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Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living

Seven out of 10 win benefits challenges at tribunal

Date: 29/9/2021
Summary: Seven out of ten people who appealed in court against a decision to deny them disability benefits were successful, analysis shows.

In total, more than 293,000 people across the UK have overturned a government decision at tribunal in the past three years.

Most hearings centred on Personal Independence Payment (PIP), the main disability benefit.

The government said it made millions of PIP decisions and 5% were overturned.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act also reveal more than 1,000 people across the UK have died while formally challenging their benefit award.

Daphne Hall, the vice chair of the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers, said: "It is heart-breaking that people die without having resolution."

Keith Jones died weighing six stone (38kg) days before he was due to appeal a decision to refuse him benefits.

The former electrician, from Wrexham, was awarded Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 1997 after mouth cancer left him unable to eat solid food and struggling to walk more than 20 metres.

In 2016, Mr Jones was told to apply for PIP - the benefit being introduced to replace DLA - but was refused.

He never heard judges rule on his case as he died two days before his original tribunal date in August 2017. The eventual hearing ruled he had been entitled to PIP.

"I didn't really care about the money afterwards," his daughter Kerry Jones said. "It was more justice for my dad and to prove them wrong."

"It's heart-breaking for people to have to go through [tribunals] when they are so ill and they don't even know the ending. It needs highlighting."

James Oliver, from Hastings, East Sussex, had chronic liver disease caused by alcohol dependency but was refused PIP in May 2018. His mandatory reconsideration was also refused.

A letter inviting Mr Oliver to appeal the decision to deny him PIP was found by one of his children at his home four months after his death.

It was not until October 2020 that his brother David Smith won a tribunal on his behalf. It led to a payment backdated to when Mr Oliver first applied, up until the date of his death.

"The government know most people don't have the patience or the strength to keep going to tribunal," Mr Smith said.

"I was so worn down after 18 months - it was soul-destroying to be honest - but it was for the principle; his assessment defied belief."

The backdated benefit award covered the cost of Mr Oliver's funeral and for a bench in his memory in Alexandra Park, Hastings.

The BBC's Shared Data Unit analysed figures from from HM Courts and Tribunals Service, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Northern Ireland's Department for Communities (DfC).

It found:

  • In England, Scotland and Wales, seven in ten tribunal appeals about benefits have been successful since 2018
  • Over the same period, some 500 people died before their initial challenge was decided. A further 421 tribunal cases were halted because the appellant died
  • In Northern Ireland, six out of ten appeals were successful over the past two years. Sixty appeals have been lodged on behalf of people who died since 2013

In July the BBC reported how the DWP had held at least 268 internal reviews into cases where people claiming benefits died or came to serious harm since February 2012. The Labour Party then called for an "urgent independent investigation".

Source: BBC

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