17 October 2003
What: A report by the National Audit Office on ‘improving the medical assessment of incapacity and disability benefits’ criticises the backlog of cases subject to assessment. The report says the assessment backlog reached 368,000 in 2001. The report also says that 59 per cent of successful tribunal cases are due to new medical evidence coming to light at the Tribunal which “was not available to the decision-maker”.
Why significant: It is often stated that incapacity benefit claimants were rarely or ever assessed but this report shows that not to be true. The tribunal evidence also appears to be an early sign of DWP’s failure to seek the necessary medical evidence early in the assessment process, which will have such a significant role in the deaths of claimants post-2010. It also suggests a lack of awareness by GPs of the “substantial risk” rules.