Timescales for mandatory reconsideration

Paul Malpas made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions

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Dear Department for Work and Pensions,
Upon reading "Appeals Process Changes - Customer Representative Groups Questions and Answers) V1.0a I note the following:

Mandatory reconsideration
Q: Why is mandatory reconsideration being introduced?
A: The main reasons for introducing mandatory reconsideration are to:

resolve any disputes as early as possible;

consider revising the decision where appropriate;

provide a full explanation of the decision;

encourage people to identify and provide any additional evidence that may affect the decision, to enable DWP to ensure that people receive the benefits or child maintenance to which they are entitled at the earliest opportunity.

It appears that DWP are making these changes (for amongst other reasons) to speed up the appeals / reconsideration process. However nowhere in the document can I find information regarding regrading time limits for a reconsideration to be made, so my questions are:

1 Is a time limit for reconsideration following a customers request for one to be implemented
2 If the answer to 1 is "yes" then what will that time limit be and how has it been arrived at
3 If the answer to 1 is "no" then can you supply documentation showing consideration for a time limit and reasons for not implementing it
4 What will be the impact on a claim where a decision has been made to stop a claim for a benefit, the customer has requested a reconsideration, the reconsideration has not yet taken place and so the customer is, as yet, unable to make appeal to HMCTS e.g customer attends WCA, DM decides Fit for Work, customer requests reconsideration - at this point will the customer receive any ESA or will they be obliged to claim JSA as they are still considered fit for work until such time as a reconsideration is completed [currently a customer would be paid assessment phase rate once they have made an appeal]
5 With regard to Q1 and Q4 if 1 is no and the answer to 4 is a cessation of claim during reconsideration are there any other safeguards to prevent a customer from entering a "decision limbo" of indefinite period if there is no time limit for DWP to make a reconsideration.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Malpas

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Dear Mr Malpas

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Dear Mr Malpas

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DWP Central FoI Team

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Dear DWP freedom-of-information-requests,

Re: VTR 343

Could you please clarify a few points in your response:

Q3 Are you saying that there is no documentation relating to Government's response in the consultation document. Was the response written without any consideration or was the consideration undocumented. How did the government know that reconsiderations can take such a varied amount of time that it would be impractical to legislate a time limit - were enquiries made as to the average time taken currently - were examples sought as to the extremes e.g. the quickest and slowest. Please confirm that you are categorically stating that no documentation exists relating to consideration to the question raised by the public during the consultation period.

Q4 You say there would be no change to the scenario suggested, this does not seem to match with the fact that currently a customer would receive payment during reconsideration if they had also made an appeal but under the new system they could not make the appeal until after the reconsideration process (with no time limit). Have I understood this correctly or are you saying that an ESA customer would be paid during reconsideration.

Q5 When you say that the information does not exist are you saying that you do not know if there are any other safeguards or are you saying there ARE no other safeguards and so information about them does not exist.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Malpas

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Paul Malpas left an annotation ()

In a nutshell then, if a decision is made against you then it must go to reconsideration. This can take any period of time as there is no time limit or even target (they'll work out the target when they've tried it out on a few thousand people) they will also think up a few safeguards when they've seen what can go wrong (so I wouldn't want to be among the first ten thousand or so).
If, when they finally get round to making a reconsideration, you don't agree with it and appeal you'll get paid during the appeal process (apparently also for the reconsideration period) so if you can hang on with no money for an unspecified on the understanding that you might get it back at the end (I'm sure your local shops and your landlord wont mind waiting) then everything's ok.

John Slater left an annotation ()

If the DWP really thinks it will get away with that I suggest that everyone needs to become familiar with the following:

Misconduct in Public Office (criminal offence)
The elements of the offence are summarised in Attorney General's Reference No 3 of 2003 [2004] EWCA Crim 868. The offence is committed when:

- a public officer acting as such
- wilfully neglects to perform his duty and/or wilfully misconducts himself
- to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder
- without reasonable excuse or justification

I suggest that if DWP Decision Makers think they can dump people into something called Mandatory Reconsideration without any process or timescales behind it and not pay people they are guilty of this criminal offence.

I imagine that if claimant's write to their local DWP office explaining that they intend to make a criminal complaint against the people who signed the DWP letters they received because things were taking longer than a 'reasonable person' could expect to progress their appeal things might improve. Of course you need to make the complaint to the police is you are ignored. However, if 1000's of people suddenly made criminal complaints to the Chief Constable of the force where their local DWP office is located I suspect things might change rapidly!

Time for people to remind the politicians who they work for?

J Roberts left an annotation ()

From Hansard column 745

"I turn now to ESA. At the moment, if someone appeals a refusal of ESA, it can continue to be paid pending the appeal being heard; this is not changing. What is changing is that there can be no appeal until there has been a mandatory reconsideration. So there will be a gap in payment. In that period-and I repeat that applications will be dealt with quickly so that this is kept to a minimum-the claimant could claim jobseeker's allowance or universal credit. Alternative sources of funds are available. Of course, he or she may choose to wait for the outcome of the application and then, if necessary, appeal and be paid ESA at that point."

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...

Ray Playforth left an annotation ()

You might want to follow up on the assertion that no documentation exists regarding time limits for reconsideration. Google the following:
Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council report of Feb 2011
"Time for Action: a report on the absence of a time limit for decision makers to respond to Social Security appeals"
Pretty scathing and makes a series of recommendations. (Government is abolishing the Council with effect from 1 April 2013)
You might also want to follow up on the proposal for considering an "internal performance indicator" mentioned in the document. This ought to be in the public domain (via a FOI request) when the new procedure starts to kick in.
Some interesting info about the current Key Performance Indicator used by DWP regarding appeals, revealed by Baroness Hollis in the Lords debate on the disgraceful Jobseekers (Back to Works Schemes) Bill (Hansard source: HL Deb, 25 March 2013 c919)
Interesting how HMCTS have introduced concrete measures to deal with the backlog of appeals in contrast to DWP's stance of spouting unsubstantiated and unevidenced assertions and statements because they "believe" they are right and how dare anyone challenge them.