Landmark benefits judgment almost nobody’s talking about

As the Daily Mirror announced yesterday, the ‘Upper Tribunal’ (UT) – the body that rules on the most serious benefits disputes – ruled against the government’s treatment of benefits claimants in its ‘mandatory reconsideration’ regime:

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Since 2013, if a claimant is denied benefits, s/he has to apply for a mandatory reconsideration (MR) – basically asking the same people who just denied the claim to think again – before an appeal against the decision can be made. According to the government’s procedure, the MR request has to be made within a month of the decision – so missing that deadline cuts off the applicant from the appeals process, denying justice to thousands of people.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) brought a legal challenge to the UT on behalf of two women with mental and physical health problems, who had missed the 1-month deadline – and won.

The UT said that the existing deadline was unlawful and must be extended to 13 months – and that its decision was likely to affect many thousands of cases. This is a major victory for campaigners and for humane treatment of vulnerable people – and a major defeat for the government.

Which might explain why the mainstream media – the Daily Mirror apart – are quiet about it.

The government had tried to avoid the case being heard by the UT, claiming a judicial review would be adequate, but the UT pointed out that,

out of 1,544,805 mandatory reconsideration decisions made by government between 2013 and 2017, there had not been a single example of a claimant managing to bring a judicial review challenge of the kind the government suggested was a reasonable alternative to using a tribunal.

CPAG’s Legal Officer Carla Clarke welcomed the decision:

This is fantastic news. Not only is it a vindication for our two clients but it stands to provide justice for significant numbers of families wrongly denied the financial help to which they are entitled. This decision ensures that even if the DWP thinks there is no good reason for their delay, it cannot prevent such individuals pursuing an appeal before an independent tribunal. To have found otherwise would have been to uphold a system where the decision maker also acts as arbiter of whether an individual could challenge their decision or not – a clear conflict of interest and an affront to justice.

“This judgment comes straight on the heels of the Supreme Court judgment on employment appeal fees and, as with that case, ensures that access to justice exists not only in theory but as a practical reality in the real world in which ordinary people live.

The SKWAWKBOX congratulates CPAG on a fantastic win on behalf of people who have been targeted and even demonised by the Tories for seven years. Any claimants who missed the 1-month deadline since 2013 should now be allowed to lodge an appeal and, if successful, must be repaid all monies they were denied by the unlawful process.

However, the fact that the government has now lost two, potentially very expensive judgments in quick succession does raise concerns that it might repeat a widely-condemned move it has previously pulled after a legal loss that was set to cost it money to put right.

In early 2013, Cait Reilly won her legal case against the DWP, which had threatened her with the loss of her benefits if she refused to work for free for the Poundland chain. Ms Reilly, who would have had to stop volunteering at a museum in order to give the retailer her free labour, argued that it was a breach of her human rights – and the appeal court agreed with her.

The case – Reilly and Wilson v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions – meant that the government faced claims from many thousands of people who had been sanctioned for refusing unpaid work placements and potentially compensation claims from those who had been unlawfully forced to complete them.

The government’s response was to retrospectively change the law – via the Job-Seekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 – an almost unprecedented move because of the innate unfairness of making a law apply to events that took place before it existed. The changed law made an unlawful act lawful after the fact and shamed the UK.

The SKWAWKBOX asked the DWP whether the government is considering a similar move now, but has received only the following ‘boilerplate’ response that rules nothing in or out:

We have received the tribunal’s decision and are considering the judgement.

However, even if the government were to try a similar change to the law it is extremely doubtful that it would be able to get it through Parliament. In 2013, the Tories in coalition could rely on LibDem acquiescence to pass the retrospective legislation. In the current, hung Parliament and with the Tories reeling from their disastrous election, just a few rebels would be enough to defeat such an attempt – and would very probably be found.

If there’s even a hint of such an attempt, it’s up to all of us – and incumbent on every MP of any party – to defeat it.

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  1. Oh look – ANOTHER tory ruling that’s been judged against.

    Quelle surprise!

    How much more time & money has to be wasted on rulings, that could’ve been put to better use if the tories hadn’t bollocksed things up in the first bleedin’ place with their idiotic, draconian measures?

    ‘kin imbeciles. But hindson’ll still find a feeble excuse and still vote for them.

    Even idiots are more savvy than these ‘people’.

  2. These abuses by Govt must be stopped as not only is it generating huge waste of public funds and costing more than it saves, it is also causing untold harm and suffering to many families and individuals the exact definition of what Jeremy Corbyn said in its holding the nation back.

