Sunday 6 February 2011

ADHD and DLA fraud

There's an article on the BBC News website is entitled Unscrupulous parents seek ADHD diagnosis for benefits

The evidence for this assertion is that two anonymous headteachers claim this to be the case.
"Susan" has asked to remain anonymous, because she knows what she says is controversial and does not want to stigmatise the parents of every child with a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Not sure how anonymous sources make any difference to the stigmatising effect of the article. ADHD is already a massively stigmatised condition. Many people, including teachers, are sceptical as to whether the condition isn't simply a way for bad parents to excuse the bad behaviour of their children. I have heard it theorised that ADHD is a problem caused by middle class parents who aren't prepared to smack their children and demand a label when their children struggle at school, or that ADHD is a problem caused by working class parents who feed their children junk food and abandon them to the television. Bringing benefit fraud into this can only add to the stigma.

Psychiatric diagnoses with subjective criteria are always tricky and identifying abnormality in children's behaviour is particularly fraught, so there are bound to be misdiagnoses. But for children with these impairments, attempting to navigate the world and an inflexible education system, a diagnosis of ADHD can be a tremendous gateway, not to extra cash for their parents, but to proper treatment and the help they need to succeed. DLA can be used to buy time, peace, practical adjustments and special arrangments so that these children and their families can have as full and normal life as possible. Which in turn promotes normal development.

Their anonymous source continues
"Every child I have on medication, we are asked to fill part of the forms that they [parents] submit as benefit claimants, to verify they have ADHD, so it goes hand-in-hand."
As the article later points out, both NICE and the Royal College of Psychiatrist believe that Ritalin should only be prescribed to chlidren with severe behavioural problems. Therefore, it follows, those families whose children are actually prescribed Ritalin are likely to be in greastest need for help.

Only of course, there are only 328,000 people on DLA under the age of 16, including all those with mobility and special care needs, whereas there are many more children taking Ritalin (I can't find a figure that agrees, but somewhere past half a million). Ritalin prescription and DLA do not go hand in hand.

Then finally,
Abuse of the Disability Living Allowance by parents is one reason the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is discussing reform.
No, it's not. It has been said before, but it has to be said again and again, DLA fraud is reckoned to stand at 0.5%. There are only 328,000 people under 16 claiming DLA, including all those children with mobility and special care needs. Presuming that fraud is as common amongst parents and guardians claiming for their children than amongst adults claiming for themselves – which seems extremely unlikely given the much stricter criteria for under 16s – then that's about 1600 cases in the country. The DWP are not reforming anything for the sake of 1600 fraudulent parents.

This article rattled me because it is such weak reporting and by the BBC, from whom I'd expect better. Disability fraud and the urgent need for reform has become a bandwagon, where an argument is built up around the word of anonymous sources who have no expertise beyond their anecdotal experience. Because there must be fraud. There must be massive fraud or else the government wouldn't be able to justify the cuts and increased stress and scrutiny in store for everyone on disability benefits.

The website article relates to a radio piece on this matter at 9pm tonight (Sunday, 6 February) on BBC Radio 5 Live. No, me neither.


  1. I have no doubt that a *small* number of parents to abuse the system, just like anything else, but as you say it's a horrible stigmatization of the honest majority who struggle against enough ignorance about ADHD already. All the adults I know with ADHD would have dearly loved NOT to have their education and teenage years disrupted by it!

    It's a pity the BBC didn't think to link to this story on their own site for balance:

    New study claims ADHD 'has a genetic link

  2. I refused to even read this article. It's entirely too close to home right now.

  3. I agree, shockingly poor reporting for an organisation subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty. Unfortunately it's far from the first instance. One of their 'exposes' of benefit fraud a few years ago had people screaming at me in the street that I was a benefit fraud -- ironically at a point where I was getting precisely no benefits, disability related or otherwise! There really is a direct link between programmes and articles such as this and the bigotry we face every day.

  4. Get in touch with the BBC and OFCOM (see their websites or contact me:

    I`m not letting this one rest; if it was the Wail or the Scun, then I`d let it go, but I`m paying for the BBC with no choice to withdraw.

    Tweet and Facebook. Let`s get this one going.

  5. Here's another thought: the two headmistresses involved as anonymous sources have very probably breached their own professional standards as well as the Data Protection Act. Any information potentially prejudicial to a child, or related to the disability of a child, particularly a private medical communication they should not have seen, should not have been passed on to an outsider in any form. Even if names were removed there was probably sufficient information passed on to identify an individual child if the reporter was minded to. Should the BBC really be involving itself with that kind of breach of child protection responsibilities?

  6. Thanks folks.

    david - I have made a complaint to the BBC, I'll have a look at OffCom tomorrow, if they cover on-line news.

    DavidG - keeping their anonyminity and referring in the vaguest terms to these supposed fraudsters, they haven't breeched anything.

