Latest DWP stats show that only 6% of new Disability Living Allowance claimants last year (January to December 2010) had a face-to-face assessment with a healthcare professional.

"​The vast majority (94%) of new claimants got the benefit without having any face-to-face assessment of their needs."​

These are the opening lines of a Department for Work and Pensions release - the decision to put those words in bold was theirs not mine.

How do you interpret these statements? I wouldn'​t be surprised if you concluded 94% of claimants had no face-to-face assessment because that'​s exactly what it says.

But the rest of the release paints a more complex (or to be less diplomatic, potentially contradictory) picture.

It seems 42% of claimants had a statement from their GP verifying their medical condition;​ a further 36% submitted other sources of evidence, a category that can include reports by social workers or occupational therapists.

Surely a GP is a "​healthcare professional"​? And surely all these trained staff will have met the claimant in person? Does this not count as a form of assessment? Apparently not.

Ian Birrell, who has written at length about his daughter'​s "​profound and multiple disabilities"​, wrote on Twitter this morning: "​My daughter got DLA without an interview. But then she is unable to talk like many others with profound and multiple learning difficult​ies."​

He said the forms are 38-pages long and accused the department of a "​nasty campaign doing...the Government no favours"​.

It is worth noting this is not coming from someone generally anti-government: Birrell is friends with David Cameron, worked as his speechwriter and remains close to many in Downing Street.
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