HC Deb 05 February 1998 vol 305 cc798-9W
Mr. Kidney

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assistance is available to applicants for disability benefits for obtaining medical evidence in support of tribunal appeals. [25738]

Mr. Denham

The administration of Disability Living Allowance is a matter for Peter Mathison, Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. David Kidney, dated 4 January 1998: The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question regarding what assistance is available to applicants for disability benefits for obtaining evidence in support of tribunal appeals. Claims for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) are decided by independent adjudicating authorities who are specially appointed under legislation for the purpose. They are responsible for deciding if the conditions for entitlement are satisfied. Entitlement to DLA is primarily based upon the needs of a customer arising from their disability or illness rather than the diagnosis of a customer's illness or disability. The self assessment statement provided by a customer detailing their needs is therefore the principle factor in determination of a claim. The onus for providing this evidence lies with the customer. There has been a move away from the reliance of a medical assessment and more emphasis is placed upon a person's day to day care and mobility needs. The customer is considered best placed to know the practical effects of the disability. In the majority of claims for DLA an Adjudication Officer (AO) can determine the application based upon the self assessment information provided. The AO may find that there is sufficient evidence on the balance of probability and make a decision in favour of, or against, the customer. An AO must however, request factual evidence from other sources, if this is required to make an accurate and fair decision. A customer has the opportunity to request a visit from an independent doctor on the initial application forms. Similarly, in keeping with other decisions on DLA the emphasis on decisions made by Disability Appeal Tribunal's (DATs) is on the customer's own evidence of how their disability or illness affects them rather than a purely medical assessment. There may be some situations where further medical information may be the only way a DAT could reasonably reach a decision. For these cases procedures are in place whereby a medical examination can be undertaken or other medical information collected prior to the DAT hearing. It is also open for an appellant to produce any supportive evidence from carer's or other sources which can be presented to the tribunal. I hope you find the reply helpful.