Benefits tribunal waiting times increase again in Norwich, local MP discovers


Norman Lamb calls the 6 month average waits a “denial of justice”.

Norman Lamb said that “the system is imposing an intolerable financial pressure” on people forced to wait an average of 6 months for benefits appeals cases, as latest data showed waiting times are increasing.

The average waiting time for ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) claimants at tribunal was 26 weeks in October to December 2018 – an increase of 4 weeks compared to the figures covering July to September 2018. This was the longest average waiting time since at least April 2015.

That means that if an ESA claimant’s case was received by the courts on the 1st January, they wouldn’t receive a final decision until the last week of June.

For other claimants, the picture slightly improved but overall remains poor. The average waiting time for PIP (Personal Independence Payment) claimants at tribunal was 25 weeks, according to figures released covering October to December 2018. That means the average wait has fallen by 1 week compared to the figures covering July to September 2018. But claimants still have to wait nearly 6 months for their appeal to be heard.

When decisions are finally made, they strongly favour of the claimant: 7 out of 10 PIP and ESA claimants received a decision in their favour, demonstrating that many original decisions are wrong.

Norman Lamb, former social care minister, uncovered the figures. He called on the Government to take action to halt the rise in average waiting times. He has received assurances from the Minister responsible for the courts that judicial appointments are being made in an attempt to reduce waiting times.

Norman Lamb MP said:

“Justice delayed is justice denied, and when people are waiting six months on average, that is a denial of justice.

These lengthy waits would be shocking even if they were only experienced by 10 or 25% of claimants. But a 6 month wait is just the average!  

Waiting 6 months for an appeal when in many cases the person has been pushed into financial distress is intolerable.

It is difficult to understate how traumatic the experience of waiting so long for a tribunal decision can be. Some of those claimants will have desperately needed their PIP or ESA decisions reversed. And the high success rates of claimants is evidence that the Government is forcing people to take claims through the lengthy tribunal process too frequently.

I recently met with the Minister to lobby for improvement, and received assurances that judicial appointments were being made to reduce delays – but we are yet to see any real impact of those appointments.

My concern is that the waiting times are continuing to rise – not just in Norwich but across the country. Further rises in the 2019 figures for Norwich would be unacceptable.”

Notes:

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was introduced in October 2008.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was introduced in April 2013.

‘Average weeks’ measures the average number of weeks from receipt in HMCTS to final outcome within the period.

Success rate is calculated by the calculating the number of ‘Decisions in favour’ as a proportion of the number of total decisions.

The number of total decisions is calculated by adding ‘Decisions upheld’ and ‘Decisions in favour’.

‘Decisions upheld’ are those cases where the original decision by the First tier agency is upheld.

‘Decisions in favour’ are those cases where the original decision in revised in favour of the customer.

For ESA claimants in Norwich, the average wait in Q2 2018-19 was 22 weeks; the total number of decisions was 70 and the success rate was 77.14%.

For ESA claimants in Norwich, the average wait in Q3 2018-19 was 26 weeks; the total number of decisions was 174 and the success rate was 78.74%.

For PIP claimants in Norwich, the average wait in Q2 2018-19 was 26 weeks; the total number of decisions was 255 and the success rate was 67.06%.

For PIP claimants in Norwich, the average wait in Q3 2018-19 was 25 weeks; the total number of decisions was 217 and the success rate was 70.05%.

Figures were released as part of the Ministry of Justice’s “Tribunals and gender recognition certificate statistics quarterly: October to December 2018”.


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