DWP update: Major change announced to Universal Credit and PIP assessments

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Pre pandemic, people with mental health conditions and disabilities making a claim for PIP or Universal Credit would be required to attend a face to face assessment with a health professional to work out how their condition interfered with everyday life. This wasn’t possible during the pandemic so video interviews and assessments became more commonplace, which although had its advantages, led to a number of complaints from people who thought the DWP made the wrong decision.

In a green paper just published, the DWP said: “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.”

As well as this, people complained that they sometimes had to provide the same information twice and were limited to what additional information they could provide.

The paper highlighted: “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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To address these problems, the DWP said it plans to make significant changes including creating an integrated health assessment service to enable its colleagues to share evidence (with consent).

Ultimately this would mean that if a person is applying for more than one benefit, they would not have to provide the same information more than once.

As well as this, it is looking into making audio recordings of assessments to improve peoples’ trust in its decisions – nine percent of PIP decisions were appealed last year.

It 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.

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“However, we also know that a sizeable minority of people are not content. For example, nine percent of PIP decisions have been appealed through a tribunal. We want to ensure more people have a positive experience.”

In addition, the Department is planning a full evaluation of telephone assessments which have been the main type of appointment during the pandemic with most claimants reporting 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.”

And as well as telephone appointments, the DWP will also be looking into the idea of assessments being carried out over video call and is planning to increase the number of video assessments in the future.

A bugbear for many people claiming PIP in particular is the amount of repeat assessments some people need to go through.

The DWP says it will introduce a light touch review only needed every ten years for people with conditions that are unlikely to improve, as well as for most people over the state pension age.

More importantly, it is looking to introduce holistic decision making with better quality evidence gathered earlier in the process to reduce the number of appeals against its decisions.

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The DWP said: “Holistic decision making allows our 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 to listen to people claiming benefits and to help people understand the reasons why a decision has been made.

“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.”

This holistic approach to assessing PIP claims will also be used when determining whether someone should receive Universal Credit and will hopefully make the whole process a lot easier and stress free – people who think they may be entitled to claim should go to the Government’s website.

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