HC Deb 21 May 2002 vol 386 cc293-4W
Mr. Kirkwood

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made with his project on modernisation of disability living allowance. [54645]

Maria Eagle

We are delivering our commitment to modernise disability living allowance (DLA) by introducing a system of active case management which ensures that entitlements are right at the outset and remain right.

We are ensuring that the period for which disability living allowance is awarded more appropriately reflects the effects of the customer's disability. As a result the majority of DLA awards are now for a fixed period, and therefore subject to later renewal and review. In addition, in June 1999, we introduced a system of periodic inquiry to ensure that longer term awards remained correct. In April 2002 we introduced refinements to the periodic inquiry process to focus more effort on those cases with the greatest likelihood of incorrectness.

Extensive work has already been done to shorten and simplify the claiming process for disability living allowance. A shorter claim pack, reduced by 10 pages, was introduced in April 2001 and tests of a new attendance allowance claim pack for people aged 75 and over, which is currently taking place, shows that further significant shortening of the claim pack used for extra cost disability benefits is possible. From September 2002 it is planned to test a significantly shortened disability living allowance claim pack tailored to the needs of individual customers, as part of a new streamlined claim process.

New report forms to enable general practitioners and Examining Medical Officers to provide clinical rather than subjective medical information about customers are being introduced. These are currently being developed and tested and subject to the satisfactory evaluation of live testing will be rolled out nationally commencing with the general practitioner form in June 2002.

Staff involved in the DLA decision making process are receiving specialist training on disability awareness and the initial training programme is due to be completed by the end of December. Two additional modules to the programme are now being developed and delivery to staff is due to commence later this year.

We are continuing to examine the feasibility of making greater use of health care professionals in the decision making process.