At the moment, people with medical issues who apply for PIP (Personal Independence Payment), ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and Universal Credit are usually made to attend an appointment with a health professional who judges if they’re able to work.
Some claimants have criticised the process as inaccurate, stressful, difficult and repetitive as reported by Sussex Live.
The restrictions of the Covid pandemic have led the DWP to re-assess its procedures as they have not been able to assess people in person.
Read more: News that will effect your money
This means that new rules will be put in place.
The DWP said: “75 percent of people claiming ESA, 74 percent of people claiming PIP and 79 per cent 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.
“For example, nine per cent 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.”
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And in its Health and Disability Green Paper looking at the future of benefits, the department explains the changes that are being introduced following those criticisms:
- 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 coronavirus 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.”
It elaborated: “Holistic decision making allows our staff to take extra time, if needed, to make a decision on benefit entitlement following a health assessment.
“This extra time has often allowed more evidence to be provided to support the decision-making process. It has also allowed more time for our staff to listen to people claiming benefits and to help people understand the reasons why a decision has been made.”
It says this has meant twice as many PIP decisions have been changed when the claimant asks the DWP to look at their case again, before it gets as far as a tribunal. And it also means far fewer appeals are lodged with the tribunal service.
The DWP said: ” This is better for disabled people and people with health conditions, who often find the appeal process difficult and stressful. It is also more affordable for the Department because it means less money is spent on appeals.”
The holistic decision making approach is also being used for ESA and Universal Credit.
The DWP’s green paper says: “As we build back better from the coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever that the benefits system supports people when they need it most.
“People can sometimes find it difficult to interact with us.
“Disabled people and people with health conditions can feel afraid of the benefits system, do not always trust health assessments or the decisions that they lead to and, as a result, can be unwilling to accept offers of employment support and feel worried about starting work.
“We have set out what we want to do to make improvements in the future and asked for suggestions about the changes we should make.”
A consultation on proposals raised in the green paper is running until October 11, 2021.
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