Civil servants told to judge whether disabled deserve benefits by GOOGLING their illnesses

Press Association

Civil servants have been told they can judge whether to pay benefits to ­the sick by ­Googling their illnesses, after proper tests were scrapped.

In a memo leaked yesterday, Department for Work and Pensions staff were instructed to look online when assessing new claims for Disability Living Allowance for under 18s and Attendance Allowance for over 65s.

Shadow Work Secretary Rachel Reeves accused the Tory-led Government of showing “utter contempt” for disabled people.

The Labour MP said: “Out-of-touch ministers need to explain to disabled people how they’ve got to a situation where guidance is being issued telling civil ­servants to look for advice on complex disability cases on the internet.

“It’s just one more sign of the utter incompetence of DWP Ministers and their total contempt for a fair assessment process for disability benefits.

“It beggars belief that staff are instructed to look online for information on complex medical conditions until a full service is resumed.”

The fiasco comes after medical examinations run by hated contractor ATOS were scrapped and the rolling out of the new benefit, Personal Independence Payment — which is replacing DLA — was delayed.

Disabled people whose conditions have worsened are also being assessed by officials surfing the web.

The November 7 DWP staff bulletin stated: “Medical Practitioners will no longer be available as a source of evidence.”

Decision makers are advised to consult the “recognised internet sites such as Cancer Research UK and NHS Choices”.

Other suggestions include phoning the claimant or their carer, discussing the case with colleagues and seeking advice from social services.

But the DWP stressed officials were not just looking conditions up online.

A spokesman said: “Decision makers can also use information from sources including the claim form, care plans, medical reports and carers.”

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