A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed the shocking truth that DWP staff are expected to turn down 80% of all mandatory reconsideration requests, even though almost two thirds of claimants who go on to appeal will win their case.
Since April 2017, any claimant who wishes to challenge a benefits decision must first ask to have the decision looked at again by the DWP. Only after they have done this and the decision has been looked at again can the claimant appeal to an independent tribunal.
The DWP claimed that mandatory reconsiderations would improve decision making and reduce the number of claimants who would need to go on to appeal. Sceptics argued that the measure was a deliberate attempt to place an extra hurdle in the way of anyone wanting to challenge a decision.
According to the DWP Freedom of Information response, there are two key measures used by the DWP to monitor mandatory reconsiderations.
The first is that 90% should be cleared within the (unstated) target time. The DWP managed 70.2% in the year to March 2017.
The second measure is that 80% of the original decisions should be upheld.
DWP staff have excelled themselves in relation to this target, with 87.5% either maintaining the original decision or reducing the award even further.
This is in spite of the fact that 63% of claimants who then go on to appeal to a tribunal will win their hearing.
DWP staff who fail to meet targets are likely find themselves undergoing performance management, the first step towards disciplinary proceedings and, ultimately, dismissal if they continue to overturn too many decisions.
It is the clearest evidence yet that mandatory reconsiderations have no purpose other than to try to discourage claimants from challenging an unfair decision.