Sunday, February 06, 2011

ADHD and DLA Fraud

cross-posted at Where's the Benefit?

There's an article on the BBC News website is entitled Unscrupulous parents seek ADHD diagnosis for benefits

The evidence for this assertion is that two anonymous headteachers claim this to be the case.
"Susan" has asked to remain anonymous, because she knows what she says is controversial and does not want to stigmatise the parents of every child with a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Not sure how anonymous sources make any difference to the stigmatising effect of the article. ADHD is already a massively stigmatised condition. Many people, including teachers, are sceptical as to whether the condition isn't simply a way for bad parents to excuse the bad behaviour of their children. I have heard it theorised that ADHD is a problem caused by middle class parents who aren't prepared to smack their children and demand a label when their children struggle at school, or that ADHD is a problem caused by working class parents who feed their children junk food and abandon them to the television. Bringing benefit fraud into this can only add to the stigma.

Psychiatric diagnoses with subjective criteria are always tricky and identifying abnormality in children's behaviour is particularly fraught, so there are bound to be misdiagnoses. But for children with these impairments, attempting to navigate the world and an inflexible education system, a diagnosis of ADHD can be a tremendous gateway, not to extra cash for their parents, but to proper treatment and the help they need to succeed. DLA can be used to buy time, peace, practical adjustments and special arrangments so that these children and their families can have as full and normal life as possible. Which in turn promotes normal development.

Their anonymous source continues
"Every child I have on medication, we are asked to fill part of the forms that they [parents] submit as benefit claimants, to verify they have ADHD, so it goes hand-in-hand."
As the article later points out, both NICE and the Royal College of Psychiatrist believe that Ritalin should only be prescribed to chlidren with severe behavioural problems. Therefore, it follows, those families whose children are actually prescribed Ritalin are likely to be in greastest need for help.

Only of course, there are only 328,000 people on DLA under the age of 16, including all those with mobility and special care needs, whereas there are many more children taking Ritalin (I can't find a figure that agrees, but somewhere past half a million). Ritalin prescription and DLA do not go hand in hand.

Then finally,
Abuse of the Disability Living Allowance by parents is one reason the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is discussing reform.
No, it's not. It has been said before, but it has to be said again and again, DLA fraud is reckoned to stand at 0.5%. There are only 328,000 people under 16 claiming DLA, including all those children with mobility and special care needs. Presuming that fraud is as common amongst parents and guardians claiming for their children than amongst adults claiming for themselves – which seems extremely unlikely given the much stricter criteria for under 16s – then that's about 1600 cases in the country. The DWP are not reforming anything for the sake of 1600 fraudulent parents.

This article rattled me because it is such weak reporting and by the BBC, from whom I'd expect better. Disability fraud and the urgent need for reform has become a bandwagon, where an argument is built up around the word of anonymous sources who have no expertise beyond their anecdotal experience. Because there must be fraud. There must be massive fraud or else the government wouldn't be able to justify the cuts and increased stress and scrutiny in store for everyone on disability benefits.

The website article relates to a radio piece on this matter at 9pm tonight (Sunday, 6 February) on BBC Radio 5 Live. No, me neither.


Glynis Jolly said...

My daughter was dianosed with ADHD when she was a child. We opted not to put her on medication and watched her diet. Light on the protiens and no sweets. She seems to be doing fine these days. I wonder if the medication is over prescribed.

The Goldfish said...

Hi Glynis, it may well be the case that too much medication is prescribed, but that's a different issue to whether parents are seeking diagnosis and medication as a wheeze for extra benefits. I imagine that, like yourselves, most parents would only consider giving their children mind-altering drugs as a last resort.

Glad your lass is doing well. :-)

Stephanie said...

Is it just mean or is it getting more frequent in countries like the UK and the US and others that reporters are more often reporting what people expect to hear rather than what they need to know?

Ole Ferme l'Oeil said...

I wanted to say thank you for this post,...
Yes I hate all the way people perceive adhd...
And when people want to use us to promote violent and abusive ways of "educating" children I feel so terrible.

Ole Ferme l'Oeil said...

@Stephanie: Oh apparently in France and Switzerland too.
I think you are right (well the only thing I'm not sure about is if it is relly new!)