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DLA and dual diagnosis

26 July 2007

Benefits and Work has now published a 7 page guide for support workers on making a claim for DLA on dual diagnosis grounds.

Making a claim for DLA based on dual diagnosis - where a claimant has a mental health condition and also abuses or is dependent upon substances such as alcohol, prescription or non-prescription drugs - is a controversial subject. In the course of our work we have met many support workers with heartfelt concerns about the morality and wisdom of assisting clients with claims for benefits where it is likely that any additional money will be spent on drink or drugs.

Both of the authors of this new guide have experience of working with clients in direct access hostels and are aware of the sometimes disastrous effects that can result from a successful award of DLA, especially where there is a large back payment. A party lasting several days and resulting in evictions is far from unheard of.

However, we also know of claimants whose opportunity to be successfully rehoused and build a life free from substance abuse was only made possible by the degree of financial independence which a successful claim for DLA permitted.

As soon as workers begin to act on their opinions about whether or not it would be 'good' for a claimant to receive their legal entitlement they embark on a road with no obvious end. For example, what about claimants who spend their benefits on tobacco or on life-threateningly fatty food? It would surely be better for their health if they had less money to spend on such injurious substances? And then there's the issue of whether receipt of DLA discourages some claimants from undertaking work or training for fear it may affect their entitlement. Wouldn't some claimants have a much more fulfilling life if they weren't in receipt of DLA?

We take the view that it is very seldom the case that poverty improves any individual's life chances and that the role of support workers in this regard is simply to assist, without making judgements, claimants in obtaining benefits to which they are legally entitled.

We hope that this new, practical, 7 page guide will help support workers do just that. It covers:

A short history of dual diagnosis commissioners decisions
The law as it stands now
Steps to take when making a claim based on dual diagnosis
Latest guidance for decision makers

Organisational members can download a copy of Claiming DLA on dual diagnosis grounds from the members  area.