6 December 2005

Benefits and Work has obtained documents which show that a new points style system is being piloted for disability living allowance. The new computerised system will prevent people with a range of physical and mental health conditions from receiving awards of the care component, the mobility component or both. Astonishingly, the software even stops decision makers giving DLA care payments to war veterans, terror victims, emergency crews, victims of abuse and others whose experiences have traumatised them. Decision makers are also warned not to trust any information given by such people in their claim forms.

As well as post traumatic stress disorder, other mental health conditions for which no award of DLA care will be made include: panic attacks; obsessive compulsive disorder; social phobia; agoraphobia and generalised anxiety disorder.

Physical health conditions which are unlikely to get any award of DLA at all include: irritable bowel syndrome; hypertension and migraine.

The new software, which the DWP says it has developed in partnership with American computer giant IBM, is currently being piloted in Bootle and Manchester and may be used for online claims from mid December. If the DWP are happy with the results the software is likely be rolled out nationally in 2006 and will then be used on all fresh claims and renewal claims.

The five hundred and fifty pages of documents obtained by Benefits and Work, covering over 60 different physical and mental health conditions, contain much that may be of value to claimants and their advisors. This includes information about who the decision maker should collect evidence from; the criteria used to decide whether the condition is mild, moderate or severe and how to decide on the length of the award.

The papers contain many other surprising revelations, such as a warning to decision makers that people with chronic fatigue syndrome who use a wheelchair can still walk 100-200 metres and are thus not eligible for higher rate mobility.

In spite of formal requests using the Freedom of Information Act, Benefits and Work has not been provided with screenshots of the new system in action, nor have they been given a detailed description of how it works. Indeed, the DWP are now acting entirely outside the law in their attempts to prevent further details of the new system being disclosed. The department has already granted itself two four week extensions to consider withholding information on 'public interest' grounds and has now simply passed the whole matter over to the Department for Constitutional Affairs, giving no date by which a response will be made and no indication of which public interest grounds are being considered.

However, Benefits and Work believes it has enough information to understand how, using the answers to a very brief series of multiple choice questions, the computer decides what award of DLA the claimant will receive, and how long for, and then produces what appears to be a very detailed and carefully reasoned decision letter.

For the full article and to download copies of all the documents below obtained by Benefits and Work, please visit the Members area.

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Detailed guidance
Anxiety Disorders
33 pages covering: Generalised anxiety disorder; Panic disorder; Simple phobias [e.g. spider phobia]; Social phobia; Agoraphobia
Obsessive compulsive disorder; Post traumatic stress disorder;
Mixed anxiety and depressive disorder; Anxiety disorder associated with other conditions e.g. physical illness, substance abuse, etc.

Back pain
66 pages covering: Simple backache; Spondylosis;
Lumbar spondylosis or spondylitis; Chronic back pain; Osteoarthritis of spine; Lumbago; Back strain or sprain; Spasm of back; Degenerative back problem or disease; Muscular back pain; Prolapsed intervertebral disc; Prolapsed intervertebral disc with nerve entrapment (sciatica); Spinal stenosis; Spinal collapse (e.g. in osteoporosis); Tumours (cancers); Spinal infections; Ankylosing Spondylitis; Non-specific degenerative changes; Bulging intervertebral discs; Desiccated discs; Soft tissue and/or bony abnormalities.

Depressive illnesses
32 pages

Ischaemic Heart Disease
46 pages

39 pages

38 pages

Chronic fatigue syndrome
33 pages

Generalised osteoarthritis
56 pages

Rheumatoid Arthritis
59 pages

Visual Impairment
58 pages

Anaemias 5 pages
Autistic spectrum disorder in adults 4 pages
Cardiac arrhythmias 9 pages
Cardiomyopathy 6 pages
Carpal tunnel syndrome 5 pages
Chondromalacia patella 2 pages
Claw/hammer toes 2 pages
Chronic suppurative otitis media (middle ear disease including perforated eardrum & tinitus) 6 pages
Dislocation 1 page
Eczema in adults 5 pages
Fainting 5 pages
Fractures 3 pages
Gallstones, cholecystitis, cholecystectomy 5 pages
Gout (crystal induced arthritis) 3 pages
Hiatus hernia 4 pages
High blood pressure, or hypertension 2 pages
Irritable bowel syndrome 3 pages
Laryngectomy 10 pages
Lipoma 2 pages
Mastoiditis 4 pages
Meningitis 5 pages
Meniscectomy 3 pages
Metatarsalgia 3 pages
Migraine 4 pages
Pelvic inflammatory disease 8 pages
Phlebitis 5 pages
Plantar fasciitis 1 page
Polycythaemia 4 pages
Prosthetic heart valves 6 pages
Repetitive strain injury 2 pages
Rodent ulcer (skin cancer) 3 pages
Rupture of tendon 4 pages
Spasmodic torticollis 5 pages
Sprain 2 pages
Tennis elbow/golfers elbow 2 page
Disorders of the thyroid gland 7 pages
Urticaria 4 pages
Valvular heart disease 5 pages
Writer's cramp 4 pages


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