the day the Tribunal service had paid for 6 meeting rooms –  for hearings, waiting rooms and a room for the court clerks; add the expense for this to the salaries of at least 6 panellists (possibly 8), 3 clerks and the receptionist; and I shudder to think how much this must have cost?!

We were called in on time and given that the DWP had already agreed that Alex should be in the Support group in February 2013, we were expecting this to be a open & shut case but…NO. Firstly the DWP had failed to inform the panel they had AGREED they’d made a mistake, luckily the accepted the letter we had as full evidence; however instead of recognising that the DWP had already accepted Alex was too ill to work, and therefore he had every right to receive the back pay, the judge of the panel grilled Alex for 45 minutes on his inability to work in November 2012. We were made to explain, against each of the ESA qualifying points, that how for a whole 3 months, before the DWP agreed Alex’s health made him unable to work, this was the case. The Dr on the panel on at least four occasions referred to how, in his medical opinion, Alex’s handwriting on the appeal letter clearly indicated Parkinsons, as did his observation of Alex’s body; but the judge persisted in her questions, reducing Alex to tears on one occasion! Why was this – for MONEY – and for a far less amount than the 2 panellists earned in hour we were in there, never mind the the costs of the day’s Tribunal as outlined above; but for an amount that means Alex can afford to live a little more comfortably.

The good news is Alex WON his tribunal but…surely as the DWP had already conceded, wouldn’t it have been far more cost effective, never mind humane, for them to have merely paid him the money he was owed? According to Channel 4 Employment and support allowance (ESA) tribunals cost the taxpayer £66m in 2012/13, and this fails to consider the hidden costs of anxiety and stress to the claimant, both personally and in terms of the Health/support services, consider all of this and what a ludicrous situation this proves to be.

I don’t presume Alex’s case to be unique and given the number of successful tribunals by sick and, or disabled people, this is yet more evidence the current ESA/WCA process is severely flawed.