Mandatory reconsideration

Neil Bateman writes:

Many thanks to everyone who supplied examples of poor practice around MRs by DWP staff.  They were very effective.  Please continue to send me examples of bad practice in the light of the following:

The DWP accept that there have been widespread problems and have now issued Gatekeeper Memo 03.15.38 in an attempt to tackle the problems.  The main text of this is set out below.

 

I hope this helps people to challenge poor practice, but better still. I hope it stops poor practice happening.  Please do refer to it when making complaints.  However, I am still concerned about the wording of the guidance about explanations because , at best, it could be misunderstood. Also the point about late MR request is not correct; it’s not discretionary if the criteria are met

 

Extract from Gatekeeper Memo 03.15.38

 

“Background

We have received a number of contacts from customers and Customer Representative Groups (CRG) about misunderstanding in the Dispute process. These are mainly around the Mandatory Reconsideration (MR). The queries raised clearly show that there is widespread misunderstanding of the Dispute Process. Below are some of the complaints raised and clarification of the correct processes.


DWP staff are advising customers they must specify they want a MR

“Mandatory Reconsideration” is DWP terminology. It is not necessary for the customer to use those exact words in order to raise a dispute.


If a customer advises us they disagree with a decision, want us to look at it again, ask for a review, ask to appeal etc. the request should be treated as a request for an MR whether it is made in writing or verbally. 


DWP staff are advising customers and advisers that they must have an explanation or a review before they can apply for an MR, and in some cases being told that 2 explanations are required (one verbal and one written) before an MR can be requested

It was never the intention that full verbal or written explanations should be a mandatory requirement prior to an MR. The explanation, whether verbal or written, is a discretionary step and whether to undertake one should be driven by the customer. 


When a customer contacts DWP to dispute a decision they should be offered a full verbal and / or written explanation, but if the customer declines the offer (they may have had a previous explanation or they understand the decision but dispute it) they should then be referred straight for an MR.

 

MR responses are not described as such, meaning customers think they need to ask for an MR again rather than appealing

A Mandatory Reconsideration Notice should be sent in all cases where an MR decision outcome has been made.

DWP staff are effectively advising customers that it is not worth Appealing or indeed requesting an MR
Customers must be given the correct advice when contacting the Department to dispute a decision. If a customer thinks a decision is wrong we must follow the process outlined in this memo.

 

MR requests not being accepted by phone

All staff need to be aware that MRs can be accepted by phone and requests made by this route should be accepted without question.

 

Written requests for MRs not being received

All staff must be aware that written requests for an MR could be received and all correspondence should be checked to ensure MR requests are picked up as soon as possible on receipt by DWP

 

Refusal to accept late MRs

Acceptance of late MRs should be at the discretion of the Dispute Decision Maker and based on evidence provided by the customer for their reasons for the late submission.”

 

Neil Bateman LLB, Dip SA, CQSW, DMS, MEWI, APIL expert. Specialist adviser in welfare rights and social policy

Meeting in Stoke-on-Trent 6 Mar 2015

Our next meeting will take place on Friday 6 March at the University of Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent.

Our guest speakers will be Andrew Hood from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Jackie Cox from Church Action on Poverty.  Andrew will present his research on social security spending under the current coalition government and beyond.  Jackie will tell us about “The Real Benefits Street” a project giving voice to benefit claimants and dispelling media myths.

There will be workshops on students and welfare,  ESA caselaw developments around mobilising, mandatory reconsideration, and universal credit. It will also be an opportunity to find out about the courses offered by Staffordshire University.

The meeting will also act as NAWRA’s AGM.

The full agenda for the day is available now.

The meeting is free, but only NAWRA members may attend.  Contact Kelly to find out about joining NAWRA.

Evidence needed for social policy research

Mary O’Hara (social policy journalist and author of Austerity Bites) is looking for evidence to support her new project and is interested in hearing from claimants and advisers about the current difficulties/realities.  She is especially interested in:

  • Bedroom tax/housing and homelessness
  • Welfare changes/freezes/cuts to benefits
  • Food banks and poverty
  • Stress/mental health impact of cuts
  • Impact on women/children/single parents/disabled people
  • Local government cuts: social care/crisis loans etc..
  • Regional impact

She would appreciate our help with this and would love to hear from you about your experiences and also from any clients who would be willing to tell her their story.  She would welcome any documents/case studies/reports that you have.  Please email kelly@nawra.org.uk

 

Sanctions – can you help?

NAWRA understands that ITV news are planning another feature about sanctions very shortly.

If NAWRA members have any clients who have been unfairly sanctioned, and who could either be interviewed or be used as part of anonymised case studies, please contact Penny Marshall on 0207 430 4541 or 07876 313 533 asap.

Thanks. And happy new year.