Skip to main content

The Appeals Process against the Sanctioning and Removal of State Benefits

Volume 577: debated on Monday 17 March 2014

The Humble Petition of Jerry Lonsdale, a Lay Advocate/McKenzie Friend residing in Merseyside, England,

Declares that, the Petitioner’s client, Miss Deborah Davies residing in Merseyside, England, who was a Litigant in Person, found herself in severe hardship for a period of over two years following significant delays in the determination of her appeal(s) against sanctions placed upon her by the Department of Work and Pensions, thus, accumulating in the none receipt of state benefits for these said periods:-

1. 20/04/2012-03/05/2012

2. 27/04/2012-25/10/2012

3. 11/05/2012-08/11/2012

The Petitioner assisted Miss Davies throughout the whole of the appeals process, over two years, which reached its conclusion on the 6th day of March 2014, the concluding decision was the Appeal was allowed and the sanctions were wrongly applied.

The Petitioner asserts that those hardships faced by his client as well as the lack of Legal Aid assistance further compounded the difficulties in the way in which his client was able to pursue her such appeal to its conclusion,

The Petitioner recognises that there is no Legal Aid support for those people who wish to argue against a sanction or sanctions made against them, through the Tribunal Process. The Petitioner believes that it is difficult for someone to believe the equality of arms when a Litigant in Person is challenging the appealed decisions, alone, whereas in matters contained within this Petition are opposed or challenged by the respective Departments, notably the Department for Work and Pensions, those oppositions are progressed through the process by the use of Tax Payer funded Counsel or Representing Officers.

The Petitioner raises that, in this specific appeal, the Department for Work and Pensions failed on all occasions to attend any preliminary, or directional hearings, nor was there any Representing Officer present during the final hearing of the said appeal, despite the requests made by Her Gracious Majesties Courts and Tribunals Service, on six separate occasions, over a two-year period, the respective Department failed to communicate or respond to those requests made by HMCTS, and, failed to attend on all six reported occasions.

The Petitioner raises that, during a directional hearing on the 25 May 2013, the Tribunal Judge, Mr Cooke, requested that, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Rt. Honourable lain Duncan Smith MP do attend at the next timetabled hearing in order to explain the notable failings of his Department, again the Petitioner notes that his attendance did not happen, however, the respective Department simply applied to the Tribunal for a stay of proceedings,

The Petitioner asserts that from the 25 May 2013 until the conclusion of the appeal on the 6 March 2014 the Department for Work and Pensions applied on four separate occasions for a stay of proceedings, those stays were granted because of the Department’s exclusive powers contained within Section 26 of the Social Security Act 1998 to stay, any and all appeals within that calendar years legislation, pending the outcome of a test case, the Petitioner asserts that, that was an abuse of power due to the Petitioner’s Clients Appeal which fell outside the parameters of the test case and was made significantly prior to that of the test case being made, and, that the test case was challenging the consequential years legislation, that year being 2012 and not 2011 as in the Petitioners Clients Appeal.

The Petitioner had applied for the Tribunal Court not to accept the application made for the stays applied for by the Department of Work and Pensions, however, until the start of this year, the Petitioners applications were not responded upon.

The Petitioner wholeheartedly asserts that, due to the significant delays in reaching the conclusion of his Client’s Appeal, Miss Deborah Davies suffered undue and severe hardship and was prevented from concluding her appeal matters in a timeframe that reduced those hardships faced. The detrimental effect further compounded Miss Deborah Davies’s place in society in that she was on many occasions destitute and in significant risk of losing her home due to the sanctions placed upon her by the Department of Work and Pensions.

The Petitioner therefore requests that the House of Commons Justice Committee investigates the procedures that are used within the English and Welsh Tribunal Courts, and that the House of Commons Justice Committee calls for the provision of independent legal assistance for those people who wish to appeal against Department of Work and Pensions Sanctions, the Petitioner also requests that the same Committee urgently review the benefit appeal process in the view that delays and not attendance by Representing Officers does not further delay any of the appeal process similar to those aforementioned above.

The Petitioner further requests that the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee investigates procedures and formulates fresh legislation for when people who are faced with applied Sanctions, do not face compounded and further hardships until the outcome of any applied appeals are concluded, in that, the person appealing should still be entitled to receive State assistance through a state benefit, including any required Housing Benefit.

The Petitioner finally requests that the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee make available a direct compensation scheme open to those people who through no fault of their own are faced with those difficulties outlined within this Petition, specifically, those people significantly affected by the noted failing state benefit appeal processes, most notably, when an appeal is found in favour of the appellant, costs incurred by the appellant should be recoverable and compensation should be duly made available to the appellant.

And your petitioner, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by John Hemming.]