26 November 2009
A new short DLA renewal form appears to be being used to con claimants into not giving evidence about their condition and then refusing them an award, as a Benefits and Work member recently discovered to their cost. Astonishingly, a letter accompanying the form also advises people to fraudulently allow their current DLA claim to continue, even if they know that they are no longer entitled to any money.
The DWP have recently started sending out a new DLA form for people coming up for renewal. The form is just four pages long and is sent out three months before an award is due to end, rather than the six months that was previously the case. It is not clear whether the new form is being sent out to all renewal claimants or just to pilot groups at present.
Only two pages of the four page form actually deal with your health condition and how it affects you. In many cases even these do not need to be completed, because if there has been no change in your condition or circumstances you are invited to tick a single box saying ‘No’ and then simply sign and return the form. And that’s it.
If there has been a change in your circumstances, you are asked to say explain what it is. The four page accompanying notes indicate that this may be things like:
- Changes in your medication, treatment or therapy and whether they have helped
- Being on a waiting list for an operation
- Being told you can’t have surgery
- You have had surgery
- You have had any tests
- You now use prescribed aids or adaptations
- You now see anyone else for your illness or disability
- Leaving the country
- Going into or out of hospital, prison, a care home, foster or local authority care, a special school or college.
- Getting constant attendance allowance or war pension mobility supplement.
If there have been any such changes, you then have to answer two more questions:
‘Do you need more or less help than before to get around out of doors because of the changes you have told us about?
‘Do you need more or less help than before with your personal care because of the changes you have told us about?
There are two small boxes to give more information about the help you now need These two tiny boxes replace 27pages of the standard DLA claim pack.
Accompanying the form is a letter which states that:
“If you do not want to claim again or you no longer need help you do not need to fill in the form or send it back to us.
Your payment will stop when your award ends.”
Given that the form is sent out three months before the DLA award is due to end, this is extraordinary advice.
If a claimant no longer needs help they are under a legal obligation to inform the DWP of the change in their condition and deliberately failing to do so would ordinarily be a criminal offence. What the legal situation would be where a claimant is apparently advised by the DWP to commit fraud we are unable to say, but we would urge members always to inform the DWP of any change in their condition.
Benefits and Work has already heard from one member who has lost her entire DLA award as a result of completing one of these forms.
Our member Lucy - not her real name - has been in receipt of DLA for almost a decade due to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) of such severity that it has required various aids and adaptations to her home to be fitted by social services. Lucy has made several renewal claims during that period and was receiving higher rate care and mobility. In the course of her DLA claims Lucy has been assessed no fewer than five times by Atos/DWP doctors.
When Lucy received the new, short renewal form she declared a change in her condition: she now has a heart disease as well for which she has needed hospitalisation. However, she indicated that her care and mobility needs had not changed.
Within a few weeks of returning the form Lucy received a letter informing her that her DLA award had now been stopped completely. No doctor was sent to assess her before the decision was made.
Lucy is now challenging the decision and waiting to see if it was based on any other evidence, such as a form from her GP.
In the meantime, our advice to members who receive a short renewal form is to 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.
At least that way you will have given yourself an opportunity to give detailed evidence from the very outset about how your condition affects you.
We will be publishing a guide to completing the short DLA renewal claim pack in the near future.