DWP have confirmed all of the rule changes that apply to every single Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and ESA claimant.
There are a whole raft of changes that are being made in relation to the assessment of claims – including the consideration of video recordings of assessments and reducing the frequency of repeat assessments.
It also suggested that “better quality evidence” was gathered earlier on in the process.
The changes come after data shows that from November last year there were 3.5million working-aged people with health conditions making at least one claim, Lancs Live reports.
This included 1.6 million people who were claiming for both.
Usually, it’s common practice for claimants to be “means tested” when they apply for specific benefits.
This means that someone will access whether they have the ability to work or not.
However, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, meant that means testing was no longer able to take place.
So, in order to help resolve the issue, the government increased the standard allowance amount by £20.
This applied to those claiming for Universal Credit.
However, the scheme comes to a close next month on October 6.
The DWP said: “75 percent of people claiming ESA, 74 percent of people claiming PIP, and 79 percent of people claiming UC say they are ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their overall experience. However, we also know that a sizeable minority of people are not content.
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“For example, nine percent of PIP decisions have been appealed through a tribunal. We want to ensure more people have a positive experience.
“People said that assessment reports were not always accurate and that this could lead to poor decisions being made. Some people found our application and assessment processes difficult and stressful.
“People sometimes had to provide the same information during the assessment process more than once. People felt Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) and PIP assessments were repetitive. People wanted more say in where their assessments took place. People felt repeat assessments were unnecessary where they had a condition that would not improve.”
In its Health and Disability Green Paper the department acknowledged the difficulties people face saying, “We have heard that some people find it difficult to interact with the benefits system.
“They can feel afraid to access benefits and can find health assessments a difficult, long and challenging process.”
They then outlined the changes that the DWP hope to make which include:
- Creating an integrated health assessment service for sharing medical evidence (with consent) if a person is applying for more than one benefit, so claimants do not have to provide information more than once
- Offering to make audio recordings of assessments to improve trust in decisions
- Exploring the idea of video recordings of face-to-face assessments.
- Making more use of paper-based assessments in which decisions are based on documents and filling in forms, to make more decisions quickly and simply “so that people only have to go through face-to-face assessments where these are absolutely necessary.” This might sometimes mean assessors having to take rigorous steps to get hold of any missing evidence, via a phone call, rather than insisting on arranging a face-to-face meeting to complete the process.
- A full evaluation of telephone assessments – these had to be used during the pandemic and most claimants have reported a positive experience. The DWP said: ” During the pandemic, we have had to rapidly adapt how we deliver our services. We have not been able to conduct face-to-face assessments during most of this time. Therefore, as a temporary measure, we have been carrying out assessments by telephone.”
- Looking into the idea of assessments done by video call. Over 750 people have gone through a video assessment as part of a test that ran until the end of March 2021. Subject to an evaluation, the DWP is now moving forward with plans to increase the number of video assessments as part of a pilot.
- Reducing the frequency of repeat assessments some people need to go through on PIP. The DWP says it has ensured that people on the highest level of support whose needs will not improve, and most people over State Pension Age, receive an ongoing award of PIP with only a ‘light touch’ review at the 10-year point. A review can take place sooner if a person’s needs change.
- Holistic decision-making. The DWP says it wants to reduce the number of appeals against its decisions and a study of tribunal cases “suggested that better quality evidence needs to be gathered earlier in the decision-making process.”
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