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150 additional presenting officers are being recruited and trained by the DWP as it becomes ever more desperate to improve its success rate at personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA) tribunals.

In a written statement earlier this month Sarah Newton, the new minister for disabled people, revealed that presenting officers currently attend 23% of all first tier PIP tribunals, but the aim is to increase this to 50%.

No figures were given for ESA tribunals.

The news confirms figures given in the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) “Economic and Fiscal Outlook” document in March 2016:

“£22 million to DWP to recruit presenting officers across 2016-17 to 2017-18 to support the department in personal independent payments and employment and support allowance tribunals.”

The fact that the government is funding representation at tribunals for the DWP is particularly cynical given the figures published earlier this month showing that the number of claimants getting legal aid to help with social security appeals has plummeted by 99.5% as a result of massive cuts to the legal aid budget.

83,000 claimants received legal help in 2012-13, before the cuts came in. This plummeted to a tiny 440 claimants in the last financial year.

Sarah Wilson’s statement in full reads:

“The Department is in the process of recruiting, training and deploying approximately 150 Presenting Officers at Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance Tribunals in order to present the Secretary of State’s case and support the First tier Tribunal in arriving at the right decision.

“According to internal data, from April 2017 to date, the PIP Presenting Officers have attended approximately 23 per cent of PIP appeals at the First tier Tribunal. The aim is for the PIP Presenting Officers to attend approximately 50 per cent of all PIP Tribunal hearings.”

Comments  

#3 Jim Allison 2017-12-01 18:39
This a significant change to when I sat on DLA/AA Tribunals from 1994
to 2005. We were lucky if we had one or two in a year in the North West, the area that I sat as a Tribunal Member. Members should be aware that legally, a Presenting Officer although working for the DWP, their role is supposed to be 'amicus curiae' which literally means 'friend of the court'. A PO attends a tribunal as the Representative of the Sec of State for Work & Pensions. A good PO who knows their stuff can be an asset to both the Appellant and the Tribunal. From my experience most PO's were 'adversarial' when their role should have been 'inquisitorial' . Again, most PO's that were present at Tribunals that I sat on saw their role as winning the case for the DWP.

It's good to hear that 150 new PO's will be recruited and trained by the DWP. Let's hope the training includes that their presence is NOT to win the case for the DWP, but to make sure that Appellants get a fair hearing. I doubt that their attitude will change in my opinion and experience.
+1 #2 Deeanne Stripe 2017-11-29 09:57
I have been representing clients now for approximately 5 year and never had anyone from the DWP turn up until recently when I had one at an ESA and another at a PIP Tribunal.
The lady for the ESA was actually very compassionate and admitted their error in the allocation of points - the PIP was another matter!
She applied the regulations incorrectly, was judgemental and was more interested in trying to find a reason to remove the clients CA than disallow her the PIP!! The judge was also very biased and favored the DWP totally. My client was left in tears feeling like a criminal and as much as I wanted to take to the UtT she did not want me too.
I will now always be prepared for DWP representation
+1 #1 fil501 2017-11-29 09:24
A Presenting Officer appeared at my PIP Tribunal in June. She was a pleasant enough young woman in her twenties, but a complete waste of public resources. She barely uttered a word, and the few words she was forced to speak lacked confidence or understanding. After a decision in my favour was made the Judge liased with her regarding the award dates and she provided incorrect dates. Absolutely useless!

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