Anti-claimant tales appeared in the Daily Mail and Telegraph again last week when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released a misleading story reporting that only 6 per cent of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants having face to face contact with a doctor before decisions are made on their claims.
To be fair the Mail followed this up next day with a rebuttal from a disabled people’s charity. Tom Pollard from Mind, a mental health charity, said: ‘People living on sickness benefits are not living the high life, with many struggling to stay warm, feed themselves and remain healthy. Benefits pay for a very basic standard of living and any further cuts would have a drastic effect’
Mark Lever, of the National Autistic Society, added that figures suggesting disabled benefit claimants just had to ‘fill out a form’ were grossly misleading.
Nevertheless, a large number of readers of both papers have been given a false impression of what happens when someone claims DLA. There is so much wrong with the DWP’s press release that it is difficult to know where to begin, so we might as well go back to the introduction of the DLA back in 1992.
Previously, the equivalent benefit was Attendance Allowance (now only payable to over 65s) and every claimant received a home visit from an Examining Medical Practitioner (EMP) after completing a short application form. The new claim pack for DLA, on the other hand, is gigantic in comparison. It was created to be so, in order to save money by asking for so much information that a visit from an EMP would, in most cases, no longer be necessary. As the years have gone by, EMP visits on an initial claim have just about become extinct as a result of further cost-cutting at the DWP.
Anyone who has filled in a DLA claim pack knows that it is certainly not a question of ticking boxes. I defy any new claimant to complete one in less than a couple of hours and I have known people to take 6 months over one.
The form appears to ask the same questions repeatedly and although boxes are there to be ticked, it is vital that further information be given on the same page.
No matter how extensively and accurately a form is filled in, the chance of a successful claim is hugely compromised if the page headed ‘Statement from someone who knows you’ is not completed. It is rarely deemed satisfactory for that page, endorsing the claimant’s own case, to be filled in by a friend or relative. Often an applicant’s doctor needs to complete this section for them to stand a decent chance of successfully claiming DLA. Ironically, this is the only section of the form headed ‘Please note, this page does not have to be filled in.’ Having invited claimants not to ask their doctor for support, it is therefore rich indeed for the DWP to then complain about the lack of face to face contact with medical professionals.
The claim pack also asks for details of a claimant’s GP, and anyone else they might have seen for their particular condition(s), The DWP then has the option, if not swayed either way by the information provided by a claimant, to write to the people concerned and to send them a questionnaire about their patient’s capabilities. In my long and extensive experience, virtually nobody is awarded DLA without there being some medical opinion in support of their claim.
The DWP’s press release is, in fact, a piece of Government propaganda, released to their favourite newspapers in order to spread more disinformation about claimants and to suggest that the benefit system is simple to defraud. Perhaps it is time the DWP (previously the DHSS and later the DSS) changed its brand name again; in homage to George Orwell and 1984, maybe The Ministry of Truth would be more appropriate.Tags: Domestic (UK)
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This post was written by Felix McHugh