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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Decision making and appeals  →  Thread

DWP making the right noises on Mandatory Reconsiderations

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Elliot Kent
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Think you are misunderstanding me Dan. Obviously I know that DWP decisions often are wrong; the people doing MRs don’t seem to be interested in those arguments though.

Paus17
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A couple of years ago I looked at the actual figures on the impact of MR for PIP. There were 2,554,600 PIP applications up to January 2017.  The number of unsuccessful applications was 1,130,760. But there were only 554,600 MRs. So half of the unsuccessful applicants gave up before MR. After MR there were 458,654 unsuccessful applicants left, so about 15% were successful. Of these, 153,270 appealed. So nearly two-thirds of those left gave up after MR. But in terms of absolute numbers more people dropped out before MR than after. The success rate at appeal was about 70%. But what the figures show is that roughly as many people were successful at MR as at tribunal.

Why was MR introduced? I used to work for the Tribunals Service at MoJ but left before MR was introduced. Before I left we had plenty of evidence of poor decision-making at DWP including a pilot project which showed that if more experienced DWP staff looked at cases the overturn rate was quite high. There was a lot of pressure to allow claimants direct access to the tribunal. I suspect (but I don’t know) that MoJ insisted on MR as a quid pro quo for direct access. MoJ wanted to keep case numbers down, not by deterring otherwise meritorious cases but by forcing an improvement in DWP decision-making. It didn’t quite work out like that.

I don’t know if anyone has researched what makes a successful MR. I see so few I can’t generalise but I suspect it’s not just new evidence, it’s the kind of new evidence DWP decision makers like - something that enables them to refer back or override the HCP recommendation. A letter from a consultant surgeon directly addressing the descriptors is perfect. But what the DMs are not good at is what the tribunals do well - weighing up different types of evidence.

stevenmcavoy
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Paus17 - 24 May 2019 03:56 PM

A couple of years ago I looked at the actual figures on the impact of MR for PIP. There were 2,554,600 PIP applications up to January 2017.  The number of unsuccessful applications was 1,130,760. But there were only 554,600 MRs. So half of the unsuccessful applicants gave up before MR. After MR there were 458,654 unsuccessful applicants left, so about 15% were successful. Of these, 153,270 appealed. So nearly two-thirds of those left gave up after MR. But in terms of absolute numbers more people dropped out before MR than after. The success rate at appeal was about 70%. But what the figures show is that roughly as many people were successful at MR as at tribunal.

Why was MR introduced? I used to work for the Tribunals Service at MoJ but left before MR was introduced. Before I left we had plenty of evidence of poor decision-making at DWP including a pilot project which showed that if more experienced DWP staff looked at cases the overturn rate was quite high. There was a lot of pressure to allow claimants direct access to the tribunal. I suspect (but I don’t know) that MoJ insisted on MR as a quid pro quo for direct access. MoJ wanted to keep case numbers down, not by deterring otherwise meritorious cases but by forcing an improvement in DWP decision-making. It didn’t quite work out like that.

I don’t know if anyone has researched what makes a successful MR. I see so few I can’t generalise but I suspect it’s not just new evidence, it’s the kind of new evidence DWP decision makers like - something that enables them to refer back or override the HCP recommendation. A letter from a consultant surgeon directly addressing the descriptors is perfect. But what the DMs are not good at is what the tribunals do well - weighing up different types of evidence.

my experience suggests lucky claimants names are picked from a tombola.

Va1der
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Does anyone have up to date figures of MR success rate?

I still haven’t seen a single successful MR since I started doing this about 1 year ago.
I do question my own aptitude at filling MR forms with my clients, and the grounds I advise.
However, some of the latest I have submitted have had some very compelling evidence attached, with descriptors directly addressed, and the MR still comes back with a very generic tone, where most of it looks like copy+paste.

I would think a merited MR would at least result in some of the points being updated, even if the award remains unchanged. I submitted one for PIP where the DM had made an error in the scoring - he had pointed out in the decision text, word for word: ‘I have decided that you need an aid for this activity’, and then awarded 0 points. I highlighted this in the MR, and it came back,—with the same wording in the decision, ‘I have decided that you need an aid for this activity’,—, and still 0 points. At the very least DM could have amended the wording.

MRs seem like an arbitrary pass/fail test, rather than a reasoned reconsideration.

Mike Hughes
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Last figure I heard was 19%. So, essentially, random.