    It is short-sightedness by a Govt that is building up a tranche of problems for later generations and rolling backwards on everything good that has been built up over many years.

    Time for Govt to either buck up or bow out

  3. To be fair, the Guardian did cover it as well. Although it was fairly well hidden.
    But yeah, it’s another hammer-blow to DWP policy.

  4. I can’t see this pennywise, pound foolish Government doing anything else other than bend the law to its purpose. They will be formulating an option that will be equally unfair to claimants. Lets hope their ‘confidence and supply’ allies follow their liberal interpretation of these laws and twist a few Tory arms against more panhandling!

  5. It’s about time that it was made illegal for the government to change laws regarding benefits behind closed doors! My mandatory reconsideration was eventually turned down and I have to go to tribunal, the decision was delayed in my opinion and that of my CPN, to deliberately make me miss deadline. My turn down letter contradicts itself in every sentence and my CPN says it makes no sense, it does however say that making me travel over 10 miles when my Dr sent letter saying I am unable to travel safely due to physical and mental illness, was in their opinion not detrimental to my mental health! and I still had to travel to jobclub! I am still trying to get help to fight my case with the help of my CPN but due to my postcode even he’s not found any for me yet

  6. I’m starting to wonder when the Government is going to cotton on to the fact that acting like utter bastards to the most vulnerable in the working age population is going to be ruled illegal.

    1. Tories NEVER will. The robber barons hanker for a return to feudalism. As long as the can get away with it, they will – and have demonstrated they’ll retrospectively change the law to get their avaricious way if the courts find against them.


    1. Quite correct…As long as the likes of hindson enable them to do so. 🙁

  8. I suppose it’s a tad unfair to blame the right wing press for not headlining their rags with this.

    Remember when murders used to be front page news? Now they’re too commonplace to all fit on the front page. It’s the same with all these tory balls-ups.

    Nah – I’m kiddin meself, aren’t I?

  9. Hey Skwarkbox,

    I am delighted that the Government has been overruled. Their defeat should have been broadcast as headline on every newspaper whilst the public were also reminded in no-uncertain terms of the shame they brought with their immoral reworking of the Job-Seekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013.

    Jeremy Hunt should now be extended an invitation to visit every benefit claimant who has suffered. He should also visit every street doorway across the UK where Homeless people exist and personally apologise for inflicting mediaeval levels of suffering on them.

    As always DWP’s response to a perfectly valid question suggests at nothing, remains ambiguous and without clarity or definition, and lacks substance or meaning. Also if DWP are impartial, who is the ‘we’ in their response to Skwarkbox? The royal we no doubt, of course.

    Namaste 🙂


    1. Not hunt’s brief – but yes – he should, along with every single other one of them miserable, thieving sh*ts in that reprehensible party and everyone what votes for them.

      Although that said – it encouraged dummkopf-schmitt to ‘go to town’ on the poor after he visited Easterhouse, so it’d probly do the same for the rest of them deviants.

      1. Thank you Toffee 🙂 I must have come away from Skwarkbox’s post on selling-off NHS Professionals sufficiently angered to ooops. It is human to err, it is inhuman for policy to inflict suffering upon its people.

        There isn’t much left for the Tories to take from either the most vulnerable or the tax-payer so as to line their own pockets. I’m bled dry.

        Whilst opinion polls advise of Labour’s advancing majority there is hope. Jeremy Corbyn will shortly be able to prove himself a great leader and comprehensibly fulfil public expectation in all ways.

        Namaste 🙂


  10. Not hunt’s brief – but yes – he should, along with every single other one of them miserable, thieving sh*ts in that reprehensible party and everyone what votes for them.

    Although that said – it encouraged dummkopf-schmitt to ‘go to town’ on the poor after he visited Easterhouse, so it’d probly do the same for the rest of them deviants.

  11. I am curious why we have not heard anything from Tory Troll Hindson on this so far , odd that he is not making any comment . Perhaps the Troll has a dilemma , support his beloved Tory party ( as he is a self confessed life long Tory voter ) but that would mean attacking and undermining the ruling of the Judges or the establishment which he is oh so keen to protect.Is this really the case , is it that he can’t plant any seeds of doubt , is it that he can’t undermine this FACT or is it just that he is an out and out hypocrite cherry picking whatever issues lend themselves to discrediting the Labour party and this blog .
    Proves my point in not taking a blind bit of notice on anything the Troll says .

  12. He should also visit every street room access across the UK where Homeless people be and personally apologise for inflicting mediaeval levels of excruciation on them. I am peculiar why we receive not heard anything from Tory Troll Hindson on this so far , peculiar that he is not making any scuttlebutt .

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