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30 October 2005

Documents leaked to Benefits and Work show that a radical new computerised information system designed to replace the Disability Handbook may drastically alter who gets disability living allowance, with potentially both winners and losers.

The new Customer Case Management (CCM) system relies almost entirely on externally verifiable factors - such as prescribed aids and adaptations, involvement of health professionals and visible signs or symptoms - for decision making and takes virtually no account of the claimant's own evidence of how their condition affects them. The new system is already being piloted in Bootle and Manchester. If, as seems likely, it is also to be used in conjunction with the DLA e-form available from December for secure online claiming , then for some claimants there may be an advantage in using the e-form, whilst others may need to avoid it at all costs.

Decision Makers are told by CCM how to decide, using verifiable information, whether a claimant has a moderate, mild or severe condition and what level of award is likely to be appropriate. Benefits and Work has received a copy of the guidance relating to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and ME, but the new system covers all the major health conditions for which DLA is commonly awarded. If adopted nationally, the new system will affect both new claimants and existing claimants when their awards come up for renewal.

In relation to CFS/ME the new system suggests that claimants with mild or moderate CFS/ME are unlikely to be eligible for any rate of DLA whatsoever, even if the condition has lasted for years. Claimants with severe ME as defined by the computerised information system, however, seem to have very good prospects of an award of both the mobility and the care component.

If the same pattern is repeated across other conditions then it seems likely that there will be both winners and losers under the new system. Those with the right support in place may benefit from higher and longer awards whilst those who have had less contact with health professionals or who do not have the correct signs or symptoms, may lose out or be obliged to appeal to have any hope of an award.

Full article, including detailed extracts from the CFS/ME guidance, members only.