Lack of DWP officials in benefits tribunals could hamper chances of success

The Telegraph reports on the lack of DWP officials attending benefits tribunals, which has the potential of resulting in ineligible claimants maintaining their claims, after evidence has suggested that the DWP is more likely to lose cases when its officials are not in attendance and the courts rely on written statements. Benefits tribunals numbers have increased to more than 250,000 since DWP Secretary Ian Duncan Smith introduced stricter rules and tests on claimant eligibility, with DWP officers attending only 4.3% of cases in the period April-December 2013, down from nearly 8% in 2010 and 40% in 2000.

Statistics have shown that, last year decisions by DWP were upheld in 57% of the cases when an officer was in attendance, while the success rate fell to 49% when no official was present, with the difference attributed to a lack of cross-examination of witnesses. Judges have also expressed criticism on the lack of representation, as this forces them to make the DWP’s case, potentially compromising their independence, as well as not allowing them to give proper feedback to the Department on their decisions.