3 February 2010
Fears that the new DLA short form is simply a way of preventing claimants giving evidence appear to be justified, as we hear from more members who have completed it.
Last November we wrote about a new four page DLA renewal form which some members were receiving. (See: ‘Is new DLA form a con trick?’)
We now know that the 4 page DLA and AA renewal form was being piloted in North East England, Greater Manchester and East Lancashire. The trial ran from September 2009 with a decision due to be made last month as to whether or not to continue the trial or roll out the claim form nationally.
We have made a freedom of information request for details of what decision has been made.
Meanwhile, we continue to hear from claimants who have had experience of this form – and most of them are not good experiences.
One member with fibromyalgia indicated on their form that nothing had changed other than their medication. The DWP then rang their home and asked to speak to our member. Her husband informed them that his wife was currently asleep and no longer used the phone because of ‘brain fog’ and problems with holding things without going into painful spasms. However, the DWP staff member insisted that the claimant must telephone before a certain time and that an email would not be acceptable.
When our member phoned the DWP back she was subject to hostile questioning for ten minutes. This included being asked how she could care for her autistic children if she was so ill and why she wasn’t claiming incapacity benefit if she had such severe mobility problems? The DWP staff member also stated that they were ‘very surprised’ that there had been no change in our member’s condition and that they thought there would have ‘been an improvement by now’.
Our member is awaiting a decision on her renewal, but without much optimism.
Several members completed the short form indicating that there had been no change in their condition and were subsequently contacted by the DWP to check who their GP was in order that the DWP could get additional evidence from them, rather than the claimant. In one case, where the claimant had recently changed their doctor they were told that they hadn’t been with their new GP long enough, so an Atos doctor would be sent out to do a medical.
The picture that is emerging is that, in general, the DWP are not prepared to accept a simple statement that there has been no change in a claimant’s condition. Instead, if this is all the information that is given, they will either telephone the claimant or seek evidence elsewhere.
There are obvious disadvantages to this for the claimant. If you are phoned, it is the DWP who decide what questions to ask, how they are asked and what record is kept of your answers.
If the DWP contact your GP then there are dangers that your GP may not be supportive or may not be well informed about the difficulties you face.
Whilst we have decided not to produce detailed guidance on the short form until we know whether it is still being distributed, our advice to members continues to be that you should very seriously consider downloading a copy of the full DLA claim form from the internet and completing any pages which are relevant to explaining your care, supervision and mobility needs. Enclose these pages as additional sheets to accompany the short form, writing your name and national insurance number at the top of each sheet.
In addition, consider making an appointment with your GP and taking along a completed copy of the Health Professional’s sheet you will find at the back of each of the DLA guides.
Whatever you do, avoid letting the DWP being the ones to decide what evidence to collect, how to collect it and who to collect it from.
It hasn’t all been bad news, however. One member completed the short form and did not include any supporting evidence: ‘I just made sure I put as much relevant detail as possible in the small amount of space the form provided.’ Our member’s lower rate care and lower rate mobility were renewed for 5 years.
In addition, we’ve heard back from Lucy (not her real name) who had her award of higher rate care and higher rate mobility stopped after completing the short form. (See: ‘Is new DLA form a con trick?’)
Lucy appealed against the decision and the tribunal awarded her . . . higher rate care and higher rate mobility.
Lucy tells us she is ‘thrilled to bits’ – and so are we.