Employment and Support Allowance

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 15th February 2011.

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Photo of Duncan Hames Duncan Hames Liberal Democrat, Chippenham 2:30 pm, 15th February 2011

If he will bring forward proposals to reduce the time taken by tribunals to determine the outcome of appeals against work capability assessments for employment and support allowance.

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The Tribunals Service has already acted to increase its capacity to dispose of more appeals. It expects to return to normal levels of work in hand for employment support and allowance appeals by the summer of 2011.

Photo of Duncan Hames Duncan Hames Liberal Democrat, Chippenham

In Chippenham, 50% of such appeals are consistently upheld. Those cases need never have arisen if the Government's assessor, Atos Healthcare, had had a sufficient incentive to get the decisions right in the first place. The cost to the Department and the taxpayer was about £10 million last year. Will the Minister discuss with the Department for Work and Pensions mechanisms by which the liability could be transferred from the taxpayer to the Government's contractor?

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I can confirm that the Department for Work and Pensions has worked to improve the quality of the original decision making and its reconsideration process so that only appropriate appeals filter through to the Tribunals Service. I am in regular contact with the Department to discuss the matter.