Skip to main content

Disability Living Allowance

Volume 450: debated on Monday 16 October 2006

11. What assessment he has made of the operation of the computer system that administers disability living allowance; and if he will make a statement. (93408)

The disability living allowance computer system is a modern, efficient and up-to-date system that ensures correct, timely and accurate payments to our customers. The Department continually assesses and makes improvements to its computer system and will continue to seek ways to enhance its systems to support changing business needs into the future.

What measures are the Government taking to improve the computer-based medical form, which is highly complex and has denied many deserving people access to the benefits to which they are entitled? The latest figures suggest that 80,000 people are waiting to have their forms assessed for disability living allowance.

The disability living allowance form is constantly reviewed and updated. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we are looking into ways of further improving the form and seeking to find different ways to encourage customers to provide us with the information required at the point of decision making. It is vital to secure as much information as possible. Yes, we are reviewing the position; and yes, we are looking to find any way—every way, in fact—to connect with those applying for DLA. As many hon. Members appreciate, it is a sensitive benefit, often applied for at a traumatic time in an individual’s life.

The last constituent I saw at my advice session on Saturday was a mother of six children, one of whom is seriously disabled. The family depends heavily on disability living allowance. On three separate occasions since April the file has been lost and the application form to renew has been lost, so the family has lost much needed income that is crucial for a family teetering on the financial brink. Will the Minister reassure us—she tells us that the computer systems are fine, modern and working—that the systems for handling paperwork and forms can be reviewed and improved as soon as possible?

I am pleased that my hon. Friend has raised that constituency matter and I reassure him that, if he will provide me with further details, I will certainly investigate what happened. It is unacceptable that families under pressure, in the circumstances that my hon. Friend has highlighted, should find that our system is not responsive. If he gives me the details, I will ensure that he receives a suitable and appropriate reply. I continue to underline the fact that our disability living allowance systems are in place and effective. They turn round benefit claims very quickly—not just mainstream claims within a 35-day target. In the case of people with terminal conditions, claims are turned round within four to five days.