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The number of appeals against decisions made after Atos work capability assessments has rocketed, with an increase in tribunal decisions in favour of the claimant – according to official government figures.
The government’s Tribunals Statistics Quarterly for January 1 to March 31 this year records a 33 per cent increase in the number of appeals (“receipts” in the language of the document), compared with the same period in 2012 – that’s a rise of almost one-third to 255,084.
It states: “The increase in the overall number of receipts was mainly due to the 37 per cent increase in the number of appeals received in social security (note: not “welfare”) and child support in 2012/13, compared to the same period in 2011/12.
“This was driven by appeals in relation to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which more than doubled over between Q4 2011/12 and Q4 2012/13 and accounted for 70 per cent of all SSCS receipts in Q4 2012/13.
The report states that “of the 130,517 social security and child support cases disposed of in January to March 2013; 63 per cent were for ESA; 16 per cent for Disability Living Allowance and 10 per cent for JSA”.
The tribunal service found in favour of the “customer” (the benefit claimant) in 43 per cent of ESA cases (up from 38 per cent previously – it comes out at around 35,357 of 82,226 cases) – and also, notably, in 41 per cent of Disability Living Allowance cases (8,562 of 20,882 cases).
Incapacity Benefit cases decreased by 92 per cent because the benefit has been replaced by ESA.
So nearly half of appeals against ESA and DLA decisions are successful – an increase on previous totals. This should serve as a slap in the face to ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions, especially Employment Minister Mark Hoban, who said in February that criticism of the Atos-run assessment system for ESA was “scaremongering”.
Speaking after the Commons Work and Pensions committee criticised the system, he said: “Rather than scaremongering and driving down the reputation of the WCA, critics might like to acknowledge the fact that independent reviews have found no fundamental reforms are needed to the current process because of changes we’re making.”
If that was true, then why – at the time he said those words – was the number of successful appeals against this process increasing?
The committee had stated that “the decision-making process for new Employment Support Allowance applications and Incapacity Benefit reassessments all too often leads to the wrong decisions and is failing far too many people”. This blog judged that claim to be accurate at the time and this is now borne out by the figures.
In January he said: “Some of the worry experienced by claimants is as a result of adverse media coverage, and it risks being fuelled by incorrect anecdotal information, and indeed total myth.”
Will he come back to the House of Commons now, and admit that this media coverage was accurate, that the anecdotal information is now supported by his own department’s statistics, and that the only total myth is the narrative he and his fellow ministers – including Iain (Something) Smith, the Secretary of State – have tried to create?
I doubt it.
But that is what the figures prove.