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70% of Disabled people feel DWP contracted assessor did not understand their condition: shocking new Z2K research

25 May 2021

In April 2021, Z2K surveyed 1,420 Disabled people who have been through the assessment process for disability benefits: PIP, ESA, and  the Limited Capability for Work elements of Universal Credit (UC).

Those surveyed by Z2K were asked to share their insights on the assessment process – including the Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) and appeals process – as well as the changes that they would like to see made to the current assessment regime.

They were also asked their opinion on whether the Government’s upcoming Health and Disability Green Paper will deliver on generating desired reform. 

In terms of assessment and MR/appeal process:

  • 70 % of people feel like the assessor DWP contracted to carry out their assessment did not understand their condition 
  • 66 % of people feel like the assessment report they got after the decision did not reflect what they’d told the assessor in the assessment
  • 49 % of those respondents who challenged a decision to refuse their claim at DWP’s internal MR stage saw that decision overturned.
  • 87 % of the remaining respondents who went on to appeal to the independent First Tier Tribunal had DWP’s decision overturned

In terms of the Health and Disability Green Paper:

  • 89 % of respondents are either “not at all confident” (69 %) or “not so confident” (20 %) that the changes they would like to see made to the assessment process will be included in DWP’s upcoming Health & Disability Green Paper
  • Similarly, 88 % of people are either “not at all confident” (67 %) or “not so confident” (21 %) that the Government will use the feedback they receive during this Green Paper consultation to make changes to the assessment process for benefits
  • 74 % of respondents think the Government won’t even bother to listen to the experiences of those who have been through the assessment process themselves.

Respondents were also asked what changes to the assessment process for disability benefits they would like to see Government make, and some of the recommendations put forward included: 

  • Reinstate indefinite awards for people whose condition will sadly not improve
  • All assessors to receive training to ensure they do not discriminate against individuals, and treat everyone they are assessing with dignity and respect  
  • Ensure assessors are properly trained in the condition they are assessing
  • If an assessor does not have specialist knowledge of the condition they are assessing, they must consult with experts and use up-to-date evidence when making their assessment
  • Medical evidence, people’s own testimony, evidence from parents, support workers, social workers, mental health workers etc. should not be undermined, misconstrued or ignored by assessors
  • Stop assessments entirely and decision to be made solely on medical evidence, people’s own testimony, evidence from parents, support workers, social workers, mental health workers etc.
  • Audio record all assessments as default (with an ‘opt out’ option), and provide a copy to both DWP and individual
  • Remove private assessment companies, and bring assessments back in house or have them conducted by NHS like in Scotland 

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

“The findings of this this report are shocking and reveal why the DWP itself has admitted it has lost the trust of Disabled people.

As Z2K conclude, “the assessment processes for disability benefits must be fundamentally reformed if it is to be fit for purpose and able to correctly assess people’s ability to access work or receive support for their disability”.

In addition, DR UK supports its view that “in the long-term, an alternative system should be co-produced with “disabled people themselves, so that it works for those with direct experience of this regime and those that went before it”.

This report is short at ten pages but its insights and conclusions deserves reading by all Disabled people and their organisations.  

Its publication is timely and will undoubtedly inform and evidence responses to the Green Paper.”

Note:  Z2K are calling on the Government to publish the Green paper and ask that you take 30 seconds today to write to your MP to ask it publish the long promised consultation

The new report People Before Process: The state of disability benefit assessments and the urgent need for reform is available from z2k.org.

See also our related news story Minister previews Disability Green Paper social security reforms .