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Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment: second independent review

30 March 2017

The Department for Work and Pensions appointed Paul Gray CB to undertake the two reviews Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment. This is his second review.

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View our response

View second review

We welcome some of the recommendations of the review but its terms of reference mean it hasn't tackled some of the most fundamental problems with PIP; and some of its conclusions ‎may not help.

For example, the recommendations that PIP claimants should be given their assessment report with their decision letter and that assessments should automatically be audio recorded are welcome.  

However, we are disappointed that, the review concludes that whether a Health Professional is a specialist in a health condition should not have an impact on their ability to conduct a functional assessment.  

The review’s overall conclusion that the primary onus of responsibility for providing evidence should rest with the claimant risks letting the DWP off the hook.

In addition, the review fails to acknowledge the widespread criticism of the PIP descriptors themselves by calling for a further urgent review of them and the damaging impacts the reduction and loss of benefit is having on disabled people. The terms of reference for the review were too narrow to focus on these vital areas.

The Review recommendations

The Review’s recommendations are that:

  1. The Department simplify and better co-ordinate communication products to provide a clear explanation of user responsibilities and ensure accessibility for all. This should include the use of digital media to provide claimants with real examples of what functional information they should submit as part of their claim.
  2. The Department makes clear that the responsibility to provide Further Evidence lies primarily with the claimant and that they should not assume the Department will contact health care professionals.
  3. The Department ensures that evidence of carers is given sufficient weight in the assessment.
  4. The transparency of decision making is improved with claimants being provided with the assessment report with their decision letter. In the longer term, offer audio recording of the assessment as the default with the option for the claimant to opt out.
  5. Assessments should begin with gathering a functional instead of a medical history. Options for confirming the medical history in advance of the assessment should be explored to ensure that the assessment has a more functional focus and there is sufficient time to explore functional impacts in sufficient detail.
  6. Health Professionals to be given more time to consider the evidence provided with a claim before the assessment begins.
  7. Assessment Providers and the Department to work to implement a system where evidence is followed up after the assessment where useful evidence has been identified and may offer further relevant insight. Particular priority should be given to information that is likely to be functional in nature.
  8. The write up of reports to be completed directly after the assessment except in specified circumstances.
  9. Audit, assurance and quality improvement activity should be focused on the quality of the assessment as well as the quality of the report. This should be supported by the audio recording of assessments and increased direct observations of assessments.
  10. The Department to broaden the audit process to include the initial review stage and also explore how to include Case Manager activity in an end-to-end audit process.
  11. The Department and Assessment Providers introduce consistency checks across a variety of metrics, including “deep dives” on cases with similar outcomes, as part of the regular management of the service.
  12. The Department should undertake and publish further research on the operation of PIP, in particular covering the consistency of outcomes, the effectiveness of Award Reviews and the effectiveness of the Mandatory Reconsideration process.
  13. The Department re-emphasises and ensures that employment will not disadvantage claimants when they seek to claim PIP and explores ways in which PIP may be an enabler in improving employment retention.
  14. In the longer term, the Department should develop a joined up digital journey which includes an online facility for both claimants and external Health Professionals to upload documentary evidence securely.

Disability Rights UK recommendations to the review

Our recommendations were:

  • Prior to 2018 the DWP should reconsider the use of private contractors to carry out PIP assessments and instead investigate setting up an alternative approach making use of the expertise of doctors and other specialists and disabled people’s organisations.
  • That the DWP should develop and implement a procedure that will allow claimant’s to renew their PIP claim from six months before its expiry (as legally provided for by Regulation 33(2) of the 2013 Regulations).
  • That an independent evaluation of PIP is urgently instigated and that this pays particular attention to those who have been refused PIP or now receive a lower award than that for DLA.