HC Deb 11 June 1997 vol 295 cc492-3W
Mr. Burstow

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what assessment she has made of the impact of the Benefits Integrity Programme on the(a) staffing and (b) delivery of the ordinary claiming process for disability benefits; [2442]

(2) what procedures Benefit Agency staff will be expected to follow in relation to claimants who are revealed as claiming a lower level of disability living allowance than they are eligible for under the Benefit Integrity Programme; [2443]

(3) what training and over what average length of time will be provided to Benefits Agency staff who will be visiting claimants of disability living allowance from July onwards under the Benefits Integrity Programme. [2444]

Mr. Denham

One of our key aims is rebuilding integrity in, and public support for, the Social Security system and the way in which public money is spent. Research by the Department indicates that we may be paying £0.5 billion a year to people who are not entitled to receive it. We need to focus on those who are properly entitled to benefit.

This is why we have set up the Benefit Integrity Project. However, we do regard it as essential that disabled people are treated fairly and with respect, and in an unthreatening way. The administration of this programme is a matter for Peter Mathison, Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member with further details.

Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. Paul Burstow, dated 10 June 1997: The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions about the Benefit Integrity Programme. The Benefit Integrity Project was set up in response to the recent Benefit Review of DLA. Over the next two years, specially trained staff will make enquiries by postal questionnaire or home visit in around 425,000 cases to establish whether Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being paid correctly. The Benefit Integrity Project is a completely separate operation from the processing of new claims to DLA and as such, will have no effect on the staffing and delivery of the normal claims process. The Benefit Integrity Project is intended to confirm that the correct rate of benefit is in payment. Where it appears that the incorrect rate is in payment, the case will be passed to an independent Adjudication Officer to consider a review of the existing decision. Any new decision will be based on all the available evidence and where appropriate will lead to an increase in the rate of benefit. All new decisions will carry the normal rights to seek a further review or appeal. Visiting Officers for the Benefits Integrity Project will be drawn from existing experienced staff located at Disability Benefit Centres. If there is a need to transfer experienced staff currently processing claims to the Project, they will not be released until their replacements are fully trained. Building upon their existing knowledge, each Visiting Officer will attend a five day course which will cover the background to the Project, visiting and interviewing skills, security awareness and staff safety. I hope you find this reply helpful.