Claimant believes DWP is breaching disability legislation
Legal action is being taken against the Department for Work and Pensions after it refused to allow a disabled man to use email to claim benefits.
DWP officials said Mark Lucas must make changes to his claim for Personal Independent Payments (PIP) by post.
Lucas said he believed the method was insecure and asked DWP to allow him to communicate via email as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act, but says he was told this was not possible.
According to Disability News Service, he expects to lose his PIP next month because of his refusal to submit a written claim form.
He has secured legal aid and a lawyer to fight his case and seek damages for disability discrimination.
Lucas, from Staffordshire, told Disability News Service that he does not trust DWP to deal with benefit claims by paper because it previously altered a written statement he had submitted in 2013 as part of a jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) claim while he was at university, and then accused him of fraud and fined him £2,500.
He also said one of the side-effects of the epilepsy medication he is taking is memory loss, and it is much easier for him to keep track of communication if done by email.
With communication via post,the DWP can claim that a page of a letter was missing or the letter itself never arrived, he said.
“They are providing a service for disabled people. They should make the service as inclusive as possible,” said Lucas.
They should make the service as inclusive as possible - Mark Lucas
However a DWP spokeswoman said she disputed Lucas's version of events.
She said: "If Mr Lucas requires a reasonable adjustment he can raise this and it can be implemented for future correspondence.
“Claimants are entitled to request to receive all communications from the department by email on the grounds of disability under the Equality Act 2010.
“When such a request is received, it must be for a valid reason which relates to the individual’s disability, that is, the customer finds it more difficult or they are unable to communicate and use our services through usual communication and contact routes because of their disability.
“We would also seek to explore whether alternative adjustments (eg large print/Braille) may suffice, but if this is not possible then email communications may be agreed.
“We don’t email claimants as a matter of course due to the potential risks these pose to citizens and DWP.
“In addition DWP must operate within its legislative framework and follow our business processes including records management. Therefore email correspondence must be carefully managed.”