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Attendance Allowance

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Mike Hughes
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My bias is towards sight loss cases so I’m hesitant to draw more generalised conclusions but it does seem we’ve been gifted AA DMs with the same level of knowledge around sensory impairment as those doing PIP i.e. impressively close to absolutely clueless.

Fi Barker
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I have just had a conversation with a lady called Deepta on AA telephony who told me that you can only request a MR within 28 days of the decision, i politely explained the law around 13 months and she checked with her line manager and she told me I was not correct, my late MR has not been dealt with, am waiting a call back, not holding my breathe, think an escalation via partnership manager is warranted

Dave_Cov_89
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Coping strategies?

Isn’t the whole point that it is help that is needed, not what is currently being given. So if they are suggesting using coping strategies, that would indicate help/difficulty for that task? Bizarre.

Stuart
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From today’s SSCS stats for July to September 2023 - an 87 per cent increase in attendance allowance appeals in the quarter compared to same period last year.

The data tables published alongside the stats show (at table SSCS 1) there were 358 AA appeals in Q2 2023 compared to 191 in Q2 2022 (the 87 per cent increase) - not a massive number but it is the highest number of AA appeals per quarter since 2013/2014.

Mike Hughes
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That does seem to chime with the 2023 experience.

The 13/14 rise I associate with the whole mess around DWP wrongly advising people to claim AA when the newly unleashed PIP was the option. Take that out and I’d guess this years figures are the worst in decades.

Mike Hughes
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Mike Hughes - 13 December 2023 01:00 PM

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.

Must remind myself to not predict stuff like this. The “ever present risk” came right to the fore. Right up there as one of the most dismal tribunal hearings I’ve had in 38 years. Actually lost my temper; talked across the judge for the 1st time in my entire career as he wouldn’t entertain so much as a discussion and I had to walk away from the phone for 2 minutes. Not that they were self aware enough to even notice I’d gone. Arrogance beyond belief. I have never been reduced to any of that before but I guess everyone has a breaking point when confronted with such a lack of the basics. I’ve now found mine. 

It’s bad enough that AA decisions are nosediving in quality. It’s going to be compounded with poor quality tribunals “unanimously” screwing things up which are so basic I don’t even know where to start. Actually, how about “You kept us waiting for 23 minutes after the specified start time but didn’t think it appropriate to explain the delay or offer an apology to the appellant”. How about a PO who had been dialled in but didn’t know why she was there; was unaware she’d been scheduled and, unsurprisingly, had no papers. Remind me again, why are we even allowing her into the hearing?

Tribunal judge and panel then apparently absolutely unanimous before I’d even spoken that tribunal needed to be adjourned for 3 sources of medical evidence; measurements and assertions which will simply not exist and will not sway the case one way or another. Not prepared to have any discussion about how that might play out in practice. Decision could have been made on the day based on 1 page of the claim and 1 para. of the sub. Tribunal not prepared to consider whether that’s made worse when we’ve been waiting nearly a year for a hearing and this is an older person already distressed at losing their vision.

28 days from the 21st of December 23 to magic up said evidence. Clock apparently started ticking on the 21st of December presumably on the assumption no-one stops work for Christmas.

So yeah, once I have put in the minimal and irrelevant evidence we’ve been directed to obtain and won the next hearing in front of a different panel - without that panel making any reference to that complete waste of an adjournment, directions and time - I won’t be complaining (as I was not on my best form and had been well and truly triggered by an outrageous start to the hearing) but I might just be highlighting the absolute paucity of basic common sense and competence in this specific panel.

Really not a good time to be an AA claimant.

[ Edited: 12 Jan 2024 at 05:41 pm by Mike Hughes ]
Carri
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For anyone interested in why AA MR requests are not being registered properly, I’ve had this reply to a freedom of information request:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/attendance_allowance_dispute_pro?nocache=incoming-2493356#incoming-2493356

The very short version is that AA decision-makers are now instructed to respond to an MR request with an ‘explanation’ (usually a call, can be a letter) instead of responding with an MR decision and notice.

