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Doh! Confidential appeal documents let slip

15 February 2006

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Benefits and Work has obtained copies of issues 59 & 60 of Decision Makers Exchange, the monthly newsletter for DLA decision Makers. The newsletters contain a number of useful items on issues such as when to extend the 6 week time limit for DLA claims to be returned and whether disabled people should be told to drink less in the evening.

There's also a reminder to decision makers about which documents connected to a DLA appeal, including various memos and guidance which may have been sought, should be kept secret from the claimant and their representative - it seems some decision makers keep slipping up. Of course, once you know such documents may exist, there's nothing to prevent you asking for copies of them.

We've drafted a sample letter members can use to request copies any documents considered by the decision maker in connection with your claim or appeal for DLA, AA or incapacity benefits. For organisational members only, there's a sample letter to be sent requesting copies any documents considered by the decision maker in connection with your client's claim or appeal. We can't guarantee that the DWP will agree to release them in time for your appeal, but it does seem likely that where documents relate directly to your claim they will ultimately have to be disclosed under the Data Protection Act.

Matters covered in Issue 59 include:

Extending the 6 week period for claiming - details of when claimants should be given extra time to return their DLA claim pack, along with three example scenarios.

DLA lower rate care component and the main meal test - whether the main meal test is satisfied where the customer is walking stick dependant.

Free nursing care and deferred payments - whether these affect AA/DLA.

Report by the President of Appeal tribunals - an extract.

Matters covered in Issue 60 include:

Obtaining and recording evidence - guidance on obtaining evidence form other sources where the claimant has a severe mental health condition and good practice on recording evidence correctly when obtaining it by telephone.

Taking notes during examination - a copy of an oral warning to be issued to claimants who takes notes during a DLA medical.

Practical solutions (adults) - when it is reasonable to suggest claimants should drink less in order not to need help to the toilet at night.

Sponsored immigrants - clarification as to whether sponsored immigrants can claim DLA.

Multiple sclerosis and short term awards - a reminder that when there has been no improvement in a claimants condition for two years there is unlikely to be any improvement in the future.

DMs - A Reminder - docs not to be used in appeal submissions - a reminder to keep various types of guidance and memos secret and not let the claimant or their representative see them.

DAAT monitoring report on appeals - Decisions and Appeals assurance Team report on common errors made by decision makers in DLA appeal submissions.