The DWP had a plan before the last election to charge for benefits appeals as a way of cutting costs, the Mirror has revealed. The plans also included reducing time limits for appeals and other measures.
The Mirror received a document from the DWP under the Freedom of Information Act in which details of plans to charge for appeals and other information had been heavily redacted in the ‘public interest’ according to the DWP.
However, it appears from screenshots shown in the Mirror that the redaction was done using software which allowed the Mirror to remove the black highlighting.
As a result, we can see that the DWP thought it would not be in the public interest for us to know that they were considering charging for benefits appeals, especially as ‘The possibility of fees has attracted negative coverage in the media/lobby when reported previously. Fees have also been blamed for the large reduction in ET [employment tribunal] appeals this year.’
The document went on to note that ‘When this was explored previously there was mixed views amongst the coalition’.
Now that the Tories no longer have to worry about the views of a coalition partner, there are fears that the plans could be revived.
Other ideas for a crackdown on the cost of appeals, apart from charging, included:
Narrowing the scope of the tribunal
Reducing appeal time length from 12 months to 3
Removing payment of ESA pending an appeal.
The DWP have issued a half-hearted denial that the plans could yet be introduced, stating that:
“These ideas were drafted by staff before the last election. They do not represent Government policy and have never been sent to Ministers.”
You can read the full story in the Mirror.