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30 July 2008
The DWP have accused ‘professional third parties’ of wasting the department’s time by encouraging people to claim DLA even where they know that the chances of success are very slim.

A report commissioned by the DWP and published this month appears to blame the high disallowance rate solely on the ‘speculative’ claims of individuals, often supported by advisers, rather than – for example – poor standards of decision making by the DWP.

The report points out that 52% of all claims for DLA are turned down resulting in a ‘considerable waste of time, effort and resources.’ Key findings in the report, which was based on interviews with 100 failed applicants, are that:

“There was a low level of knowledge about DLA and widespread lack of understanding about criteria for entitlement. Applicants frequently confused DLA with out-of-work benefits and made the assumption that it was a ‘substitute’ for the ability to work.

Almost all claims were ‘triggered’ by advice from a third-party, with these third parties sometimes also being responsible for reinforcing misconceptions about the benefit.

Professional advice and support for a claim from a health, welfare or benefits professional was often decisive in the decision to apply, even in cases where the claimant themselves had serious doubts about their eligibility and chance of success.

Ill-informed and part-informed views about DLA predominated, and in general, applicants were found to place far greater store by word of mouth, than they did by formal written information sources.

There was a high level of speculative applications with little expectation of success.”

The report claims that the ‘most evident misunderstanding' about DLA was a belief that simply being out of work was sufficient to be eligible. Applicants also failed to understand the requirement to demonstrate care and mobility needs of sufficient severity and the need to show they had lasted at least 3 months and were likely to last at least another six.

The vast majority of those interviewed had been advised or encouraged by a third party to make an application and often carried on with the process even when they had serious doubts about their own eligibility.

The report claims that ‘certain institutions’ and ‘certain individual professionals’ encourage every client they come into contact with to ‘give it a go with a DLA application’.

The most common reaction of those refused DLA was resignation, though some were shocked and some angry that they had been wrongly advised to claim. None of those in the group studied had appealed the decision, with all having passed the deadline for doing so. Those who had received the most detailed decision letters were the least likely to have even thought about challenging the decision.

To reduce the proportion of disallowed claims, the report recommends, amongst other measures, changing the name of the benefit, filtering out more potential applicants at ‘points of contact’ and, to this end, bringing the provision of DLA claim packs entirely in-house so that claimants can only apply by first communicating with the DWP.

One glaring omission in the report, however, is the failure to consider that a significant proportion of those refused the benefit may have been wrongly assessed. The fact that the claimants accepted the DWP’s decision that they were not entitled does not in any way prove that they were, in reality, ineligible as the high success rate of claimants who appeal a DLA refusal clearly demonstrates.

You can download the full report from this link.