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Attendance Allowance

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AleksC
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I feel like a broken record with yet another complaint about AA Unit!  I have a client who was refused AA, we sent in a mandatory recon request and he has been refused again, despite this rejection letter acknowledging he has difficulty and needs help with personal care tasks, just not frequently enough.  This is incorrect as we demonstrated in the form and man recon letter that he needs attention with bodily functions several times at short intervals through the day, he also has supervision needs which we stated.  What makes this second rejection letter even more laughable is that they state we asked for this written explanation, which we did not, and we can now submit a mandatory reconsideration, which we have already done!  Is it me or have the AA unit finally lost the plot?  Do we submit another man recon or a send a complaint letter highlighting that they do not know their procedure on challenging decisions and request they respond to our man recon letter already sent to them??

Mike Hughes
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I have commented as part of their stakeholder research that this year there does appear to have been a significant change for the worse. AA was one of the few areas which generally worked okay but that’s very much not the case this year at all.

Just been talking to a colleague who recently had an AA appeal for the first time in ages on a case which ought to have been straightforward. I’ve my first one in years at the end of this month. Literally over nothing but award length. DWP sub. is just fantasy based.

FWIW I wouldn’t overcomplicate it. If you’ve done an MR then lodge an appeal. The rest is their problem not yours.

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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AA Unit’s handling of MR requests at the moment is laughable, we’re trying to find out a bit more about what’s going so badly wrong.

Rebecca Lough
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They tried to fob my client off with the suggestion that she had asked for an explanation and not an MR as well. It was all resolved at tribunal.

Mike Hughes
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I’ve had similar. Client had severe episode of poor mental health. Could not locate decision issued in that period. Requested a copy of the original decision. A request which could not have been any clearer. Gets a letter thanking them for their request for an explanation.

I’ve a recall of the days when they aspired to Plain English Awards. Nowadays I’ve a sense basic literacy is an issue.

AleksC
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Thanks for the replies all, a small consolation knowing it’s not just me experiencing the DWP shoddy administration and decision making, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised!

past caring
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Yes - don’t generally deal with AA that much as until relatively recently advice services for older people hadn’t taken the same hit that others have - or perhaps it’s worse AA decision making driving clients into my arms - but I’ve picked up a few shockers lately. 

The latest is one where AA acknowledge;

- client requires assistance to get to the toilet and to use it once he’s there
- that as a consequence of his diabetes he needs to use the toilet regularly/frequently

but where the appeal response nevertheless maintains that by taking the reasonable step of ‘resting’ he would not need to use the toilet during the middle of the day, so that the criterion of attention being required ‘throughout’ the day is not met. And on….in the same vein.

Yes, we’ll win at FtT and yes, I’ll get to say some highly critical stuff in my subs, but still, that changes not an awful lot other than for my client…...

BCD
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Kirklees council

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Paul_Treloar_AgeUK - 04 December 2023 03:05 PM

AA Unit’s handling of MR requests at the moment is laughable, we’re trying to find out a bit more about what’s going so badly wrong.

I had several AA special rules claims get ‘lost in the post’ this year before Martin at CPAG kindly tracked down an email address for me to send them. However, the email address only accepts claims from certain domains - gov.uk, nhs. etc - and at a recent Macmillan meeting other advisors from orgs such as CAB who don’t have these domain names, reported that they were also having issues with ‘lost’ special rules claims.

Paul, if you have any contacts at AA who you can raise this with that would be really helpful. Thanks.

Dave_Cov_89
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I work almost exclusively with pensioners, so I do a lot of AA forms. I now advise them to send signed for/recorded/tracked etc where they can due to the amount that got “lost” in the post around summer, seems to have prevented them getting “lost” somehow.

I’m wondering how link the AA issues are to this post:
https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/19714/

I seem to get through to Pension Credit rather quickly recently. Maybe some of the AA team have been moved over to PC?

past caring
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Dave_Cov_89 - 05 December 2023 11:35 AM

Maybe some of the AA team have been moved over to PC?

Well there’s two distinct issues come up in this thread. One, long delays and post/claims getting lost - that’s potentially accounted for by staffing issues and people being moved about. But the second issue, the apparent deterioration in the quality of decision making, is more difficult to lay at the door of staff shortage in its entirety…..

Mike Hughes
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#Confused. I see no mention of long delays above. The issue is largely a deterioration in the quality of response, whether that is decision making or post decision making.

