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Claimant views on ways to improve PIP and ESA questionnaires: new DWP research

26 July 2021

The DWP has published research to obtain their views on how the questionnaires used as part of the PIP and work capability (WCA) assessment processes, could be made more user-friendly and “less distressing” for claimants.

PIP and ESA claimant preferences and suggestions for questionnaires

PIP and ESA claimants commonly described the experience of completing the assessment questionnaires in a negative light. They felt that the questionnaires forced them to focus on their worst experiences and lowest points.

The research was published in relation and analysis for the Green Paper.

Both PIP and ESA claimants felt that they struggled to know what information DWP was looking for, as they felt the basis of how PIP and ESA was awarded was not made clear.

This left them feeling anxious about what information to include. PIP claimants felt strongly that there was a lack of transparency from DWP on how the benefit is awarded.

PIP and ESA claimants suggested improvements, including:

  • more routing within the questionnaires or separate questionnaires for different conditions or disabilities, this would provide greater clarity on which questions they need to answer;
  • an option to complete online, which would enable claimants to complete the questionnaire in stages and assist those that struggled with physically writing answers into the open text boxes; and
  • extending the deadline to six weeks, to allow more time for gathering evidence and/or accessing support to fill the questionnaire in.

PIP claimant views on additional information being included with the PIP questionnaire

Additional information was shown to PIP claimants during the final stage of the research. They were shown a seven-page document that provided more information on the assessment process, how points are awarded and what is involved in the face-to-face assessment.

For some claimants the additional information was felt to be of practical value, even when claimants felt uncomfortable that the assessment process involved a points-based system.

Therefore, the research suggests that including this information within the PIP application pack could be helpful.

The DWP suggest that directly addressing concerns regarding the points-based system by adding some further explanation could also, potentially, add value.

However, even once PIP claimants had reviewed this additional information, strong concerns remained around whether the ‘How your disability affects you’ questionnaire captures the full and complex impacts of certain health conditions and disabilities.

It was clear that claimants did not feel that this additional information had addressed this key concern and therefore it would have a limited impact on reducing levels of anxiety amongst claimants.

The following is a summary of the suggested improvements made by both ESA and PIP claimants.

  • More routing throughout or separate mental health and physical condition questionnaires;
  • More transparency on eligibility and how award levels are assessed
  • Include separate questions for ‘good’ days and ‘bad’ days;
  • Some information in the open text boxes is captured by an assessor instead;
  • More consistent access to support with filling in the questionnaire;
  • More completion options (e.g. online and in person); and
  • Extending or removing the deadline.

ESA claimants also said:

• Place the mental health relevant questions earlier in the form and prompts earlier in each section;
• Reduce the size of the ‘returning the questionnaire late’ text box and move it towards the back of the questionnaire; and
• Integrate supporting information into the questions and clarify ambiguous terms

The full DWP research report Claimant views on ways to improve PIP and ESA questionnaires is available from gov.uk.