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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Universal credit administration  →  Thread

Whispering into the minister’s ear about Mandatory Recosideration

Dan
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CPAG

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Joined: 4 February 2014

Hi

CPAG are meeting with some senior staff from the DWP this week who are reviewing the way mandatory reconsiderations are working in the UC system. We would like to reflect as wide range of experiences as we can at the meeting with the DWP and we’d like to hear from you: If you have had any notably good or bad experience of UC mandatory reconsiderations please get in touch. We’re particularly interested to hear about:
• Difficulties getting an MR accepted
• Delays in deciding MRs
• Examples of the DWP refusing to acknowledge or action request for MR
• Examples of MR decisions not being enacted
• Difficulties finding out about the right to challenge a DWP decision though MR
We welcome any comments both negative and positive. This is an opportunity to explain your client’s experience to senior UC planners so we would be very pleased if you would contact us by emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Thanks

Dan

Peter Turville
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Welfare rights worker - Oxford Community Work Agency

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Hi Dan

Can I suggest one ‘simple’ change which may reduce many of the issues around the way DWP deals (or does not) with MR’s would be the inclusion of a ‘make a MR’ To-Do’ on a claimant’s UC account.

That way there should be no doubt the claimant wishes to challenge a decision, the application cannot be ‘lost’ or misunderstood, it can be treated as a priority by the case manager (rather than, as now, having to post an MR application to the journal and then tel. to alert the case manager that it has been made and needs action).

And being able to upload supporting evidence etc to the account would be helpful!

Andrew Dutton
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Welfare rights service - Derbyshire County Council

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Hello Dan.

I have just sent in an MR request following the claimant receiving the attached letter refusing a backdate request for UC.

This is the second such letter in a week for two different clients, both of whom made very specific reference in their request for backdating to their disabilities and how this related to the backdate request.

What they received is a letter which appears to be a template, with only the claimant’s name added. No reference is made to the individual application, to the facts or to the law used in making the decision. I wonder if it is even a legally effective notice at all.

In your meeting, could you mention that UC is notorious for this sort of ‘blank wall’ decision-making. Many claimants will be put off by this peremptory refusal and may not dare to challenge the decision at all.

Decisions should at least give enough information for claimants to send in a challenge without having to ask UC for more information.

The necessary statement of facts and reasoning could fit nicely in to the big blank space between the blunt refusal and the statement of MR and appeal rights.

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Dan Manville
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Mental health & welfare rights service - Wolverhampton City Council

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Dan - 18 November 2019 11:42 AM

Hi

CPAG are meeting with some senior staff from the DWP this week who are reviewing the way mandatory reconsiderations are working in the UC system. We would like to reflect as wide range of experiences as we can at the meeting with the DWP and we’d like to hear from you: If you have had any notably good or bad experience of UC mandatory reconsiderations please get in touch. We’re particularly interested to hear about:
• Difficulties getting an MR accepted
• Delays in deciding MRs
• Examples of the DWP refusing to acknowledge or action request for MR
• Examples of MR decisions not being enacted
• Difficulties finding out about the right to challenge a DWP decision though MR
We welcome any comments both negative and positive. This is an opportunity to explain your client’s experience to senior UC planners so we would be very pleased if you would contact us by emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Thanks

Dan

Hi Dan

Problems getting MRs accepted has been an issue for me; when the LCWRAE is not paid and I request recon they have refused to accept it because “how can we reconsider the LCWARE if we’ve not considered the WCA yet?”

Delays… Several MRs have fallen down a black hole; we are told by telephony staff that they can’t give indicative timescales for them to be complete. I was waiting for 4 months on one where we were trying to get a closed transitional claim, which would have meant the LCWRAE was payable immediately, reopened and linked to a new claim. I had the Work Coach on the phone as the chap; under our appointeeship and very unwell, was subject to the Intensive Activity Programme.

MR has been notified as a journal message with no advice re appeal rights.

Peter Turville
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Welfare rights worker - Oxford Community Work Agency

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And another thing .... similar to Andrew’s post - providing template decision letters that provide no information about the reasons for the decision. This is particularly annoying when preparing an MR against a WCA decision.

In WCA decisions there is no indication of the descriptors / points awarded (if any) making it very difficult to prepare specific grounds for MR. Are all relevant descriptors in issue or only one or two? Is there a reason why LCFW but not LCFWRA was determined? Is there a basic error (i.e. one of the ‘treated as’ criteria should have been applied)?

