HC Deb 15 March 1999 vol 327 cc485-6W
Mrs. May

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will define the broad-based mechanism to check awards of disability living allowance under the new periodic review system referred to in his letter to hon. Members of 28 January. [76765]

Mr. Bayley

We are determined to ensure that people are receiving the correct amount of benefit. From April 1999, a new fairer system of periodic inquiry into benefit entitlement will commence for existing recipients of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). The process will incorporate lessons already learned and will be evaluated and refined as it develops.

Initially, cases will be selected for inquiry action on a proportional basis across the range of awards to be included. People selected for inquiry action will be asked to complete a detailed questionnaire, based on the current claim form for DLA, either by post or at a home visit. These two methods of approach will be applied evenly across the range of people selected to help identify the best means of approach in individual cases. Once completed, the inquiry form will provide the Benefits Agency (BA) with an up to date picture of the need that the individual has for help with personal care and mobility and allow the BA to determine whether a review of entitlement would be appropriate. This will enable awards to be increased or decreased in line with entitlement. All staff involved in the new processes will receive full training before commencing this new work. The inquiry action will be monitored and evaluated after six months of operation and the findings will be used to continue to improve the process.

Initially, the new system will exclude DLA recipients whose cases were examined by the Benefit Integrity Project (BIP) and those groups of disabled people that were specifically excluded from the action of the BIP. People who are terminally ill and meet the criteria set out in Section 66(2)(a) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 and people with a fixed period award due to end within the next three years will also not be contacted. Full details are set out at in my Written Answer to the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten) on 10 March 1999, Official Report, columns 251–52.

Some disabling conditions, and the needs that they generate, change very little over time whilst others can be very variable in effect and/or degenerative in nature. The BA is therefore working to establish the proper frequency with which individuals should be asked about their current needs, so that, in the future, inquiries can be made at the most appropriate time and new claimants can be advised from the outset when inquiries are likely to be made in their case. This action does not affect the responsibility of all claimants to tell the BA about changes that may affect benefit entitlement.