Following three Freedom of Information requests, Benefits and Work can now confirm a story we originally published last October: claimants falsely accused of fraud face a strong probability of losing their disability living allowance (DLA) and being forced to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) instead.   In fact, the DWP have stated that even if they know that allegations are ‘false and malicious’ they will still transfer the claimant to PIP if ‘there remains a suggestion that the existing award is incorrect.’{jcomments on}

At the time the story was based on changes to a factsheet in the PIP Toolkit published by the DWP and on information in a post on the Rightsnet website.  The factsheet had originally stated that:

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

We pointed out that this appeared to mean that it would not just be where the claimant themselves inform the DWP of a change of circumstances that they would be assessed for PIP, as the law requires.

Instead, it appeared that where someone else, including a malicious neighbour or relative using the anonymous National Benefit Fraud Hotline, reported that the claimant is no longer in need of help with care or mobility, the claimant would still lose their DLA and be assessed for PIP instead.

This interpretation was supported by a welfare rights worker on Rightsnet who explained that he had attended a meeting where a Jobcentre Plus representative had stated that:

“anyone who was ‘bubbled’ (shopped) would be taken as if they were a ‘self selector’ in the DLA/PIP reassessments.”

Since then we have repeatedly tried, via the Freedom of Information Act,  to get the DWP to state whether ‘information received’ could include information from the Benefits Fraud hotline.  This month we have finally received a definitive answer:

“ As stated in the response to the previous FOI request the Department has a duty to protect the public purse and investigate claims where information from either the claimant or another source is received which suggests that the claimant’s disability related needs have changed. This includes reports made by members of the public to, for example, the Benefits Fraud Hotline.

“False and malicious allegations of fraud will be dismissed as exactly that - false and malicious and no further action is taken unless there remains a suggestion that the existing award is incorrect.

“If we decide there are grounds to look at someone's claim we will review their entitlement under the new PIP criteria so that people don't face repeated and unnecessary reassessments under DLA and then again under PIP.  This is only fair to ensure that claimants get the correct award.”

It is hard to take any comfort from the statement that “False and malicious allegations of fraud will be dismissed as exactly that . . .”.  

If someone phones the Fraud  Helpline and falsely claims that they see their neighbour walking half a mile to the local shops most days, even though they get higher rate mobility, how can the DWP possibly dismiss it is a malicious allegation unless they first investigate it?  

In the vast majority of cases of this type the DWP cannot afford to send out a fraud investigator or carry out covert surveillance – so they will investigate by sending out a review claim form under the Right Payment  Programme instead.

In PIP reassessment areas this will mean being sent, not a DLA claim pack, but a PIP claim pack.  Which means that the claimant is no longer being checked to see if their award of DLA is correct, they are being assessed to see what rate, if any, of PIP they are entitled to.

And, whatever the result, their DLA award will be at an end.  

Astonishingly, the DWP make it clear that even if they are quite certain that the allegations are false and malicious they will still do a DLA to PIP transfer if ‘there remains a suggestion that the existing award is incorrect.’

Anyone who considers this to be a grossly unfair, and possibly unlawful, attack on DLA claimants by pandering to prejudiced and malicious members of the public may wish to raise the issue with their MP.


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