DWP Limbo: “Sometimes I Think I Would Be Better Off Dead”

The Guardian describes here the Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare of the Mandatory Reconsideration process through which ESA claimants have to go when they wish to challenge the decision that they are fit for work. There is no time limit, for example, for judging these cases, and so they can drag on leaving the claimant themselves struggling to make ends meet. Claimants beginning the process are forced to come off ESA and on to JSA. These means that they may lose some other benefits, like Housing Benefits. It also means they can be caught in a Catch-22 situation: they have to claim JSA and so prove that they are fit for work and looking for jobs, even when they are not. If they have a sick note showing that they are too sick for work, they can be refused JSA. The process is also largely unnecessary, as something like Mandatory Review, where the decision was double checked, was already included in the original system. The article includes the criticisms of a judge on the MR review process, and cases studies where it has failed people. These victims are left starving, and forced to rely on food parcels and loan sharks to get by.
It’s hardly surprising that faced with criticisms of the immensely slow process of deciding these claims – they can take several months, with six months being not uncommon – the government has trotted out the usual excuse that the other lot were to blame. Yes, they’re simply too tied down dealing with the backlog of ESA claims. And the DWP itself hasn’t released some of the figures, so it’s the usual Tory tactics of lie and hide.

Same Difference

From yesterday’s Guardian:

Tucked away in this week’s work and pensions select committee report on employment-related disabilitybenefits is a section on an innocuous-sounding policy called Mandatory Reconsideration (MR).

Its blandness hides a host of Kafka-esque sins, however; this is truly a monstrously perverse and bureaucratic generator of poverty and stress.

Here’s an example of one claimant’s experience of being caught up in the strange limbo-land of MR, taken from research by Citizens Advice Bureau:

It has affected me badly. Financially I am struggling – when I pay gas, electricity and bedroom tax I have nothing left. I sometimes don’t have enough money to buy food. Sometimes I go hungry. Sometimes I just have toast as it’s cheaper

So what is MR and how do you get caught up in it? MR kicks in when claimants of ESA or Employment and Support Allowance (unemployment benefit for people who cannot…

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