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KPI’s for mandatory reconsideration

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Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Wondering why so many of your MR requests come back with no sign of the original decision actually having been reconsidered? Perhaps this FOI response shows exactly why that might be….

Please provide any Key Performance Indicators which apply to DWP around the handling of mandatory reconsiderations of benefit decisions, especially turnaround time. Please also provide historic performance against these indicators.

DWP Response

The key measures which are used by the Department for Work and Pensions to monitor Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) performance are:

a) 90% to be cleared within target
b) 80% of the original decisions are to be upheld.

The performance measures for April 2016 - March 2017 are:

% MR Cleared within target = 70.2%
% MR Original Decision Upheld = 87.5%

KPIs for reconsiderations and disputes

Owen Stevens
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DWP have a KPI to say that they have to uphold 80% of decisions?  I’m amazed, though don’t know if I’m being naive here

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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I’m staggered. This confirms what many have long suspected and which DWP has continuously denied, viz a viz working to targets. How can they set an arbitraryfigure for how many MR requests are rejected? Some lawyer types on twitter suggesting someone should JR on grounds of fettering of discretion/Wednesbury unreasonableness.

past caring
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If it were the case that the target was for 80% of original decisions to be so robust that there was no real basis for MR, that would be one thing (and the cynic in me thinks that this may well end up being the spin that is put on it) but we all know this isn’t the case.

Also noteworthy that of the two targets, it’s the one that we would like to see missed that is exceeded - whilst the one that we’d like to see met is missed by a considerable margin…..

ClairemHodgson
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Paul_Treloar_AgeUK - 15 May 2017 12:00 PM

Some lawyer types on twitter suggesting someone should JR on grounds of fettering of discretion/Wednesbury unreasonableness.

well indeed.  that has to be a winner, since of course telling staff to maintain a particular percentage of original decisions is bound to both fetter any discretion they might have, and ipso facto be Wednesbury unreasonable….

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Fancy draffting the letter before action then Claire?

ClairemHodgson
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Paul_Treloar_AgeUK - 15 May 2017 03:47 PM

Fancy draffting the letter before action then Claire?

not particularly - JR isn’t my thing (although i was involved in a nice one against the then Legal Aid Board in the mid 90’s), i’d need a client, firm doesn’t have a legal aid contract, etc etc… not to mention various other issues like wanting to see all the client’s evidence first!

Gareth Morgan
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ClairemHodgson - 15 May 2017 03:34 PM

...that has to be a winner, since of course telling staff to maintain a particular percentage of original decisions is bound to both fetter any discretion they might have, and ipso facto be Wednesbury unreasonable….

I’m not so sanguine I’m afraid.  The wording is

b) 80% of the original decisions are to be upheld.

I think that that can easily be read as a KPI for the original decisions.  Indeed, I read that as the most likely interpretation.  If it were not looking at the 1st stage of the decisions then it would not refer to ‘original decisions’ (reconsideration either accepted or rejected) but to 80% of the original refusals are to be upheld.

Dan Manville
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I wonder whether someone is about to be ejected from the top floor of Caxton House for releasing this little gem.

Mike Hughes
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Dan Manville - 15 May 2017 04:13 PM

I wonder whether someone is about to be ejected from the top floor of Caxton House for releasing this little gem.

Surely what you mean is that you’re hoping there’s an 80% chance they’ll be over-turned? :)

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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The publication of this KPI sheds a serious and concerning shadow over evidence from Lord Freud and Andrew Rhodes, DWP Benefits Services Director, to the Work and Pensions Committee, when they took evidence on MR’s a couple of years back.

Q208 John Glen: Right. So 31% is not individuals who have challenged under the MR process? It does not apply to them?

Andrew Rhodes: That is correct, 31% would be a correct figure of decisions changed, not decisions changed as a result of a challenge. The mandatory reconsideration current run rate is that around about 85% uphold the original decision, so only around 15% are changed. Around 67% would proceed to appeal at Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service.

Oral evidence: Benefit delivery, HC 372-ii 4 November 2015

Benefit delivery: Government Response to the Committee’s Fourth Report of Session 2015–16

Mr Rhodes used the statistic to try to demonstrate that initial decision making was generally sound, when in fact this FOI reveals that decision makers were deliberately working to maintain a level of refusals that was around the 80% mark. That “around about 85% [of MR’s] uphold the original decision” is precisely because decision makers are instructed to make sure it remains around about that rate. This is really quite scandalous in my opinion, on many different levels.

