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Face-to-face assessments to resume for health and disability benefits

31 March 2021

The DWP has announced that, “in line with the latest public health guidance and adhering to strict safety protocols”, it is to begin reintroducing face-to-face assessments for health and disability benefits.

Face-to-face assessments for:

  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) claimants in England will resume from 12 April 2021;
  • Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) (for claims for the additional limited capability for work component of Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP), will resume from May.

The DWP says that initially, this will only be for those who it is unable to fully assess by other channels and that claimants will be invited for their appointments by letter, which will clearly set out what to expect at their appointment.

It adds that:

“Face-to-face assessments will take place alongside existing paper-based assessments, and telephone assessments (for WCAs and PIP), which will continue to take place where suitable.

The Department for Work and Pensions has worked with its assessment providers to ensure that assessment centres are fully compliant with COVID-19 safety measures and on 29 March 2021 published detailed guidance on gov.uk for claimants and assessment providers to support the safe resumption of face-to-face assessments.

This covers measures such as social distancing requirements, sanitisation, PPE and face coverings.

Our approach and guidance will be kept under review to ensure the department’s approach remains aligned with the latest public health guidance.”

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

“The Covid pandemic has meant that benefits face-to-face medical assessments have not happened for over a year so inevitably a backlog now exists.

“But it will be important for both the health care providers and the DWP to be sensitive and flexible in arranging these.

“Disabled claimants do not have the final say in whether they can be assessed on paper, by phone, by video or face-to-face. This is a decision made by the private company assessors contracted by the DWP.

“If the DWP decides that they have not had “good reason” not to attend an arranged face to face assessment then their claim can be closed.

“Many Disabled people who have been shielding as they are extremely clinically vulnerable may be reluctant to attend such an assessment at present, especially as contracts permit assessments to be held up to 90 minutes travel from a claimant’s home.

“The DWP should at least suspend its rule on removing benefit if someone cannot show “good cause” for not attending a medical assessment.

“Phone and video assessments have worked well for many during lockdown. People should be able to choose their preferred method of assessment, in line with the reasonable adjustment provisions of the Equality Act.”

For more information see Face-to-face assessments to resume for health and disability benefits available from gov.uk.