‘Where the customer directly asks for a Mandatory Reconsideration (…), an explanation [call] will always be offered first as this may resolve their issue without following the Mandatory Reconsideration or Appeal route.’ (in the document called AA DM 20 Explanations v3.0, at p5)

On the explanation call, the decision-maker will generally tell the client why the original decision was right, and ask if they accept this. Unless the client says ‘no’, no MR will be registered.

‘After your explanation you should not be signposting the customer to a Mandatory Reconsideration.  Clarify if they are happy with the explanation and ask if they are happy to leave it there or continue. If they opt to continue, then refer to Disputes Team’ (in the document called AA DM 20 Explanations Handout, at p7)

If your client can’t be reached by phone, it seems they’ll be sent a written explanation - ie, not an MR notice with appeal rights.

This new policy seems to have come in around April 2023. I’m doing some work on challenging it (with RNIB who first flagged the problem to us, and Age UK). Please contact me if you can share a case study about how this policy has affected one of your clients (would only be used anonymously). Thanks

[ Edited: 12 Jan 2024 at 10:52 pm by Carri ]
JonUCN
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Carri - 12 January 2024 09:38 PM

If your client can’t be reached by phone, it seems they’ll be sent a written explanation - ie, not an MR notice with appeal rights.

This new policy seems to have come in around April 2023.

Not entirely new, see the attachment here, and much of the rest of that thread.

Carri
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JonUCN - 13 January 2024 12:09 PM

[Not entirely new, see the attachment here, and much of the rest of that thread.

Thanks Jon. By new policy I meant new for AA. I’m aware explanation calls have been used and abandoned in the past for PIP and WCA decisions. I’ll have a look at that thread.
*Edited to say: I have now - very useful, thanks.

[ Edited: 13 Jan 2024 at 07:46 pm by Carri ]
Elliot Kent
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I suspect it would be helpful for advisers to include a statement in MR requests pre-empting this guidance and making it express that an explanation is not being requested and would be treated as a refusal to revise.

Anna Malone
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Interested to know from other organisations if the increase in AA refusals is still an issue?  We are seeing a significant increase.  Has anyone had any information or feedback from DWP as to why this is happening? Thank you

Keith S Adviser
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We have seen an increase in both the awarding of the lower rate and outright refusals, even though applications have been supported with medical evidence. We had one this morning, we added 5 pages of Dr Reports and serious health diagnosis to the MR.

Mike Hughes
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Not refusals in isolation. Just poor decision making. Limited length awards when life clearly appropriate. Quite hard to get an outright AA refusal even now.

Not seen any specific feedback but it seems clear enough there has been a directed exit of experienced decision making to address issues with UC appeals.

Mike Hughes
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Keith S Adviser - 25 January 2024 12:39 PM

We have seen an increase in both the awarding of the lower rate and outright refusals, even though applications have been supported with medical evidence. We had one this morning, we added 5 pages of Dr Reports and serious health diagnosis to the MR.

Worth noting that diagnosis is not really relevant. You have always been able to get all disability benefits without having a diagnosis. It’s not where the focus of evidence should fall unless DWP are actively disputing diagnosis.

The mistake most often made by claimants is to believe that a refusal means DWP refuse to believe the diagnosis whereas what is almost always being said is that the consequences do not meet the relevant criteria.

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Anna Malone - 25 January 2024 12:33 PM

Interested to know from other organisations if the increase in AA refusals is still an issue?  We are seeing a significant increase.  Has anyone had any information or feedback from DWP as to why this is happening? Thank you

We’re receiving queries from local partners on an almost daily basis at the moment Anna, I’ve never seen it so bad. We are trying to take this up with DWP through different channels so if you have case examples, please do share.

We had one last week where an Irish person was refused AA on HRT grounds, having moved from Ireland to the UK about 10 years ago. After our adviser got some advice from us, they had a call with a bolshy official on the Friday who insisted we were wrong and they were right and then on Monday, received another phone call of profuse apologies and an award of high rate from date of claim.

It really does feel like they are making things up as they go along at the moment.