Social security: reviewing the decision-making system






June 2020 – May 2023

Grant Awarded



Project summary

Review of the problems with the social security decision-making system, make recommendations, and advocate for change.


The social security system now finds itself under unprecedented scrutiny and pressure, with almost 950,000 people applying for Universal Credit over a two-week period in March as the economic implications of Covid-19 hit. People with no previous experience of the social security system now find themselves caught up in it.

When benefits claims are wrongly rejected, appeals to remedy these decisions often take a long time leading to people who are already struggling facing even further hardship. In excess of 60% of Personal Independent Payment (PIP) appeals which reach the Tribunal are successful, suggesting fundamental problems with Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) decision-making on entitlements and a lack of institutional learning. The introduction of online benefits appeals across 2019-20 risks vulnerable people being unable to access the appeals system, the decision-making around their entitlements, and the prospect that the Tribunal will not be able to accurately observe and assess a claimant’s disability.

Project overview

Justice, along with the Administrative Justice Council, will jointly convene an expert Working Party to identify, explore and evaluate problems within the benefits decision-making system and make recommendations for systemic reform.

The Working Party will look to:

The primary aim of the Working Party is to ensure benefits decisions are made quickly and accurately. The objectives to achieve this aim are:

  • improve DWP decision-making;
  • change the departmental attitude and culture towards claimants;
  • improve the accuracy of medical assessments that inform benefits entitlements;
  • improve the accuracy of mandatory reconsideration decisions;
  • simplify and reduce wait times for the appeals process;
  • ensure digital processes are accessible and user-friendly for claimants.

It will also explore devolved decision-making, including comparative analysis of the new Scottish system. The Working Party will meet for nine months and its work will culminate in a report that proposes practical and realistic recommendations for reform.

Following publication of the report, Justice will enter a multi-year implementation and influencing period, where it will work with stakeholders and Government agencies to see the recommendations realised including the creation of an implementation plan.