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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Decision making and appeals  →  Thread

DWP make challenging a decision a three stage process!

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Daphne
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Sorry - should have said - it was raised and I was due to have a proper discussion in the lunch break giving them all the evidence. But then the guy I was to speak to got called away. I emailed him on Thursday to follow it up and sent him all the paperwork and I await his reply - will update as soon as I have…..

neilbateman
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DWP have stated that the guidance imposing a third tier is NOT (their emphasis) national policy.  Daphne and I are both pressing for immediate withdrawal of this document.

Daphne
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further to what neil says, we have identified, to aid DWP, that the policy was authored by a worker at York JCP which would explain its origin at a meeting up there

Peter Turville
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We have now received a response from IDS via our clients MP.

IDS has failed to answer the question!

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1964
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Nothing new there then.

Priceless….

neilbateman
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No more three-tier Mandatory reconsiderations:

Daphne and I have had the following response from DWP about the guidance issued in the York area.  Basically, it was a local and unauthorised document which should never have been written, let alone issued.

“We can confirm that the correct guidance along with instructions not to use the incorrect guidance has been issued to all relevant DWP staff. 

The relevant DWP site and individuals involved have been contacted and advised not to issue guidance to staff and in future to use only the official guidance provided by DWP”.

I have asked for a copy of the latest internal reminder but have had to apply under the FOI.

Please let me know if there is any more hanky-panky with home-grown DWP management attempts to make MRs more difficult than the law says they should be.

Jon (CHDCA)
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Thanks for taking this up.

Peter Turville
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We have now received a further response from DWP.

Note “.....we must follow the legislative framework and processes that apply .... and we have no flexibility to depart from the law relating to benefits”.

But

“As the ‘look again’ stage is part of procedural process it is not covered by any regulation.”

So DWP don’t depart from the law except when they interpose an extra statutory third stage by introducing procedural guidance using the flexibilty they don’t have and which has no basis in law.

We have requested a copy of the guidance referred to in the response.

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Daphne
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There is a half hour agenda item on MR at operational stakeholders next wednesday - will raise it there too

Peter Turville
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Daphne - 13 November 2014 03:47 PM

There is a half hour agenda item on MR at operational stakeholders next wednesday - will raise it there too

We had a meeting with the regional disputes resolution team cluster communications manager (if I have the title correct!) last week and raised this example and other issues around MR. These included:

informality of MR process - difficult to establish with contact centre’s where case is in process - has claimant actually requested an MR or only an ‘explanation’ - there are too many possible options / routes / oportunities for mis-interpretation / mis-understanding in the process for DWP staff and claimants (and dare I say advice workers).

To much emphasis on informal contact and explanations rather than statutory challenge right / process.

DWP emphasis on telephone calls - to explain decision / seek further info. rather than explain right to challenge decision.

Poor quality of DWP decision notices - can DWP use the same format and wording across all benefits - that decision requires an MR or that the decision is one following an MR and is a ‘notice of mandatory revision’ (see PIP notices for example).

What Q’s do DMs ask during these calls - how good are their interviewing skills in teasting out relevant information from claimants.

Delay in MRs being recorded on system.

Lack of direct access to Benefit Centres / Dispute Resolution Teams by ‘phone / email / fax to chase up cases or provide additional evidence to DM etc - information / evidence is chasing the tail of a case around DWP systems / physical locations.

Failure of DMs to be pro-active in seeking additional evidence from 3rd party like GP/CPN - ‘it is the claimants responsibility to provide further evidence’. How do DMs explain to claimants what additional information would be relevant (particularly to WCA) and in what format.

Potential cost to claimant of obtaining additional (medical) evidence.

The considerable additional work created for advice workers etc by the remote nature of DWP processes and the time it now takes to get even simple info. from DWP (not including consideration of the merits of a possible challenge to the actual decision!)


Also

DWP suggesting the stats (when released) will show MR has led to a significant increase in decisions being revised at the revision stage under MR and therefore reduction in appeals.

DWP state FtT judges are now required to give a summary explanation of decisions on decision notices (it was unclear whether this is additional to the ‘drop down box’ options already used - we are not seeing any summmary explanations in practice!).

DWP are having communications issues with HMCTS - not receiving copies of tribunal decision notices etc.

Daphne
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Thanks Peter - will take all those points along with me next week too

Daphne
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There was limited time to raise all the points but a lot of discussion around the ‘two-tier reconsideration’. DWP position is that if a claimant asks for a reconsideration then an outbound call is made by the decision maker - before sending to the dispute resolution team (DRT). The call is intended to explain the decision and also for the claimant to make representations if they disagree and the decision may be changed. However, DWP are adamant that this is not a ‘reconsideration’.

There was some lack of clarity about whether a claimant would have been deemed to withdraw their request for a reconsideration at this point if they ‘accepted’ the explanation.

If the reconsideration request stands it is sent to the DRT for mandatory reconsideration where another phone call is made for the purpose of information-gathering and possibly to give a new decision in the call. The MR decision letter is then sent out.

DWP remain adamant that two reconsiderations do not happen and they have asked for case studies of any that have. Please send case studies to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). It would be helpful if you could let me know if you have sent any in or copy me in at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

We have also reiterated the request for guidance around mandatory reconsideration which Neil has requested by FOI following their reluctance to provide.

Brian JB
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Daphne - 19 November 2014 11:55 AM

DWP remain adamant that two reconsiderations do not happen and they have asked for case studies of any that have. Please send case studies to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). It would be helpful if you could let me know if you have sent any in or copy me in at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

We have also reiterated the request for guidance around mandatory reconsideration which Neil has requested by FOI following their reluctance to provide.

I think there may be a degree of wordplay here. My understanding (and I will check at the weekly 5 a side tonight!!) was that staff in the local office here would look at ESA MRs if new evidence was provided, to see if they felt that the decision could be changed. If no new evidence, or feel the evidence doesn’t mean decision can be changed, they would forward the case to the Dispute Resolution Team in whichever office was dealing with them.

There is no notification of that “informal” reconsideration, so to that extent, we will struggle to identify that two “reconsiderations” have been carried out.

Should the practice be stopped, if that is what is done? As a point of pragmatism, I am not sure it should. The alternative is that a person’s papers (with MR request) may automatically be sent half way across the country to another office, and would then have to be returned after MR decision made.. If the overall time it takes to look at the case again in office 1 delays the time it takes to go to office 2 and back to an unacceptable level, then it shouldn’t happen. However, if it means that fairly obvious errors are picked up within 2 or 3 working days of receipt, I don’t think anyone is going to complain

Daphne
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I take your point and if a decision is changed for the better then great. But concerns were raised that in that ‘informal call’ claimants were sometimes encouraged or deemed to have withdrawn their request for a reconsideration. Also some claimants were getting letters to say that a reconsideration had been carried out but it wasn’t counting as an ‘official’ MR. It just seems that practice really varies, there is a lack of consistency, and claimants aren’t always aware what’s happening. Which is why we wanted to see the guidance…

Peter Turville
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Daphne has there been any response from operational stakeholders yet?

I have not received any further response from the DWP correspondance case manager about the specific case. Perhaps DWP are still denying there is a problem?