Benefits system is ‘failing deaf people’


Deaf people are missing out on disability living allowance (DLA) and attendance allowance (AA) because their claims are being unfairly rejected, according to a new report.

RNID’s Who Benefits? report says the situation has not improved since 2001 when their research revealed similar issues with DLA claims.

More than half of the 1 315 deaf people who took part in a survey and now claim DLA said they had previously had a DLA claim turned down, even though more than nine in ten appeals by BSL-users were successful.

The charity pointed to DWP guidance which says that people who use BSL as their first language should receive either DLA or AA. 

Nearly two-thirds of the respondents said Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff were not deaf aware, while nearly a third had received a letter they could not understand.

More than half of BSL-users said there were some questions on the 54-page DLA form they could not understand.

And when examinations were conducted in their own home by a DWP doctor, more than a quarter of those people had difficulty communicating with them.

Among its recommendations, the report calls for: work to increase take-up of DLA and AA; deaf awareness training for DLA and AA decision-makers; improved decision-making on claims; improvements to the design of the claim form, with guidance for deaf claimants; alternative and accessible ways to make a claim; and more accessible ways for deaf people to communicate with the DWP.  

Jackie Ballard, the RNID’s chief executive, said: “The process of claiming DLA and AA is failing deaf people.”

She said it was “staggering” that 91 per cent of appeals by BSL-users were successful, which “suggests that lots of people are initially denied a benefit to which they are undoubtedly entitled”.

She added: “Whilst the DWP has tried to remedy some of the problems identified in 2001, it is disappointing that many of the issues remain the same.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We want to make sure that all our customers are able to access the benefits and support that they are entitled to and we go to great lengths to make the claiming process for DLA/AA as straightforward as possible.

“We have a range of measures in place to help people throughout the claiming process, including a dedicated visiting service for our vulnerable customers and text phone and RNID Text Relay services.”

1 October 2009