There’s a couple of narratives connected to this with which I disagree.

One is the idea that PIP and ESA are generally random. MR is certainly the random element but my experience is very much that as regards claim packs and appeals you get out what you put in. It’s not hard to predict with a high degree of accuracy what the outcome ought to be… except for MRs.

The other is the idea that a failed MR is the sole reason why people drop appeals. Within that lies much nuance. Conversations with DWP at this stage often overtly discourage pursuance of an appeal and indeed can explicitly suggest that there’s either no point or actually no right to appeal.  Allied to this it’s easy to forget that appeal delays themselves are now so substantial and public awareness of them so high that they are a key disincentive in themselves. Add in the many forums populated by claimants who have either experienced an appeal; know someone who has or have read extensively (thank you Facebook. The modern equivalent of your mate in the pub as regards benefits advice) and where negative stories understandably dominate over the majority experience that actually appeals are okay and you get your entitlement.

As it stands I don’t believe there’s any evidence that MRs have made any positive difference but equally they’re not solely responsible for a reduction in the number of reasons proceeding to appeal.

Va1der
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Mike Hughes - 11 September 2019 09:37 AM

As it stands I don’t believe there’s any evidence that MRs have made any positive difference but equally they’re not solely responsible for a reduction in the number of reasons proceeding to appeal.

My take would be that the underlying problem is the lack of training of DWP staff, both in terms of knowledge and people skills.

A typical line from a refused (health related) claimant goes something like this:

Negative decision received - text and points indicate DWP have not fully considered the claimants conditions, there are errors and inaccuracies both from Atos and DM, sometimes outright lies.
Claimant takes it as a slap in the face - if they claimed on mental health grounds they might start questioning the validity of their conditions.

Submits MR - same response as above. Second slap in the face.

How many people are tempted to risk a third slap?


It would clearly be in everyone’s best interest if staff was trained to make reasoned decisions, employ a bit of empathy, and have a willingness to admit mistakes and correct them. If that was the case MRs could work.
With so many MRs being overturned at appeals, I cannot for the life of me understand why DWP doesn’t make changes. I guess they assume their funding isn’t tied at all to all the money going to HMCTS…

 

 

Mike Hughes
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Not sure I agree.

There’s certainly one element of concern about being repeatedly turned down but it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t so long ago there was a choice of review or appeal and people inevitably chose appeal as the experience was both quicker and more likely to succeed. Speed is a major factor and often the major factor. Occasionally we’d all see the “no brainer” case and think review was a decent option only to find out that it wasn’t.

I don’t think empathy is relevant here. I am a fan of Against Empathy by Paul Bloom. See http://bostonreview.net/forum/paul-bloom-against-empathy. Empathy is absolutely not what’s needed. Training is certainly needed but then they get trained so the real question is trained in what and to do what? Culturally DWP have assumed HCP or medical reports commissioned by them are the most accurate even when riddled with internal contradictions (you can’t train someone to identify what might look like an obvious lie to a claimant. You can only train them to identify contradiction). The biggest change needed is cultural. That can be done via training but that’s but one small element.

Va1der
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Sorry, Empathy was a wrong choice of word. Tact I suppose, or common sense.
DWP should use language that is less hostile/ignorant, and conveys objectivity.

I haven’t been at this very long, so not sure what you mean by ‘a choice of review or appeal’.

Mike Hughes
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Ah, apologies. When MR came in 2013 it followed on from a period where one had a choice of challenging decisions by either going straight to appeal or doing a review and then going to appeal. The significant aspect of MR was that it made that review stage compulsory before appeal. Nobody could go straight to appeal.

I certainly agree re: tact and common sense. I’d rather start with accuracy. Just telling the truth in a phone conversation. Not inferring that your case is hopeless or denying rights of appeal etc. 

And of course as of today we’re now down to a 15% success rate on PIP.

[ Edited: 12 Sep 2019 at 02:17 pm by Mike Hughes ]
Chrissum
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Curiously enough, we seem to be seeing more decisions being changed on MR at the mo. Only a smattering mind, but a significant increase nonetheless. Where we are also seeing an increase is decisions being changed after lodging an appeal but before the tribunal hearing. No increase in the quality of the HCP reports, though, unfortunately.

Mike Hughes
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Not sure about MRs but definitely seeing more offers. I suspect a correlation with the number of POs being utterly humiliated at tribunal.