Thursday 19 January 2012

Just a form - some benefit myths

Here are three myths that have been annoying me recently, the first two repeated constantly by government ministers.

Myth: DLA can be claimed just by filling in a form.

Fact: Some people might only fill in a form to claim DLA, but decisions makers demand strong evidence to award the benefit. That evidence might come from the claimant's GP, or consultant, or other specialist in their disability. It might come from an occupational therapist or social worker. Many people send supporting evidence with their claim form, but if they don't the DWP will write to medical professionals and ask for it. If nothing is available, the DWP will send the claimant to a medical assessment - and they might well do that anyway. So the claimant might just fill in a form, but the decision needs a lot more evidence than that. Renewals may be treated differently.

Myth: DLA is awarded for life.

Fact: DLA is awarded for life ONLY if the disability is for life. Some cases are obvious. Missing limbs, progressive diseases. They don't get better. They get worse. There is no point in repeatedly assessing people with such disabilities apart from to see if they have got worse, and in that case a simple letter asking the patient if they have got worse would suffice to determine who to reassess. People who have variable conditions or illnesses that might improve get awarded DLA for a limited time after which they have to reapply. In my own case I have been awarded DLA for two years, and more recently for five years. Not for life.

Myth: People on benefits get free cars.

Fact: People who are unable to walk or virtually unable to walk get the higher rate mobility component of DLA. This is worth about £50 per week. They can spend it to improve their lives however they wish. Many people use the money to buy a wheelchair or a car. There is a scheme called Motability which is run by a charity, NOT the government, and people who receive high rate mobility can choose to lease a car or a wheelchair through them, paid for out of their own DLA.

The Motability scheme (remember, paid for by people who use it) purchases new cars and leases them to its customers. Most customers pay the entire £50 per week of their mobility allowance to the Motability scheme for three years to lease the car. That is £7,800 in total. At the end of the lease the car is sold. If the payments and the sale price together are not expected to match the purchase price, the customer pays the difference in advance. So it is perfectly possible to have a high end car, but unless it has a high resale price, the customer could be paying hundreds or thousands of pounds extra for that lease. And they don't get to keep it.

This article is taken from the authors own blog at


  1. Picking up on Motability, all my workmates (while I was still working), assumed I got 'a free car', I had to explain to them that not only didn't I get a free car, I didn't even get DLA. Everyone assumed that someone with my degree of mobility issues would automatically qualify, it came as quite a shock to them that the reality is different.

    But the myth of Motability abuse is so dominant that Motability themselves recently gave in to the bigots and announced that they wouldn't be carrying nearly so many higher end cars, and that authorised drivers would have to live within 5 miles of the recipient. So if you're a disabled person who needs a high end car to accomodate your equipment, or because you have to drive a lot as part of your job, or if your carer is your authorised driver, but lives six miles away, tough, you're stuffed. The bigots took a service that worked, that helped disabled people to engage in the community, often enabled them to work, and they spoiled it through petty jealousy. That's just so incredibly depressing.

  2. All good points, and to be honest the form all by itself can be too much. It turns out, having to think about every single way your illness or disability makes life harder for you is tough, upsetting and stressful. Which tends to aggravate things somewhat.

    I don't think I know a single person who managed to sit down and fill in the forms a) in one sitting and b)alone. The forms are horrible.