Being unable to focus on relevant issues and provide additional evidence relevant to descriptors in dispute must be one reason why so few decisions are revised at MR.

ZBUC
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Welfare rights team (UC advice project) - Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest

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I have encountered problems with UC refusing to look at MRs. One of my clients put in an MR for a missed payment (he never received housing element in one assessment period) and put in an MR explaining the situation, but the only response on his journal was that he had received the right amount of money and therefore there was no reason for the DWP to look at the MR at all (even though the explanation of what had gone wrong was - shockingly - in the MR). They haven’t budged on this so far.

CHAC Adviser
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Caseworker - CHAC, Middlesbrough

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A problem that immediately springs to mind is an issue we had a little while ago with a client where the DWP would accept that there was a dispute but wouldn’t do an MR. We must have asked them four times for them to do a Mandatory Reconsideration but each time they came back with words to the effect of we understand your not happy but the decision is correct because of x reason or they’d come back and ask for more information (which we’d already quite clearly given to them). We eventually decided to just bundle all the correspondence together with a covering letter to send to HMCTS and ask them to accept the appeal as it surely can’t be right that the DWP get an unlimited number of attempts to make a decision without triggering the appeal rights. Sadly however the client got fed up and declined to proceed further as they couldn’t face more aggro.

csmk
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Macmillan Benefits Advice Service/Citizens Advice Dudley Borough

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Definitely would raise issues with delays. Normally waiting 4-6 months for a response for MRs. Last MR was a calculation error and took 5 months for client to receive a response.

A few MRs have not been acted upon either. Have been told by telephony staff that client had to do an MR over the phone so an adviser could complete the MR form over telephone. It was the reverse of issues with legacy where clients were told they could only do an MR in writing.

Andrew Dutton
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Welfare rights service - Derbyshire County Council

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If the meeting has not already taken place, could you add in that DWP staff are still putting people off even applying for MR/appeal?

I have just put in a very late ESA appeal - 1 month to go to absolute time limit - on the basis that the claimant was told not to appeal her ESA fit-for-work decision as she was going on to UC and so there would be ‘no point’, and all her health issues would be picked up on the UC WCA.

One year on - no WCA. And of course a successful ESA appeal would have aided her UC claim from the start.

 

Jo_Smith
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Citizens Advice Hillingdon

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1. UC helpline agents trying to discourage claimants from submitting MR.
2. DELAYS: the very idea that claimants have to adhere to set of deadlines whilst DWP has none and cannot even give us a ball park makes me truly mad (have a client who has been waiting 70 working days; he has a settled status and failed HRT, and similar examples)
3. One liner MRNs
4. Postal black hole
5. UC helpline agents arguing new claim cannot be submitted when old one is awaiting MRN (had that one more few times)

LauraGSLC
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MMAS - South Lanarkshire Council

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In SLC we are experiencing lengthy delays however, when these are escalated a decision is made within a few days.  UC seem to want to call client for more information before actually submitting the MR.  LCW decision notices are templates and a copy of the actual assessment has to be requested to see what points were awarded if any.  Another frustrating issue is when UC entitlement closes - in order to challenge whatever the reason for the claim being closed (failing HRT or RTI), we have to make rapid re-claim to lodge a reconsideration and can see no details as to why the claim was closed in the first place. Often after a MR is lodged the case manager responds with a basic reply giving basic reasons for their decision and have to request again that a DM makes a decision and uploads a decision notice.  Often favourable decisions are notified via phone without a decision notice ever being received.  Hope this helps :)

Benny Fitzpatrick
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Welfare Rights Officer, Southway Housing Trust, Manchester

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1) Clients are still being told an MR cannot be requested over the phone.
2) Written MR requests disappearing in the “Wolverhampton Triangle”.
3) A couple of instances where MR requests on the online journal were totally ignored.
4) As mentioned above, communication of decisions is very poor, with insufficient information given for me to advise my clients. This necessitates further requests for information, which draws out the whole process. (I have had cases where I have had to escalate and involve the MP just to get the same information which is routinely given on legacy decision notices.)

In addition, I would echo the comments above about the lack of timescale for MRs. I think it is unacceptable that deadlines are rigidly enforced on claimants yet the DWP refuse to set any for themselves. This is most definitely not a “level playing field”, or a “mutually respectful approach”.