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Employment and Support Allowance

Volume 577: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2014

5. What progress he has made in ensuring that the judiciary provide the Department for Work and Pensions and appellants with reasons for their conclusions in appeals against employment and support allowance. (903097)

The hon. Lady will appreciate that the provision of this information is a matter for the judiciary. However, they have agreed to provide the Department for Work and Pensions and appellants with summary reasons for their decisions in employment and support allowance appeals. That approach was successfully piloted at four tribunal venues from June 2013 and will be rolled out later this year.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but the most recent statistics show that 45% of ESA appeals are successful. That is a slightly higher figure than in the previous set of statistics and suggests that the flow of information that could ensure that the decisions are right first time is still not happening. When will we see a published proper evaluation of what is going on?

The pilot programme is now being rolled out and we need to see its full impact. The DWP has found the information it has been given very useful and as a consequence it is in the process of revising the guidance for decision makers. It is to be hoped that the decisions taken as a consequence will be of a much better standard.

In Kettering, benefit claimants who appeal against refusals sometimes have to wait for more than 40 weeks for their appeals to be heard. That is completely unacceptable and involves some of the longest waits in the whole country. What is being done by the Department to tackle these long waiting times?

My hon. Friend will appreciate that that is the legacy of the previous Government and that the backlog is being dealt with—[Interruption.] I appreciate that this is difficult for the Opposition, but the truth often hurts—[Interruption.]

Order. There is a lot of very raucous noise from those on the Opposition Benches. The Minister is a very courteous fellow and he is trying to address—[Interruption.] Order. He is trying to address the House. Let us hear him.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I can assure my hon. Friend we are dealing with the backlog, which is going down.