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Northern Ireland second independent review of PIP finds assessment causes fear, anxiety, stress and frustration for many disabled people

16 December 2020

The second independent review of PIP in Northern Ireland,

commissioned by the Department for Communities has been published.

The first Independent review of PIP was carried out and published in June 2018. It made 14 recommendations of which 10 were accepted or partially accepted and 4 were not accepted by the Department.

Three of the four recommendations of the first Review, which the Department did not accept, were raised again by the of individuals and organisations providing evidence to the second Review.

In her foreword to the review, the Independent Reviewer Maria Cavanagh says that the PIP assessment causes fear, anxiety, stress and frustration for many disabled people.

She also stresses that her findings point to the need to improve claimants accessibility to the PIP journey, through the claim process, the type of assessment carried out and the quality of further evidence used in decision making.

As a result, recommendations made by her include the following:

  • to improve accessibility for those claiming PIP, the Department, in consultation with stakeholders, should explore and develop alternative methods of communication and improve existing communication products and information;
  • the Department should revisit the recommendation from the first independent review that the six months life expectancy criterion for terminally ill claimants should be removed and replaced with a system based on clinical judgement similar to that enacted by the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018, and should adopt a subsequent 10-year light touch review on awards made where special rules apply;
  • staff should be reminded that when a representative, relative or social worker contacts the PIP department on behalf of a claimant they should take this as implicit consent;
  • the Department should ensure that evidence provided by a carer, parent or appointee during the assessment process is fully considered and used to inform the advice provided following the assessment;
  • the Department should ensure that evidence is sought from the person who knows the claimant best (whether medical or non-medical) and all evidence obtained should be weighted, considered and recorded on the assessment report and Departmental records;
  • the Department should produce guidance and/or examples for claimants, advocacy services and Healthcare Professionals of appropriate evidence to support the PIP process and where this evidence should be obtained;
  • the Department and Capita should ensure enhanced training and support is provided to Disability Assessors on conditions outside their normal experience and expertise;
  • the Department should bring all auditing functions in-house so as to improve trust in the auditing process; and
  • the Department should ensure that Case Managers are empowered to carry out their role as Decision Makers and amend descriptor choices, recommended by Capita, if they have evidence to support this.

Ken  Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights Benefits and Policy Adviser said:

“All the concerns raised in this second Northern Ireland review of PIP will be echoed by disabled people in the rest of the UK.

The review makes many excellent recommendations directly based on disabled people’s poor experience of claiming PIP and they all should usefully be adopted UK wide.”

The Second Independent Review of the PIP Assessment Process in Northern Ireland is available from ni.gov.uk