18 February 2010

Woman reading documentBenefits and Work is spearheading a fight-back against what we believe is an  unlawful policy not to consider whether incapacity benefit claimants are exempt before sending them a questionnaire.  We are even advising members to ask for compensation.

If you are a current incapacity benefit claimant and you were found to be exempt last time you were assessed, then the first thing that should happen when your case is reviewed is that the decision maker should send an IB113 form to your GP.  This form relates to exemptions and if the GP provides evidence that there has been no change in your condition then you should continue to be exempt.

However, what seems to have happened is that the DWP have now handed over responsibility for sending out IB113 forms and questionnaires to Atos Healthcare, the company that carries out medicals for the DWP.

There is growing evidence that Atos seems to be sending out questionnaires instead of IB113s to currently exempt claimants, unless they are in receipt of the higher rate of the care component of DLA or have dementia.  Only after the questionnaire has been returned is any consideration given to whether there is evidence to support continued exemption.

It is not clear whether this change in procedure, if that is what it is, has been initiated by Atos or the DWP, but what does seem clear that it is unreasonable and almost certainly unlawful.

The whole point of being exempt is that you don’t have to complete a questionnaire or attend a medical.  If there is indeed now a policy of not sending out IB113 forms where a claimant is currently exempt this amounts not only to maladministration but  possibly disability discrimination as well.

We are therefore advising currently exempt claimants who receive a questionnaire to write a letter of complaint to the chief executive of Jobcentre plus and copy it to their MP.  If they do not receive a satisfactory response we are urging members to complain to the parliamentary ombudsman and to ask for compensation for any distress suffered.

We cannot be certain that this tactic will work. We can’t even be certain that what we believe is happening is actually what is happening.  But we are certain that something is going on and that claimants, as usual, are suffering as a result.

You can download an updated guide to what to do if you are exempt but sent a questionnaire, including sample letters, from this page.


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