While I’m generally much more interested in general social change, alongside the potential for technology to transform lives, I’ve also recently been getting more and more interested in the nitty-gritty of various parts of the legislation around particular benefits.
Just recently I’ve been looking at the Attendance Allowance, which has both a fairly poor Wikipedia page and a reasonably patronising government page (it’s actually quite reasonable in terms of the ‘what you need to know’ but I’m not sure it needed to be on four very small pages rather than just one reasonable one… )
While I was looking around on this I discovered a handy Freedom of Information request someone had made. To give you the appropriate extract, the request was:
Please provide a copy of the guidance, procedures, assessment criteria and any other working tools which are used by staff to reach an assessment as to eligibility of an applicant for Attendance Allowance.
For the avoidance of doubt this request should be taken to include all of the information used by assessors and their management whether it is kept in written or electronic format, and should show the complete assessment process from receipt of an application for Attendance allowance, through scoring and evaluation, final assessment and determination
All our guidance is electronic and I have provided the links below. There is no
scoring/evaluation/ final assessment for Attendance Allowance. All decisions are made using
the legislation and guidance which is included in the link.
Two nice things to point out here: firstly, well done to the government for having it all online anyway (even if any links to the documents where glaringly absent from the normal page). Secondly well done to the person making the request for confirming officially that there were no special documents left behind.
So let’s look at these official documents. As you would expect they are much more substantial than the tiny bits of information on the official site – the medical conditions list alone is over 700 pages.
While we are on the subject of the medical conditions list, I thought I’d share this extract from the ‘Amputation’ section.
I like that it recommends three separate places to find evidence of an Amputation… because it’s something that is so easy to fake.
Back to the point, for Attendance Allowance, the chapter we are looking for turns out to be Chapter 61 of this file. I’m going to just look at the introduction for now (I’ve pruned out a lot of the ‘Section 4, subsection 2, paragraph B’ scaffolding….)
AA is a benefit designed to help severely disabled people who need
1. attention from another person or
2. supervision from another person or
3. another person to watch over them.
There is only one AA component made with two rates which are
1. the higher rate and
2. the lower rate.
Severely disabled people may be entitled to either of these rates. The rate depends on the level of attention, supervision or watching over a person needs.
To be entitled to AA a person must be
1. aged 65 or over and
2. not entitled to DLA1.
AA is a weekly benefit payable on Mondays unless
1. it is linked with another benefit and
2. the DM arranges for it to be paid on that benefit’s payday1.
There are also circumstances when AA can be paid daily (see DMG 61881 et seq).
The day condition
The day condition is satisfied if a person is so severely disabled physically or mentally that, they require from another person
1. frequent attention throughout the day in connection with bodily functions1 or
2. continual supervision throughout the day in order to avoid substantial danger
The night condition
The night condition is satisfied if a person is so severely disabled physically or mentally that, at night they require
1. prolonged or repeated attention in connection with bodily functions from another person1 or
2. another person to be awake for a prolonged period or at frequent intervals for the purpose of watching over them in order to avoid substantial danger to themselves or others2.
Rates of AA
AA is payable at the higher rate if a person satisfies both the day condition and the night condition or is terminally ill (see DMG 61491 et seq).
AA is payable at the lower rate if a person satisfies either the day condition or the night condition.
Now go back and compare that sort of clear, unambiguous language, including references and documentation, with the dumbed down version that you get when you google for the information. I highly recommend to people interested in such things that they have a look around the set of documents made public by the DWP, and I recommend to public bodies that when they make something public, they link it to the rest of the content, so that people who might be worried about how things work can get hold of real information, not blandly patronising Microsoft Paper Clip Information (‘Hi, it looks like you are trying to claim a benefit, can I help?’)