SOME GUIDANCE ON THE DLA REVIEW
MY DISCLAIMER - I hope that the following information is clear and explains what is a complex and somewhat stressful procedure that claimants may face this year or next year. The views expressed below are my own personal views and opinions and should not be relied upon by any person or organisation as a legal source of information.
There is a lot of information to digest so I have tried to keep relatively jargon free.
POLITICAL HISTORY BEHIND THE CURRENT WELFARE REFORMS!
When Tony Blair (The New Labour Government) was elected into office in 1997, he believed that the welfare benefits system needed to be completely overhauled to encourage people to seek work and not live a life reliant on state benefits. This was to be a radical review of ALL state benefits in an attempt to reduce the growing number of people being dependent on state benefits, and the ensuing burgeoning bill to the economy. The Government introduced the Social Security Act 1998 which would enable it to overturn previous benefit awards. It was however allegedly decided in 2000, that to introduce such a radical review would potentially cost him and his Government the next election. So the plans were shelved.
In the past few years however there appears to have been an all party consensus that the benefit bill had to be reduced and that Radical steps had to be taken to break the culture of parents living all their adult life off benefits and their children assuming that they would also be able to rely on state benefits when they grew up and had children of their own. There is also a predicted vast increase in the number of state Pensioners who will live longer and need benefits for much longer.
It is widely known that the Tabloid press condemns any body living off state benefits, with a large proportion of people working and paying taxes in agreement.
As the economy is apparently showing signs of slowing down, the Government Spending Review last year reduced budgets for all spending departments. Savings had to be made and the ever expanding welfare benefit budget was seen as a primary target. All other Government spending departments are facing vastly reduced budgets for 2008/09.
This budget reduction is a matter of fact that we all have to accept. I personally believe that it is immoral for this Government to target sick and vulnerable people but it appears set on its present course of radical benefit reforms.
THE EFFECT ON PEOPLE RECEIVING AA AND DLA BENEFITS
In May 2006 the DWP held meetings with the Disability Services Commission (DSC). This was to request the DSC to undertake a wide ranging review of current disability claims and the level of the awards. Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance being seen as potential areas to make savings. It was decided that a number of people who had been awarded DLA under the Special Rules had survived much longer than was anticipated and that people awarded AA and DLA under normal rules no longer needed the level of care due to the current advances in medicine and medical treatments.
In 2007 the government resurrected the Radical Review Program and introduced a cost cutting exercise to look at all benefit entitlements and payments, called the Right Payment Programme (RPP) in an attempt to reduce the benefit bill to the tax payer (The Government). This change in operating procedures for the DWP needed no primary legislation to enable it, as this is allowed under the Social Security Act 1998 introduced by this New Labour Government.
The DSC reported back to the DWP that they would undertake a pilot exercise as allowed under the Social Security Act 1999. This allows the DSC to carry out a pilot exercises to ascertain facts as to the efficacy of current benefit entitlements and their effective cost benefit ratio to the tax payer (the government in real terms).
In early 2007 the DSC held talks with various bodies that represented affected groups such as THT, Macmillan cancer, Haemophiliac and Age concern. It was agreed that a pilot scheme would look at 12,000 cases and report back with recommendations. The DSC found that a large proportion of people awarded DLA indefinitely under Special Rules, who had previously been exempt from periodic review, were in fact still alive many years after the initial diagnosis that they could reasonably be expected to die within six months from the signing of the DS1500. The exercise produced facts that a number of people were in fact still alive and in reasonably good health, that would not qualify them under normal DLA/MOB rules to obtain the level of benefit they had.
In late 2007 the DWP decided to extend the exercise for a further 12 months until December 2008. Again using a sample base of 12,000 claimants to see how many people had survived for at least 5 years post their DS1500 reports. The sample would be for all people regardless of their medical condition that was recorded on their DS1500. The sample would be broken down to look at people under the age of 55 and this group would be divided with 8,000 being targeted and the remaining 4,000 being selected at random.
The form used would be called a DBD551 and would ask the claimant for their Consultant, GP or carer names and address and a list of the current medication and what is was for. The form DBD551 should be returned ASAP as any unreasonable delay may indicate to the DWP that the claimant has died resulting in their benefit being stopped.
This pilot scheme as laid out in the Social Security Act 1998, states that claimants in a pilot scheme which should be for twelve months in duration, should not suffer any benefit reduction that puts them at disadvantage to all the other claimants receiving the benefit that were not part of the pilot scheme. The current pilot scheme will report back in December 2008 and then next year look at people aged 65 and under using the same sample criteria.
However that said, under the RPP as mentioned above, the DWP does now have the right to review any benefit that has been awarded for whatever reason. So it is a real possibility that people who are in the pilot scheme could be reviewed under the RPP. The information given to the DWP from the claimant’s doctors on the DBD551 could be used to trigger a review under the Right Payment Programme. The decision maker could then request more information from the claimant.
It is believed that the DWP will use (but this not definitive yet) CD4 counts under 200 and Viral loads along with any AIDS defining opportunistic infections to decide on any entitlement to DLA/MOB for an indefinite period. AIDS is defined as a terminal disease and would apparently satisfy the Terminal Illness condition, but HIV infection would not.
If any person is reviewed under the RPP and their benefit entitlement is reduced or withdrawn, they have a right to ask the DWP to review their decision and supply the DWP with any information that they feel would help their claim for DLA/MOB. This must be submitted within 28 days of the date of the benefit reduction date.
People also have the right to ask the DWP Decision Maker to forward copies of the medical reports that have been requested from the claimant’s doctors (you could challenge this information if the Doctor has not given a full report on your condition) if this does not change the DWP original decision then the claimant has the right to ask for an oral hearing at an independent DWP tribunal. Legal Aid should be available for people who are on low income or IS.
At this time it is still a matter of wait and see what happens. Some people will have their DLA award looked at again under the Periodic Review if they received their DLA under normal rules. Some people will have their awards reviewed under the Special Rules exercise if the DLA was awarded because of a DS1500 certificate.
People who currently have DLA awarded at the higher rate are exempt from the Personal Capably Test (PCT), this a test of what people are unable physically do. If their rate of DLA is reduced to middle or lower rate then they can be assessed under the PCT. Currently the PCT looks at what people are unable to physically do.
That said a new piece of legislation introduced early this year called The Welfare Reform Act 2007 allows the government to tender out to private companies, and for them to get people who are deemed fit, back into work. These private companies will retrain people and get the person into a job that lasts for at least six months. They will be paid by the Government on their results. Incapacity Benefit (IB) and Income Support (IS) will be replaced with a new benefit called the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in October 2008, and people will be assessed on what they can physically and mentally do. This new test will replace the current PCT. The Employment and Support Allowance will be for all new claimants after October 2008. Existing claims will remain the same for the time being.
The new test will be called the Work Capability Test and will look at what people can physically do as opposed to presently what they are unable to do. These changes will be introduced in October 2008 for all new claimants. If people are deemed fit for work and they refuse to retrain or take a reasonable job offer, then they could have their benefit reduced or stopped.
I believe that this year will see massive changes to the state benefit system and it would appear that the Government is determined to see these reforms through.
I have not include the detailed sections of the legislation or the relevant volumes, chapters and subsections of the DWP Decision Makers Guide it would make this document at least twice as long. You have probably had enough of this by now anyway.