In recent weeks there has been a range of articles and reports connected to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and its administration and management of benefits and assessments.
Recent figures released show that in just over a two year period, the DWP spent an unbelievable £100 million on administrating reviews and appeals for disability benefits. Added to this is the 10’s of millions of pounds spent by the Ministry of Justice on these appeals.
About two thirds of the appeals concerned were won by claimants in the last 12 months. If you would like to read more about where this money went, then follow the link below:
Also released was a report from the Work and Pensions Committee. The report detailed the issues faced by many claimants, the inefficiencies, and lack of transparency of the current system and gave recommendations for future improvements.
The report took into account the findings of a survey carried out with people who had been through medical assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA), which were carried out for the DWP by ATOS, Capita and Maximus. Over 4000 responses were received and it is reported that a number of themes came up again and again.
For many of our members and service users, the issue of the impact of the assessments on their mental health will be a familiar one; before, during and after the assessment takes place. This has a huge impact on their lives and the lives of those around them.
There is a general mistrust in the whole process from the minute that letter drops through your door (well actually before it does). Through filling out the application form adequately, to the assessment itself where people feel that sometimes perceptions and lack of impairment knowledge impede the assessment process and lead to inaccurate reports.
Case studies relating to the inaccuracy of some reports can be read by following the link below:
Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:
“For the majority of claimants the assessments work adequately, but a pervasive lack of trust is undermining its entire operation. In turn, this is translating into untenable human costs to claimants and financial costs to the public purse. Government cannot, must not, fail to recognise the unprecedented response the Committee had to this inquiry, remarkable for the consistency and clarity of themes that emerged through thousands of individual accounts. No one should have any doubt the process needs urgent change.
Recording the face-to-face assessment would go so far toward increasing transparency and restoring trust it beggars belief that this is not already a routine element of the process. The resistance from the Department to instituting this is equally bewildering. The cost of providing a record of the assessment is surely nothing compared to the benefits of restoring trust. Those benefits should include far fewer decisions going to appeal – and being overturned there – at considerable legal expense to taxpayers.
The decision to contract out PIP and ESA assessments in the first instance was taken to introduce efficient, consistent and objective tests for benefit eligibility. The Committee says it is hard to see how any of these aims have been met. None of the providers has ever hit the quality performance targets set for them, and many claimants experience a great deal of anxiety and other deleterious health impacts over a process that is regarded as “opaque and unfriendly” throughout.
The Committee recommends DWP:
- Immediately institute recording of face to face assessments and provide a record and a copy of the assessor’s report to claimants
- Take measures to improve understanding amongst health and social care professionals, and claimants, of what constitutes good evidence for PIP and ESA claims, and to ensure this evidence is used effectively by contractors
- Set out how it will measure, monitor and report on the supply of evidence into PIP and ESA assessments
- Improve accessibility of the process at every stage: from the format and style of the application form, to information about home visits, to information about accessing reconsideration and appeal
- Improve its use of contract “levers” to improve contractor performance and quality control via feedback through the claim process, including feedback from the appeal stage”.
The DWP says that the main reason for cases to be overturned at reconsideration or appeal is that new evidence has been presented, but it is felt that more efficient assessments could pick up this additional information and reduce the need for cases to go to appeal.
It is vitally important that anyone claiming these benefits gathers as much information as possible to support their case including letters from GPs, consultants or other health professionals, rehabilitation workers etc.
If you have any questions or require support then Equal Lives is happy to help and you can find out more on our website at:
Equal Lives runs information and advice sessions around Norfolk. Please call our office on 01508 491210 to make an appointment.
The following sessions are appointment only, so please contact the office to enquire about an appointment:
- Norwich City Hall – Tuesday 10 – 3pm
- Norwich Forum Library Advice Hub – Tuesday 10.30am-3.30pm (apart from the 1st Tuesday of every month), and Wednesday 1pm – 5pm
- Norwich, St Stephen’s Gate Medical Practice – Monday 10am – 3pm
- Framingham Pigot (Equal Lives Main Office) – 1st Tuesday of every month 10am – 3pm, and every Thursday 10am – 12 noon
- Aylsham (Jubilee Centre) – Thursday 10am – 3pm
- Dereham Library – Thursday 1:30pm – 4pm (temporarily unavailable)
- King’s Lynn (Access, Broadland Hub) – Tuesday 1:15pm – 4:15pm (temporarily unavailable)
- Sheringham (YESU) – Friday 1pm – 2.30pm
- Thetford (Riversdale Centre) – Monday 1pm – 4.30pm (temporarily unavailable)
- Wymondham (Fosters) – Thursday 10am – 4pm, fortnightly only.
These sessions will provide support (or refer you to other members of our team to provide support) with:
- Finding information to help you make decisions
- Making sure your views are listened to at meetings or appointments
- Benefits issues and advice
- Making a complaint
- Getting access to the services you need
Assessment Centre move:
From 5th March 2018, assessments at Employment and Support Allowance (known as the Work Capability Assessment) will no longer happen at St Mary’s House, Duke Street, Norwich, NR3 1QA.
The assessments carried out by the Centre for Health & Disability Assessments, will be moving to Baltic House, 12 Mountergate, Norwich, NR1 1QB.
And finally finally….
The message below was tweeted by the DWP around Valentine’s Day this year, leading to some very angry Twitter Users:
“Claiming to be living alone is one of the most common types of benefit fraud – don’t ruin Valentine’s Day by failing to declare your true circumstances”, the tweet read.
The Government department added: “Declaring your true love tomorrow? Don’t forget to declare your true living arrangements too”.
“Don’t get separated from your Valentine. Tell us of a change now.”
So we are asking what you would tweet back, (no swearing or inappropriate language) just a novel tongue in cheek response…
See the DWP tweet here: