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Government rejects default sending of ESA and PIP medical reports

23 April 2018

The Government has responded to the Work and Pensions Committee report on PIP and ESA Assessments.

The Committee's report published in February 2018 expressed its concerns over assessment reports "riddled with errors and omissions" and that public contract failures had “led to a loss of trust that risks undermining the operation of major disability benefits".

Among the Committee’s recommendations was that the DWP should send by default a copy of the assessor’s report by default to all claimants alongside their initial entitlement decision.

However, in rejecting this the Government says that:

“In ESA, we already inform claimants that they can request a copy of their assessment report: we do this before their assessment and again in our decision letter.

We intend to improve PIP communications so that claimants know they can request a copy of their assessment report.

Once we have improved the PIP communications to clearly highlight to everyone that they can request their report we believe those claimants who want to see their report will do so. We believe this is the best way to achieve transparency without providing claimants with material that they do not want.”

But, the Government does give a positive response to another of the Committee’s recommendations relating to the case for improving ESA and PIP claimant’s trust through implementing default audio recording of assessments.

The Government says that ESA claimants are made aware that they can request that their work capability assessment is audio recorded. However, it acknowledges that PIP claimants can currently audio record their face to face assessment if they provide appropriate equipment. It concedes that:

“While this arrangement means that claimants can in theory record their assessments, in practice the complexity and potential costs to claimants means that very few take up this option.

We agree that this does not go far enough to help build trust in the system and therefore we intend to make recording the PIP assessment a standard part of the process. We are currently exploring potential options to test the recording of assessments, including video recording.”

In addition, the DWP:

  • will commission a three-stage process independent review of ESA and PIP forms (identifying aspects of the forms that cause distress; revising and amending the forms considering these findings; testing the revised forms with claimants)
  • will consider how assessments where companions attend with claimants can be specifically examined in audit.

Commenting on the government’s response to the select committee report on disability benefit assessments, Philip Connolly, Policy Manager at Disability Rights UK said:

“Confidence in the assessment process for disability benefits is scant and threadbare. Given that, we welcome the government’s commitment to recording PIP assessments, which will help disabled people feel more positive about the accuracy of them.

But we were very sorry to see the government refuse the recommendation that all claimants should be sent a copy of their assessment report as a matter of course. This would be a huge step forward in helping disabled people understand what is being said about them, and why, in relation to benefit claims.

Overall, the current assessment providers offer poor value for money for the tax payer and we urge the government to consider very seriously the option of returning the assessment process in house, give the contracts are up for review.

 But we have to remember that PIP and ESA are not well-designed benefits, and fail to meet the needs of many disabled people. Changes to the assessment process for the better are welcome, but there are wider issues which need to be addressed.”

The Government response to the Work and Pensions Committee report on PIP and ESA assessments is available at www.parliament.uk