ClairemHodgson
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Gareth Morgan - 15 May 2017 04:12 PM

I think that that can easily be read as a KPI for the original decisions.  Indeed, I read that as the most likely interpretation.  If it were not looking at the 1st stage of the decisions then it would not refer to ‘original decisions’ (reconsideration either accepted or rejected) but to 80% of the original refusals are to be upheld.

aye, but people are only going to ask for MR of a decision that went against them, not a decision that was in their favour. 

therefore, 80% of original decisions are not what the claimant expected/wanted, and upholding that 80% as a mandatory target fetters the discretion of the people carrying out the MR.

Surrey Adviser
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And of course the % upheld is nearer 90% than the 80% target.  The DMs really should all have medals for doing so well!  Are there any stats. showing what % of those which are upheld on MR go to appeal, & the result of the appeals?

HB Anorak
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I’m with Gareth on this, I think the idea is that MRs are being used as a quality control for first instance decisions: the person looking at the MR is supposed to deal with it impartially and correctly to the best of his/her knowledge, and if that results in the MR being rejected at least 80% of the time it shows the first instance DM is doing OK.

If it was a target for the MR-handlers it would not tell DWP anything useful apart from they can count.

Now whether the MR handlers are indeed acting impartially and correctly, or whether they are up to the job, is another matter.  But I don’t see it as a crude target for the MR handlers themselves, as in “reject at least 80% of MRs or you have failed”.

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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So a Freedom of Information request was submitted and answered as follows:

Please provide any Key Performance Indicators which apply to DWP around the handling of mandatory reconsiderations of benefit decisions, especially turnaround time. Please also provide historic performance against these indicators.

DWP Response

The key measures which are used by the Department for Work and Pensions to monitor Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) performance are:

a) 90% to be cleared within target
b) 80% of the original decisions are to be upheld.

The performance measures for April 2016 - March 2017 are:

% MR Cleared within target = 70.2%
% MR Original Decision Upheld = 87.5%

Personally, I find information of this kind very worrying, suggesting as it does that a DWP decision maker is making decisions where a Key Performance Indicator is that the decision maker in question should make sure that they confirm 80% of their original decisions regardless of anything else. Any new evidence, any reexamination of existing evidence, checking that they have applied the law correctly, you know the basic things they get paid for. No, it’s their performance in turning down 80% of requests for another look for no other reason than that’s what they’re told to do.

Questions have been raised as to whether these statistics relate to the original decision maker’s subsequent decision as to the veracity of their own decision and that if so, these statistics don’t cause any alarm or worry. When the original decision maker (apparently) looks at the original decision again and decides whether to change it or not, if there is no change, the case is sent to a special DWP MR unit to look at the request again. Which is when they also refuse the application to change the decision by, you’ve guessed it, exactly the same margins as were flagged in the FOI response. I posted the DWP’s own evidence on this above.

Further, the DWP response includes information about both the processing time for clearing the MR request and the amount of “original decisions [that] are to be upheld”. Is it really feasible that DWP hived off data from one set of DWP staff around overall clearance times (which has been an on-going concern for years now and obviously, on the record, relates to overall clearance times, not just original decision and phone call), as well as some spurious KPI that I can’t really see helps ensure good frontline decision making either, to monitor performance of original dm’s?

I can’t see it myself. I have to say, the notion that someone confirming that they think that they got it right the first time around about 80% of the time as representing the fact they’re “doing ok” as being slightly surprising. As the adage goes, a stopped clock is right twice a day. Also the number of successful appeals might jiust show that in such intrusive times for people looking for some support in straitened circumstances, its often their ability to argue their case publically and independently that’s the most important safeguard. This isn’t stopping bad decision making, its propping it up.

It’s evident that appeal numbers plummeted after 2013, partly due to legal aid cuts to welfare benefits, but largely due to the 3-stage blockage of the MR process which has been subject to significant discussion on here in the past. This KPI is evidence that they’re working to stifle appeals in my opinion, no two ways about it. With the legal aid cuts, they gave themselves a clear playing field to introduce some pretty horrendous welfare “reforms” and slash legal support at the same time, whilst also deliberately undermining the basic right to a fair hearing of your case.

[ Edited: 16 May 2017 at 12:18 am by Paul_Treloar_AgeUK ]
ClairemHodgson
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HB Anorak - 15 May 2017 11:25 PM

  But I don’t see it as a crude target for the MR handlers themselves, as in “reject at least 80% of MRs or you have failed”.

but a KPI is to measure exactly that…...

so if the KPI is to uphold 80% of the original decisions when MR is requested, and that is in fact what happens, then discretion is fettered…. since there shouldn’t be a target when looking to see if someone else got a decision right or not.

you might has well say the CofA or SC should be told to not allow a certain percentage of appeals/applications for leave, irrespective of the legal merits.  and i can tell you what they’d say if that was suggested (particularly in such crude terms)