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Is anybody else concerned about aspects of the DWP’s replacement for Disability Living Allowance?

It seems to me that some parts of it are deeply questionable.

Firstly: The fact that you have to phone up for a claim form. The person on the other end of the 0800 number will ask “general” questions – including very specific details of your bank account. What? Your bank account? That’s right. They want your bank details before anything else happens.

Now this makes me extremely suspicious. We’ve only just had the furore over Universal Jobmatch, the DWP website that jobseekers are being coerced into using, where any bogus ‘company’ can put on an advert and demand enough details to commit identity theft – now the same government organisation wants the bank details of disabled people! We don’t know who’s answering the phone – is it a trustworthy government employee or a subcontractor? Knowing the Coalition government as well as we do, there’s no reason to give them any trust at all.

Next: The form will go to a health professional working for the company Capita (in Wales) or our old sparring-partner Atos in other parts of the UK. They may decide a claimant’s entitlement straight away, but most will be asked to attend a face-to-face interview. It is possible that home visits may take place if the need presents itself. Attendance with a friend, relative, partner, health professional or similar is encouraged. All evidence will be reviewed and a report will be sent to the Department for Work and Pensions to make a decision. The health professional will not make any recommendations at all – a DWP case manager will review the evidence and make a decision.

Do we believe that? Could it be a reaction to the revelation last summer that DWP officers were rubber-stamping recommendations from Atos assessors about Employment and Support Allowance claimants? Is the DWP trying to – as it were – head us off at the pass? I’m not ready to believe this and I can’t recommend that anyone else should either.

Finally, as part of the ongoing process, questions and replies about PIP will be posted on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page of the DWP’s PIP website, www.dwp.gov.uk/pip – which is fine, if you’re a disabled person with access to the Internet. Many parts of Wales are still broadband “not-spots”, and I’m sure that goes for parts of the other UK countries also. What do people do if they live there? Suffer in ignorance?

Are you affected by this? What do you think? According to the DWP, “the general feeling is that PIP is outdated”. Do you agree? If not, why do you think the department has made that claim?

Here’s a little more information about PIP, and the process of conversion from DLA to the new system:

On April 8, 2013, PIP replaces DLA. There are similarities – PIP maintains links to passported benefits where possible, and there are special rules for claimants who are terminally ill. The differences are that claimants must have still have their problem nine months after they apply; there will be planned interventions and an early reconsideration process.

From April 2013, new claims for PIP will be taken in the northeast and parts of northwest England; it won’t affect other regions until June.

From October 2013, claimants on fixed period awards that are coming up for renewal will be reassessed, along with young people coming up to age 16, and indefinite awards with a change of circumstances. Nobody else will be reassessed until October 2015.

For those with fluctuating conditions, the form will provide an opportunity to explain them (I have no information on how that will work).

Claimants can have help completing the form, and reports from health professionals such as occupational therapists and doctors may be added to it.

If a claim is disallowed or reduced, they will phone on three separate dates, at three separate times, to explain the decision. There are concerns that claimants with particular issues such as mental health problems might not understand.