The government appears to have a secret plan to reassess disability living allowance (DLA) claimants who have “indefinite” awards, in a bid to sidestep delays to implementation of its benefit reforms.
Three disabled people, who all work or volunteer as welfare advisers in different parts of the country, have described to Disability News Service (DNS) what they say is a suspicious trend being seen among long-term DLA claimants.
All three say the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) seems to be trying to cut the number of people on indefinite awards by reassessing them for DLA, while at the same time promising that no-one with a lifetime or indefinite award will be reassessed for the new personal independence payment (PIP) – the replacement for working-age DLA – until 2015.
Only last December, Esther McVey, the Conservative minister for disabled people, announced – following concerted campaigning by disability organisations – that those with lifetime or indefinite DLA awards would not be reassessed for PIP until October 2015 at the earliest, six months after the next general election.
But by reassessing claimants using existing DLA rules instead of PIP, the government can sidestep its own announcement.
A disabled activist, who tweets as Blueannoyed and volunteers on various disability-related internet forums, has spoken to DNS about her concerns, after dealing with at least five disabled people with indefinite DLA awards.
All five – including two from Wales, one from Swindon and one from Northumberland – have been told by DWP that they will need to be reassessed for DLA.
“Blueannoyed” said she had not previously heard of anyone with an indefinite award being reassessed during her three years on the forums.
She said: “I think there has been a dramatic shift. They are saying 2015 to the public but I think they are trying to shift the goalposts.”
Mick Dillon, chief executive of the Disability Resource Centre, in Bedfordshire, was another to raise the same concerns.
He said there had been a “very tangible shift” in the number of disabled people with indefinite or lifetime awards being reassessed. He said he was now expecting to be called in for a reassessment of his own indefinite DLA award.
Dillon said: “Our chair sits on the disability appeals panel, which is held in our building in Dunstable. She has been seeing, for quite a few months, people with lifetime awards being called in.”
Another advice centre, Buckinghamshire Disability Service (BuDS), has seen a recent surge in disabled people with indefinite DLA awards being called in for reassessments.
Andrew Clark, chair of BuDS, said: “A number of people have said that they are being invited to go for a reassessment of their DLA because of a change of circumstances, but they have not actually reported any change of circumstance. They all had indefinite awards.”
He said he feared DWP was carrying out a “covert rolling programme of reassessments”.
A DWP spokesman said: “Awards of DLA, whether made for life, indefinitely, or for a fixed period, are made on the basis that the entitlement conditions continue to be met.
“An indefinite or life award would not generally be reviewed unless there is a change in circumstances that affects the entitlement.
“This would include a change reported by the claimant, as they are required to do to ensure they receive the correct amount of benefit, or through another source such as fraud referral.
“There are no plans to reassess people for PIP earlier than the timeline already set out by the government.”
14 March 2013