Thousands of disabled North Lanarkshire people challenge the Government at benefits tribunal

Thousands of people in North Lanarkshire have taken the Government to tribunal over disability benefit payments – and more than half won, figures show.
Patient in a wheelchair.Patient in a wheelchair.
Patient in a wheelchair.

Thousands of people in North Lanarkshire have taken the Government to tribunal over disability benefit payments – and more than half won, figures show.

Since 2013, hundreds of thousands of benefits decisions have been overturned across the UK after disabled people battled a "complex and distressing" appeals system to win their case at tribunal, disability charities say.

Anyone denied Personal Independence Payment – which covers the additional expenses faced by people with disabilities and is worth between £23 and £150 a week – can request a reconsideration.

If someone is still unhappy with the result of this, they can further appeal it at an independent tribunal.

Department for Work and Pensions data shows roughly 3,660 cases from North Lanarkshire were taken to tribunal between April 2013 and the end of 2021.

Around 53% saw the DWP's decision overturned in their favour over the period.

Nationally, claimants have won more than two-thirds of the cases that have reached tribunal since 2013.

Nina Huszarik, lead policy adviser at charity Scope, said far too many disabled people received the wrong decision first time around and were left without financial support as a result.

She said an enormous number of disabled people's lives had been thrown into turmoil by "failures of the benefits system", with many not well enough to face the mental and physical stress and exhaustion of taking their cases to appeal.

Overall, the DWP assessed 39,800 applications for PIP from people in North Lanarkshire between 2013 and 2021, with the benefit awarded in 27,064 (68%) cases.

Dissatisfaction with initial decisions led to 8,570 people submitting an initial mandatory reconsideration request, with 17% of those awards changed as a result.

Both Scope and charity Disability Rights UK say they have worked with many disabled people who had been assessed by DWP workers without appropriate knowledge of their condition.

Ken Butler, from Disability Rights UK said this resulted in "poor and inaccurate initial medical assessments" by people who did not understand the nature and effects of disabilities.

Ms Huszarik added: “We hear about assessors having to Google people’s conditions during the assessment because they’ve never even heard of it.

“Disabled people must have the right to an assessor who understands the true impact of their condition and how it might fluctuate.

"To make the system work, disabled people must get the right decision first time round.”

Mr Butler said a tribunal hearing was often the first time a claimant "felt properly listened to".

A DWP spokesman said the overturned cases represented just a fraction of millions of decisions made following assessments and said the majority of PIP decisions were right.

He added: "All assessments were carried out by professionals trained to consider the impact of an individual's condition or disability, but we are exploring what more we can do so the welfare system better meets the needs of disabled people through our Health and Disability Green Paper."

The DWP now allows more time for applicants to gather information to support their claim.