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Gatekeeping DWP Attendance Allowance ‘helpline’

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Benefit Advisor McCarthy and Stone

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Has the DWP had a new influx of call centre staff who have not been trained in what they are supposed to do or how to speak to people courteously??  My client base is mainly over state pension age, often already in receipt of low rate Attendance Allowance who over time have developed night time care needs.  I have rarely had any issues with the helpline (option 3) when I have rung to request a supersession form.  Recently however I have had to justify at length what help a client needs in the night, how many times this help is needed and which care agency is attending in the night.  One of my clients rang the DWP for a supersession form today only to be told he would not receive the higher rate despite having night time care needs for the last 9 months (he is already on low rate for day time care needs).  Has anyone else had any similar experiences with the AA helpline and have they changed their policy on issuing supersession forms?


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I’d be very interested to know if others have experienced similar and I will raise it via stakeholder forum

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Welfare rights officer - Dunedin Canmore Housing Association

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Having only contacted them recently for completely new cases I’m not sure why this would be but I have a vague memory of this happening in the past without lasting too long.

An influx of staff who think they work as GP receptionists perhaps?

Worth knowing so that claimants can be prepped in advance to insist on a form being sent despite the actions / attitude of the adviser.

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Information and advice resources - Age UK

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We’ve certainly seen a marked deterioration in the service from the AA Unit of late in different ways, from obstructive telephone interactions, misinformation about MR and appeal rights being given out, as well as some pretty poor decision making.

One case with someone on high rate AA who had their renewal claim completely turned down, even though client’s condition had deteriorated.

More than one where client was told their care needs didn’t count because they didn’t have anyone coming around to care for them. Also refusals to progress MR’s linked to these cases i.e. the explanatory phone call has closed off that process.

Our adviser said “I have been completing AA forms for over 15 years and have completed hundreds for people who live on there own and have no help and they have been awarded AA,  I was always under the impression that as long as the need was there, the fact that no body actually helps them on a daily basis is irrelevant.

I have helped many people who live by themselves and have been awarded AA despite having no actual help and struggling on by themselves.

Mike Hughes
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Senior welfare rights officer - Salford City Council Welfare Rights Service

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Recently took part in stakeholder research on AA and foolishly described it as one of the few DWP areas of work which had always worked broadly as it ought. In saying that I also noted that this year is the first in living memory I have seen decisions which make no sense at all.

I’m thinking in particular of a case with macular degeneration which also involved cataract surgery. The removal of cataracts would have made zero difference to the loss of functional vision already caused by the MD and was effectively a red herring. Nevertheless a decision came back awarding lower rate for a couple of years rather than life. This despite the claimants own AA form specifying the date of the surgery. Said surgery fell just before the date the DM made a decision so they indisputably had an opportunity to discuss the outcome of the surgery before making a decision but chose not to do so. Astonishingly the appeal sub. attempts to defend this on the basis that cataract surgery waiting lists can be quite long and the claimant had said they were on a waiting list. They had indeed said this. Right next to where they’d advised the exact date when they’d be at the top of that list and would be having their surgery.

When I cited this example during the research someone from DWP attempted to assert that the DM and DWP in particular were doing claimants a favour with short awards because they meant the case could be reviewed and a higher award put in place. I had to painfully explain that claimants don’t generally see the end date for a claim as a positive thing when they know that the level of need they currently have will be lifelong. They will indeed get worse but most are perfectly capable of alerting DWP to that, especially when they’ve a WRO involved. What this DWP approach effectively does is shorten a clear cut lifetime award of AA to two years for no better reason than they genuinely think that helps.

I’ve no other insight as to what’s going on at AA but there appears to have been a significant cultural shift and instead of taking the positive lessons of AA and applying them to PIP and DLA they suddenly seem determined to take the worst of DLA and PIP and apply it to AA. I have found it quite disturbing that I am taking an AA case to tribunal over award length. I don’t think I’ve had to appeal an AA case in decades but here we are.