DWP told to ‘get a grip’ over damaging disability benefit assessments

More than 80 charities and organisations have called on the government to make urgent changes to disability benefit assessments.

More than 80 charities and other organisations have urged the Department for Work and Pensions to “get a grip” of assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), after a new report revealed the new system is making sick and disabled people’s medical conditions worse.

The report from the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) highlights the damaging impact of cruel and stressful disability benefit assessments on people’s health and mental well-being.

In a survey of over 1700 people with long-term conditions including Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and mental health problems, more than three quarters (79%) of respondents said their assessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) had made their health worse due to stress and anxiety.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Phil Reynolds, Co-chair of the DBC and Senior Policy Adviser at Parkinson’s UK, said: “For the first time, these findings paint the true picture of what it is like to go through the complex assessment process for PIP.

“Shockingly, a small number of people told us the experience of claiming PIP was so distressing that it has caused new conditions to emerge, or even caused suicidal thoughts.

“It is clear that PIP is failing many people from start to finish so it is vital the government work with us to get a grip on PIP and support everyone who needs it, instead of making their health worse.”

Find out more: Disability benefit assessments making people’s health worse, says damning report

The DBC have listed ten recommendations the coalition believes would improve the PIP assessment system and help ease the stress and anxiety experienced by claimants.

Those recommendations are as follows:

1. The DWP should immediately introduce simplified claim forms that are readily available in Jobcentres, downloadable online and in accessible formats (such as audio described and easy read), without the need to return them within four weeks.

2. The DWP should commission an independent review of the evidence gathering processes, to explore ways to:

  • educate health and social care professionals on how to provide relevant supporting evidence
  • ensure duties and responsibility of the assessor, the DWP and claimant are clear and observed
  • make sure the DWP has a strategy to articulate to claimants what evidence will be most useful for their claim
  • ensure evidence supplied by friends and family members is given due consideration

3. In order to restore confidence in the process, assessors should be obligated to review all supporting evidence provided by a claimant, with penalties if they do not.

4. A thorough review of the PIP assessment criteria should be urgently conducted, with meaningful involvement from disabled people and those with long-term conditions to ensure criteria are fair and truly reflect the extra costs that people face. In particular, this should focus on examining rules setting out how fluctuation is considered.

5. Restore the ‘20-metre rule’ for enhanced mobility support to 50 metres.

6. The DWP must re-establish direct responsibility for assessment quality and publish an urgent quality improvement plan to ensure assessment companies are conducting assessments consistently and to a high standard.

7. Reverse the changes made earlier this year to the mobility criteria, which restrict the ability of an individual who experiences overwhelming psychological distress when planning and executing a journey to qualify for PIP.

8. Pay PIP claimants an ‘assessment rate’ during the lengthy appeals processes, as is the case with Employment and Support Allowance, to enable them to maintain their independence.

9. Regularly publish data on the average length of time Mandatory Reconsiderations are taking and detailed information on how people are qualifying for PIP.

10. Introduce indefinite PIP awards for people with severe, complex conditions that have no prospect of improvement or are progressive. If reassessments absolutely must be undertaken because additional support may be available, these should happen without the need for a face-to-face assessment.

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