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Benefit Claims

Volume 406: debated on Friday 23 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the present level of take-up of disability benefits; what the Government are doing to encourage the level of take-up by those eligible for disability benefits; and if he will make a statement. [114496]

There is no reliable current estimate of the level of take-up disability living allowance (DLA) and attendance allowance (AA), and an accurate estimate cannot be made because entitlement to the benefits is not based on diagnosis, but on the care and mobility needs arising from disability, which can vary widely between individuals.In the last five years the number of people receiving DLA and AA has increased by 24 per cent. and 9.6 per cent. respectively and the Department is taking steps to improve the take-up of the benefits in a targeted and well directed way.For example, new processes for claiming AA and DLA, resulting in claim forms that are much shorter, personalised and more responsive to customer needs, are currently being developed and tested.Forms for obtaining medical evidence from general practitioners have been redesigned so that they ask for objective clinical information only, which will improve the quality and consistency of decisions on entitlement.New information technology has been introduced throughout the organisation to speed up the decision making process and enable a better and more professional service.We are also working closer with partners such as local authorities and welfare rights organisations who are able to advise people about disability benefits in a far more targeted way than would be possible through any mass disability awareness campaigns, which could clog up the assessment process with nugatory claims.