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27 August 2008
After many months of trying, Benefits and Work has obtained a report setting out who is most likely to be targeted by the DWP’s Right Payment Programme (RPP) and whether some conditions are being looked at more than others.

Right payment programme victimRPP checks the awards of 12,000 DLA claimants each year and has caused great concern amongst disabled people and their representatives, particularly because of the removal of almost all exemptions. Under the old system of periodic reviews, certain claimants including those receiving higher rate mobility and higher or middle care who were over 65 or had one of a range of serious conditions were exempt.

Now, however, cases of older claimants with very long-standing awards having them removed under RPP and then reinstated by a tribunal have been detailed by welfare rights workers.

Benefits and Work can now reveal that those with indefinite awards of DLA which have been in payment for many years seem to be most likely to be targeted by RPP. In addition, whilst for adults no particular condition is likely to be targeted, for children the report gives a list of conditions least likely to be subject to change. This suggests that for children, conditions not on the list are most likely to be subject to scrutiny.

However, the report also reveals that the majority of awards looked at again via renewal or supersession result in an increase in the level of award.

According to the DWP, the RPP is divided into two strands: strand 1 is a random selection of 3,750 DLA claimants a year; strand 2 – the larger group of 8,250 – is made up of ‘those cases with the greatest propensity to change (based on information provided by Operational Research).’

So, back in November 2007, we made a request under the Freedom of Information Act for any documents which showed which DLA claimants had the ‘greatest propensity to change’.

Initially our request was refused on the grounds that the DWP needed more time to decide whether it would be against the public interest to let us have it. In the end, after many months of being unable to think of a reason why the public interest would be harmed, the DWP finally handed over a two page document which is the executive summary of a report entitled ‘DLA cohort analysis report to customer error working group’ produced by DCS Operational Research in January 2007.

The report is an analysis of the effect of renewals and supersessions on DLA awards – a supersession is the process of looking again at an award of DLA that is currently in payment, either at the request of the claimant or instigated by the DWP, because there may have been a change of circumstances.

The report found that 56% of adults had their award changed at renewal as against 40% of children.

Children with the following conditions were least likely to have their award changed at renewal:

Cardiovascular
Digestive
Mental/Behavioural
Muscular-Skeletal
Sensory

Changes of award for children were most likely to occur at ages 4-5 and 6-7.

The time since the original award was important. Renewals occurring within 3 years of a claim were less likely to change than renewals after a longer period.

The result of a change in award at renewal was likely to be away from a single component to the claimant receiving both components and a rise in payment of, on average £10 for children and £3 for adults.

The report found that 79% of children’s awards and 83% of adult awards were changed as a result of a supersession.

For both children and adults the change in award was likely to result in an increase in the amount of DLA paid. For children the increase in value was £24 on average whilst for adults it was £31.

The change was generally away from a single component award to an award of both components.

For adults, the older the claimant the more likely there was to be a change

The report recommends that for adults ‘reviews are targeted on cases that have been in payment for longest without an intervening event’.

For children the report also recommends that awards that have been in place for the longest be checked, but also that ‘There are also some disabling conditions that are more likely to change than others; these could be targeted in any reviews.’

The report doesn’t reveal which these conditions are, but as seen above, does set out which conditions amongst children are least likely to change.

It is important to bear in mind that the number of claimants being checked under RPP is relatively small: just 12,000 out of over three million claimants. However that is no consolation to those who actually are targeted.

Equally important is the evidence that where claims are looked at again under processes other than RPP, the likelihood is that awards will go up rather than down. There seems to be no reason why this should not also be the case under RPP.

What is depressing, however, is that those most likely to be targeted under RPP appear to be the very people who were exempt under the old system. It is people with the most serious conditions giving rise to indefinite awards, which by their nature remain undisturbed for a considerable number of years, who are most likely to be the subject of an RPP check . We hope that this revelation will be of value to those campaigning to end the programme.

Download a copy of the executive summary.