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Mini disability living allowance claim pack disarray

19 March 2005

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Benefits and Work has discovered that the DWP had planned to introduce a mini Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claim pack this summer, but that those plans are now on hold. We have also learnt that the Glasgow trial of an interactive DLA claims system was halted due to yet another government software failure.

Anyone got a crystal ball?
In 2002 the DWP piloted a new "interactive" DLA claims system in Glasgow. Claimants who rang up for a DLA claim pack were asked a series of questions. Based on their answers, claimants were then sent a much shorter claim pack. Instead of the current 20 plus pages provided to give evidence about difficulties with everyday activities the pack had a maximum of 4, one for each question the caller gave the 'right' answer to.

That pilot ended and was replaced in 2004 by a pilot of a shorter claim pack, but without the interactive telephone element. No explanation was given for its removal. However, Benefits and Work has obtained a report on the project which reveals that it was closed not because the DWP were unhappy with the results, but because the BT Syntegra designed software system was not compatible with future DWP systems.

According to the report ". . . the IT (Syntegra) system employed in the test does not meet future system requirements and will therefore never be nationally replicated, it seemed that we could no longer justify the financial cost of future redesign/supporting of this bespoke system". A decision was therefore made to end the Glasgow test in September 2004. The report doesn't reveal how much taxpayers money was spent on the abortive experiment.

Meanwhile trials of a shortened DLA claim pack took place not just in Glasgow but also in London, in the area served by the Wembley Disability Benefits Centre. As noted in previous articles on this site, the pilot form had many attractions for the DWP. Not only was it much cheaper to process and store, but it also resulted in a one third drop in appeals without an increase in the number of awards. We had been confidently predicting the introduction of the short form this year.

However, a request under the Freedom of Information Act for a copy of any report into the Wembley trial and a date for the introduction of the new short form elicited the following response:

"There was no formal evaluation report for the DLA test at Wembley DBC as it ceased prematurely. It had been proposed that the new shortened DLA claim form should be introduced nationally in Summer 2005. This proposal has not been accepted at this point because we wish to further assess and analyse the operational and business impact of this form".

We don't know why the Wembley test was ended prematurely, though we propose to find out. However, whatever the reason, with the need to produce an 'e-enabled' claim pack as soon as possible and the substantial savings on administration costs a shortened pack offers, our money is still on the mini DLA claim pack being with us before the year is out.