    To be honest, I found the anonyminity very problematic. There are some newspapers where this kinds of practice indicates we made these people up, although I don't think the BBC would do that. However, anonymous sources are entirely unaccountable sources, which means they can say pretty much anything without fear of challenge or consequence.

  7. Although I was fuming, I have decided to do this `by the book`. I am going to wait 10 days and see what the BBC say when they reply; I am also going to see what Ofcom say. I will not be satisfied until:

    a) Radio 5 Live has to make some kind of statement disclosing the `actual` fraud figures for DLA


    b) They have a parent with a child who has ADHD to put their side across.

  8. im a parent wit a son with adhd ,, and i can assure u my life and my famlies life can be hell on earth at times with my son , he struggles everyday to do small tasks and to control his impulses stupied things u or i would not have to think about .. adhd is a horrible condition which can be helped but its a constant battle . my son tried make toast today while i went to hae a shower i had to jump out of the shower when the smoke alarm went off and my grill on fire ... yesterday he smashed a door wen he couldnt find one of his shoes after 10 mins .. we found it in the bin after he had tried clean his room ....

  9. my son has adhd and every day life is very hard,it makes me mad when people say its bad parenting ITS NOT,i have always punished my children and i have always punished my children,my boy finds it hard to sit still,he is always full of energy,,he doesnt sleep,if things dont go his way he will smash my house up,people are to quick to judge

  10. I have been forced to resign from my position following 23 years as a civil servant due to the behavioural challenges my family have endured over the last 3 years. Despite several requests for flexible working I was forced to reduce my hours at first to part time to accomodate the crisis situations a parent is thrown into when their child had this awful genetic neurological defect ADHD. My son is well diciplined, My first born is a professional and achieved excellent exam results. I have no treat either child differently and placed the same dicipline and boundaries and, warmth and emotional support. My child with ADHD has been very difficult to manage despite strategies used in school to help him, My husband and I voluntarily participated in Tripple P parenting courses but to no avail. The ability to process information, to consider cause and effect does not come natural to him. He faces predjudice, he has a label at school peers set him up to get into truble, teachers like some people on this internet have used inappropriate verbal abuse towards him. ADHD is a medical condition it does exist it has been proven to just like cancer or other medical conditions. It has taken 3 years and many connors reports, phychlogical testings, monitoring from the local authority to see him in several different settings, hundreds of meetings, appointments and reviews to finally have a diagnosis for the awful stressfull experince we as a family encounter. I do agree i have seen many different extremes with the condition some moderate some acute but the characteristics all the same. I have witnessed some parents request increase in medication to give themselves easier time of it and not in the best interests of their child. Having said this, I know my child has a condition that it very real, very difficult and exhausting and stressfull to contend with. I have one question to ask those doubting ignorant people, as I have proven and requested from what i had believed to be close friends "Please come and live a day in my life, you will probably get through but try a week or a month and I assure you - you wont" My friends have left my home after a day apologising and commenting on how they cant understand how I cope. That was without dealing with school issues, complaints from neighbours, ignorance from family members, stigma from web forums etc. I just hope one day someone takes those ignorant people to task and challenges their discrimination in our law courts. Perhaps then perceptions will change.
    Dont comment if you dont really know what your talking about. Give opinions based on fact and experience not perception and based on what you have absolutely no clue about.

    1. well said mum of 3. My son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 7yrs old and put on ritalin. He is now 12yrs and on strattera which was the best move ever, due to maturing and new medication my son is alot easier to handle but still has off days (chin up there is light at the end of the tunnel) xx

  11. what a load of rubbish. I struggle everyday with my son who has ADHD. I would love to work, but with my son up and down all night and school constanley phoing me to get me to pick him up from school, no parent can be expected to have any job. I work voluntary as a beaver leader but without my DLA I never would cope trying to work with all the pressure. how dare anyone who hasnt had a child with this condition even mention that its just bad parenting!!! get a life and lets hope your grandchildren are diagnosed with it if your children havent, then lets see you comment.

  12. I think that it is not so easy to get a false diagnosis for a child which is not affected by ADHD or ADD. Diagnostic process is so long and stressful for both parents and child and there are many specialists involved so it's not just a parent saying "my child has ADHD" and he gets DLA straight away but many psychologists, teachers, occupational therapists &lots of appointments.
    I don't see how bad parenting can affect child's ability to focus. I don't think I'm a bad parent at all and I do my best to keep my son safe. BBC should apologise for this piece of crap.

  13. my son has adhd with odd hes 12 medication started at 7 lost his dla 4 months ago wow its hard cant make him any more promises im behind with his football payments what keeps him busy i cant afford to run my car no more which i need to make sure he arrives at school safely with no distractions he has 3 older sisters and trying to keep him calm is hard work i used to be able to say come on we will go here or you have done so well new boots hes struggleing in school on report fighting throwing things swearing at teachers losing his temper but all my promises have gone id say really really try i will get you them new boots and he would but i dont no what i can do im on for my 3rd appeal been 4 months not looking good