Monday, 14 November 2011

Case #4: What Harrington Won't Look At

The BBC must be trying to get back in somebody's good books after the atrocious double-whammy of The Future Of The Welfare State and Panorama: Britain On The Fiddle within a week of each other, timed suspiciously with the nearing of the Welfare Reform Bill's conclusion in Parliament. On Monday a local programme for the East of England, Inside Out will be investigating the appeals made against ESA decisions. They put an article about it up in advance on their website and it pretty much just recycles what everyone that actually gives a crap about the issue has known for over a year. The interesting bit is the response from Atos.
Inside Out asked Atos to comment on the high number of incorrect assessments.
The company said it focused on quality and satisfaction but it was "recognised by all parties" that the number of appeals "is higher than would be liked" but the total number of appeals was just 7% of all the assessments it carried out.
7%? I've heard this figure before but not for 'total number of assessments'. Previously it was the figure quoted for the proportion of successful appeals out of the total for ESA, a figure which I also thought smelled. Here's why.

The BBC quotes the figure of 146,200 as the total number of appeals heard to date, which seems accurate. The total number of ESA claimants with the latest figures (February 2011 though the May figures should become available in a few weeks) is 631,350. That doesn't come out as 7% to me. It's closer to 23%. The BBC numbers successful appeals at 56,500 which is 8.9% but it's possible that the BBC figures are up to date whilst the ESA total is from February and may have grown since then.

But wait, something is still wrong. The ESA total is a biased sample because half of them are still in the Assessment Phase. They either haven't had an assessment or they are in the process of appealing against a decision. It would be dishonest to include new claims and claims pending an appeal. This doesn't seem to stop the likes of the Taxpayers Alliance doing so, but it doesn't mean we have to; we're actually interested in the truth at The Files.

Remove the Assessment Phase claimants and the figure you are left with is 303,480 as those who are in the Support, WRAG or 'unknown' category(I don't know either). I don't know for sure if the 56,500 figure is of people that were turned down for ESA completely or if some of them were put in the WRAG when they strongly felt they belonged in the Support Group. I will go on the assumption that the vast majority were turned down completely and round it down to 50,000. So 50,000 out of 300,000 are successful appeals, 16% of the total are due to successful appeals. 48% of decisions were appealed in total. Among those which had support we know the success rate increases to 70% but I haven't yet been able to find out just exactly how many this is.

What's interesting about the number of appeals, 48%(146,200) is that it seems to be fairly close to the figure for Assessment Phase claimants that are not new claimants. I'd puzzled over this since it was pointed out to me. But wait, aren't these appeals that are over, they've finished? Surely it's not right to extract a 'only X number of appeals were successful' claim from it? Well either these are the figures for appeals that are done or appeals which are yet to be concluded and these have dragged on and on. It presents two scenarios:

1. If the official figure for the number of appeals means concluded appeals, then a huge chunk of the Assessment Phase claims are new and pending appeals. This means the number of appeals from now since 2008 is being vastly downplayed.

2. If the official figure is all appeals including past and present ones, then how is the Assessment Phase so big? Appeals that are finished and were found in favour of the DWP would either be in the WRAG or on JSA and off the Assessment Phase. If I exclude those who have a claim duration of less than 6 months then that still leaves over 120,000 people according to the DWP tabulation tool who are in the Assessment Phase. These people seem to be waiting an awfully long time to get through their appeals or assessments. If the figure is just for current appeals and doesn't include past ones that are done with, I don't want to even go there. According to this DWP report from April last year, only 29% of appeals had been heard since 2008 as of that date. Wonder if there's an updated one somewhere.

I don't speculate in a Case #4(or try not to) but I don't think anyone has enough information to make certain claims about how many appeals in total or as a proportion have been won or lost because we don't know for sure how many appeals there has even been or pending. The system is a mess and I don't really trust Malcolm Harrington to come out and say it(in fact I believe he needs to go as he has been blatantly partisan in favour of the government and against claimants).

1 comment:

  1. Had a chance to re-read through and I think I fudged some bits. Will add corrections soon. It's largely because of confusion over whether the figure for appeals is concluded appeals or pending appeals. It requires me to make an assumption.