Roger has tabled an Early Day Motion which severely criticises plans by the Department of Work and Pensions to introduce a period of ‘mandatory reconsideration’ as an intermediate stage for claimants who wish to appeal the decision not to award Employment and Support Allowance, during which time ill and disabled people would receive no money to live on.
He also tabled a number of questions for written answer from the DWP, asking how long the mandatory reconsideration of ESA decisions would take and if a maximum time limit for the process would be introduced. In response, Minister of State for Employment Esther McVey said: "There are no plans to introduce a timescale for the completion of the mandatory reconsideration process, however, the process will be monitored to avoid any unnecessary delays". The DWP expects the process to take around 14 days for straightforward cases but “the time it takes to complete will vary depending on the circumstances of the case”.
For people who are already living on the breadline, even two weeks without any income at all is far too long. The only good news was that claimants who successfully appealed would be entitled to have their award backdated, but this is yet another hurdle that the most vulnerable have to face simply to survive.
Commenting on the Government’s response, Roger said: “The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, is constantly on the lookout for ways to pare back the benefits bill and shoehorn claimants into non-existent jobs regardless of their circumstances. The introduction of a punitive sanctions regime was never going to satisfy him in his undeclared aim to punish the ‘undeserving poor’ and pick off the easy targets. This is a clear and unequivocal attack on the most vulnerable, such as disabled people, who have a right to state support.”
However, Roger believes that Iain Duncan Smith has bigger headaches on the horizon than pinching pennies from the pockets of those unable to work. On the day of the Autumn Statement, DWP tried to sneak under the radar news that it will miss the deadline of getting all benefit claimants on to Universal Credit by the end of 2017. It also announce that it will have to start the IT system again from scratch, at a cost estimated to be at least £140m of taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Roger said: “I am happy for my taxes to support ill and disabled people who cannot work, but I do not see why I or my constituents should pay for yet another Government IT mess-up.”
You can read the EDM here: www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/815