EXCLUSIVE: The cost of running just one part of the tribunal system shows how benefit tests aren’t just hitting claimants – they’re hurting the taxpayer too
Taxpayers have spent more than £26million in a single year running the appeal court that rules against the DWP’s cruel disability benefit tests.
The bill exposes the huge toll on taxpayers of a “broken” assessment system that campaigners say is failing millions of disabled people in the UK.
More than 60,000 appeals against a test for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – worth up to £148.85 a week – ruled against the government in 2018.
That was 72% of all tribunals. And many claimants say they are denied benefits for months due to basic errors.
Now the Ministry of Justice – which runs the tribunals – has released the estimated cost of running these hearings.
Ministers say the cost merely for PIP hearings that ruled against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in 2018 was £26.5m.
The real cost will be far higher, as the estimate was just for one year and does not include cases the DWP won.
It also excludes the £90million spent by the DWP itself, over five years, fighting and preparing for PIP appeals.
Justice Secretary David Gauke released the figure in a letter to Labour’s Shadow Minister for Disabled People, Marsha De Cordova.
He said the figure was only an estimate and the government is working to better understand the full costs.
The huge cost is not the only problem, either.
The sheer number of cases means claimants face huge waiting times – with the average PIP claimant having to wait 31 weeks for a hearing.
Mr Gauke said the Ministry of Justice has introduced ‘triage’ sessions to manage cases, reducing waiting times.
MOJ chiefs are also working with the DWP “to understand what could be done to reduce the number of appeals”.
That includes the DWP proactively contacting claimants to gather extra evidence at an earlier stage.
A DWP spokeswoman said: “Of the 3.9 million PIP decisions we’ve made only 5% have been overturned at appeal.
“But we recognise this is too high and we have introduced a new approach to gather evidence to make the right decision earlier, so that claimants don’t need to wait for a hearing.”
Official figures show 60,011 out of 83,417 PIP appeals that were completed in 2018 ruled against the DWP.
Last year, we revealed the DWP ran up an estimated £199million in ‘direct operating costs’ between 2013/14 and 2017/18 dealing with PIP and ESA benefit appeals.
The first stage, internal reviews called Mandatory Reconsiderations, cost the DWP an estimated £50.7m for ESA and £43.4m for PIP over five years.
The second stage, external appeal tribunals, cost the DWP an estimated £58.7m for ESA and £46.2m for PIP.