Not Welfare Reform, Its Welfare Deformed

November 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm Leave a comment

The Benefits Appeals System is at the point of collapse, with more cases than it can deal with. Employment and Support Allowance is a complex benefit, with multiple appeal rights, and presently many cases are refused at claim stage. So whats the cause, and how can it be resolved?<!–more–

Cuts to services that support people making claims can’t get the help they need,and in some cases have no choice but to do it themselves. This issomething akin to being thrown into a maze, blindfold, and having to find your way out within a time limit. If you don’t give the correct information, not always what you think you are being asked, then the claim is likely to fail. DIY claimants are also less likely to appeal,they don’t know how, so even the high quoted figures could be higher if people were supported to appeal. The complexity also means that with cuts,the advisers helping may not be fully trained in ESA processes. No caring adviser wants people to struggle, but equally its unfair that workers,are placed in this position. It is not the claimants fault either, they clearly just wanttheir forms dealt with,and won’tknow the advisers skill base.

There have been reports of people who right to benefit is obvious, including the terminally ill, have been refused benefit, This is madness, and urgently needs correction. The sheer numbers succeeding at appeal make it clear, the decision making process is faulty at claim stage.

Further the process takes so long, that claimants may be due for review, fairly soon after getting a favourable decision at appeal. This causes stress for claimants, and increases pressure on advice services,as someclaims are perpetually being assessed at different levels. This is known as revolving door claims.

So how can it be solved? I don’t have a full answer, short of ripping up the whole system and starting again, but I believe there are ways to make what we have better:-

There must be better access to help for everyone who needs it, regardless of ability to pay. Detailed locally targeted information about how to get assistance, independant of the DWP should be included with every claim pack. Further the DWP must no longer be allowed to identify itself as a source of advice. Social workers and the like must be given so they can give proper advice where they are the only source of help. Information must include resources to support people who complete there oew forms, possible with the right information. Currently there is merely a nod towards signposting people to help by DWP.

Decision Makers are not medically trained, they are merely guided by health professionals. I think that the decision making process should be undertaken by medical professionals, not however the same ones who carry out asessments,the decision making should beindependantof any organisation that carries out the assessment. More emphasis should be placed on the opinion of professionals whoknow and treat thew claimant, and less on the view of those who carry out snapshot assessments. In particular for thosewith serious, or terminal conditions independant assessment should only take priority overthe opinion of ‘familiar’ professionals where there is clear compelling evidence this is necessary. Further in these cases assessment should only be undertaken by professionals with specialist knowledge of the condition.

Where a claimant appeals, their should be further medical input into the DWP gathering of evidence, and the revision process. Proper knowledgeable consideration of cases at this stage, may assist in weeding out those cases that clearly should have been approved. This would ease pressure on the appeals service, and cut waiting times for those cases that can only be decided at appeal. There need to be better guidelines for those making revision decisions. In most cases it should be compulsory to seek the opinion of those treating the claimant at this stage. Finally wherean appeal or revision is successful,there should be a set minimum period before the case can be reviewed,unless new information likely to unfavourably change a claim comes to light before the end of such a period.

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November 30 Day of Action Call to stop Disability cuts and carry out a review

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