In 2012, the Tory-led Government committed to implement a number of measures to bring down the average waiting time for an Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) appeal hearing in Coventry – which had increased significantly during their time in office from 14.3 weeks in 2009-10 to 55 weeks in 2012-13.
Whilst the average ESA appeal waiting time in Coventry appears to have decreased since 2012 – according to figures released by the Ministry of Justice – it is still well above the national and regional averages.
In response to a Parliamentary Questions asked by Bob, the Ministry of Justice revealed that the average length of time for the Tribunals Service to administer an ESA appeal in Coventry was as high as 30.8 weeks during the period January to September 2013 (the latest period for which figures are available). This is well above the national average in England and Wales which stood as low as 18.8 weeks during the same period and 24.8 weeks in the West Midlands.
These figures reveal that those whose appeals were heard in Coventry were likely to wait as long as an extra 12 weeks for the disposal of their appeal when compared with the national average in England and Wales.
It was further revealed that average waiting times in Coventry have been persistently higher than the regional and national averages over the same period.
Moreover, the Ministry of Justice has issued statistics which show that the percentage of ESA appeals decided in favour of the appellant in the first three quarters of 2013 in Coventry stood at 45% (January to March), 48% (April to June) and 40% (July to September). These figures clearly show that had the original decision to disallow a claimant’s ESA been made correctly in the first place, there would have been nearly half as many appeals in Coventry over the period. This would have freed up capacity in the courts and ensured that appeals were heard in a timelier manner.
“These figures clearly demonstrate that appellants in Coventry are consistently waiting longer on average for their appeals to be heard than those in other areas of the country. This undoubtedly disadvantages those in Coventry, many of whom are already in a vulnerable position, and adds additional stress and anxiety to what is already a difficult process.
“It is clear that the Government must take further steps to increase capacity across the Tribunals Service, as well as take action to increase the accuracy of initial decision making. It is only by taking this affirmative action that waiting times in Coventry will start to fall further and faster and at the very least reach parity with the national average.”