From 28 October, where a claimant is investigated by the DWP as a result of a false accusation of fraud, they will automatically lose their DLA and be forced to make a claim for PIP, even if found to be entirely innocent. The new DWP policy is legally questionable and is likely to cause enormous distress to claimants, whilst rewarding hate-callers.
The change in DWP policy has come about because of the roll-out of PIP to existing claimants which begins at the end of this month.
According to PIP regulations, after 28 October if ‘a DLA entitled person . . . notifies the Secretary of State of a change of circumstances’ they will be ‘invited’ to claim PIP instead.
In other words, if you are getting DLA and you inform the DWP that your condition is getting better or worse, then you will be assessed for PIP rather than for DLA.
In March of this year the DWP published a PIP toolkit which included a number of factsheets about the PIP claims process. Included in factsheet 6 was confirmation of how changes of circumstances would be treated:
From October 2013, DWP will start to write to the following existing DLA claimants, inviting them to claim PIP. The invitation will explain how to make a claim, and the time limits for making a claim:
• claimants who choose to claim PIP (selfselectors) can do so from this date
• those DLA claimants who report a change in their care or mobility needs will be invited to claim PIP
However, in September the wording of the second bullet point was changed, so that it now states that amongst those who will be invited to claim PIP will be:
• those claimants where we receive information that there has been a change in their care or mobility needs
So, it appears it will not just be where the claimant themselves inform the DWP of a change of circumstances that they will be assessed for PIP, as the law requires.
Instead, where someone else, including a malicious neighbour or relative using the anonymous National Benefit Fraud Hotline, reports that the claimant is no longer in need of help with care or mobility, the claimant will still lose their DLA and be assessed for PIP instead.
This approach appears to be confirmed by a poster on Rightsnet who explained:
“At our local JC+/customer/representative forum meeting last week a DWP partner support manager brought the following change of wording to the attention of the meeting (second bullet point on page one of link)
“In his words anyone who was ‘bubbled’ (shopped) would be taken as if they were a ‘self selector’ in the DLA/PIP reassessments.”
The decision about whether the claimant has been committing fraud must still be based on the DLA criteria.
But even if it is decided that there has been absolutely no change in their condition and they are the victim of a misguided or deliberately malicious informant, the claimant will still lose their DLA and have to claim PIP instead.
It will undoubtedly be cheaper and more convenient for the DWP to assess claimants for PIP at the same time as they are investigating them for DLA fraud. It saves coming back and looking at their claim again at the proper time.
However, we know that large numbers of people are likely to lose out under the transfer from DLA to PIP, including some people with mobility problems and some people who need supervision because of serious mental health conditions. Being assessed early for PIP, in some cases possibly by three or more years, will therefore be a serious blow.
That, simply for administrative convenience, the DWP are prepared to inflict this blow and in the process collude with hate-filled anonymous callers, says a great deal about the way that claimants are now viewed by the state.
Benefits and Work have made a Freedom of Information request to try to uncover what guidance has been issued on how to treat DLA claimants accused of fraud after 28th October.
Thanks to Mick Quinn on Rightsnet for highlighting this issue