I’d be interested in hearing from Paul further if there are clues as to what’s going on as there is a very clear sense that “something” has changed very clearly for the worse. Been sat in multiple stakeholder research sessions this year. Most have been very good, constructive and from parts of the DWP with their ears clearly working. Two genuinely disturbed me. One was a recent JCPs of The Future. The other was AA. Openly defensive/challenging. A strong sense they thought they were doing great things and that the problem was that we weren’t listening hard enough. Their explanation of how awards with short review dates were actually doing claimants a favour showed such a lack of basic insight into how a pensioner might view an end date for a claim involving a lifelong health condition. It was an eye opener. A real sense that something new had been introduced into the mix and was rotten.

Just with regard to recorded delivery, see https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/18731. Even more true today given that RM have admitted a failure to reach targets on even Special Delivery.

[ Edited: 5 Dec 2023 at 12:23 pm by Mike Hughes ]
Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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past caring - 05 December 2023 11:53 AM
Dave_Cov_89 - 05 December 2023 11:35 AM

Maybe some of the AA team have been moved over to PC?

Well there’s two distinct issues come up in this thread. One, long delays and post/claims getting lost - that’s potentially accounted for by staffing issues and people being moved about. But the second issue, the apparent deterioration in the quality of decision making, is more difficult to lay at the door of staff shortage in its entirety…..

Absolutely. Things we’ve been seeing and hearing about include:

* clients being told they don’t qualify as although they have care and support needs, they have no-one to provide it so they don’t qualify
* clients having their needs for care and support downplayed or ignored and told they don’t meet the criteria for frequent attention
* clients challenging these decisions byway of MR and then a complete lack of follow-up from DWP
* clients challenging these decisions byway of MR and being told that they’ve had the decision explained to them and off the back of that, the MR request has been “closed”
* clients receiving telephone explanations of decisions and then being told that if they’re not happy, they need to send an MR, even though the reason they had the telephone call was because they made the MR request.

BCD from Kirklees, afraid we don’t have any inside contacts but we have heard about a couple of terminal illness cases which had dragged on which we were able to escalate and get resolved.

Mike Hughes
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Paul_Treloar_AgeUK - 04 December 2023 03:05 PM

AA Unit’s handling of MR requests at the moment is laughable, we’re trying to find out a bit more about what’s going so badly wrong.

Any progress Paul?

My digging about suggests that AA DMs were moved over to UC appeal writing earlier this year and this has been compounded by call centre staff turnover being on the rise and no-one sufficiently experienced to train them. I can’t vouch for the last bit. That’s my educated guess. The rest I’ve had from several sources at this point. Not sure how it compares to the 100% turnover previously reported with PIP but all the above would certainly explain a lot.

Wouldn’t mind but it’s not like moving AA DMs to UC appeal writing appears to have produced any profoundly different outcome beyond there now being a slightly higher percentage of UC appeals which actually have appeal papers. The quality remains dismal beyond belief. Again a guess but it’s not outrageous to imagine that UC appeal writers probably feel they’re banging their heads against a very thick wall with regards to obtaining coherent (or any) evidence from UC.

Think it might be worth asking for AA decision making and the quality of calls to be raised as a stakeholder issue nationally. The deterioration is quite dramatic and in systems theory terms it’s creating failure demand from contact through claims to MRs and appeals. All unnecessary.

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Nothing to report as yet. Work colleague has been in some discussions with DWP contact who has promised to look into the issues we’ve identified Mike.

I’ve also been in touch with RNIB and CPAG as they’re aiming to try to get some information into the public domain on the specific MR problems that have been happening, but with Christmas in the way, doubt that will produce anything concrete until next year now.

I agree this is something that should be taken up on a national basis as what we’re seeing is probably just scratching the surface. We’ve had an MR decision this week which is frankly laughable but client is reluctant to appeal as they feel it’s pointless pursuing - our local partner said “As an office we are getting more AA refusals, we are not really doing anything differently and it seems they are making more suggestions for using “coping strategies””

Mike Hughes
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I’ve an AA telephone appeal re: award length at the end of next week. Literally cannot remember the last time I had an AA appeal. It’s been years. Putting aside the ever present risk of a tribunal judge wanting to flex their muscles to suggest a very clear case might not be for some obscure reason I expect to be done inside 10 minutes. It’s stuff which shouldn’t have to go through MR let alone appeal.

From the other side
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We have noticed a lot more AA appeals coming our way and as has been mentioned earlier the form filling has been similar to before but it seems different parameters are being used by Decision Makers and I had my first hearing last week. Fortunately the PO at the hearing acknowledged immediately that the client (registered sight impaired) should have an award and was not required to participate!