Friday, 13 June 2014

UK Government changes cause benefits hardship

Katy Clark MP has slammed the UK Coalition Government for making changes to the benefits appeals process that have caused crucial decisions to be delayed, leading to a growing backlog of cases.

In October 2013 the Westminster Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) introduced a requirement for ‘mandatory reconsideration’ of decisions to impose sanctions on benefits’ claimants. The result has been that, before a claimant can submit a formal appeal against a decision to stop their sole source of income, the person must first request that ‘reconsideration’ is given to the decision. Previously, a claimant could submit an appeal against a benefit sanction and could expect a decision within a matter of days. However, since the UK Government introduced ‘mandatory reconsideration’ before an appeal can be made, the process has been lengthened, meaning some people are left without any money for months.

Ms Clark said she is currently dealing with a number of cases where constituents have been adversely affected by the DWP’s changes to the system. The North Ayrshire Citizens Advice Service (NACAS) has also contacted the local MP regarding the plight of clients with similar experiences.

Katy Clark said, “I am appalled that the DWP have made changes to the appeals process, which rather than deliver quick decisions has created greater delays.

“Many constituents have approached me, including some who have been left with no money for months on end. This can’t be allowed to continue.”

Nina Smith from NACAS added, “From the numbers of clients we are seeing in our bureaux throughout North Ayrshire, the introduction and implementation of ‘mandatory reconsideration’ is causing widespread frustration and hardship.

“Since the introduction of ‘mandatory reconsideration’, NACAS has helped with over 200 request applications, of which less than 20-percent have received decisions from the Department for Work and Pensions.”

Ms Smith highlighted a number of clients with long-term health conditions had been forced to “engage with the Jobcentre to ensure some payment until a decision on their benefit position has been reached.”

Labour MP Katy Clark has written to the DWP about the problems caused by the introduction of ‘mandatory reconsideration’ of benefits sanctions.

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