Concerns about benefits assessment
A new report published today by the Disability Benefits Consortium raises concerns about the delivery of the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment. People can make new claims for PIP in a few pilot areas in the north west and north east of England from next week and, once fully rolled-out, the benefit will replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
The assessments for PIP will be delivered by different companies in different areas, with the contracts split between Atos Healthcare, who already deliver the Work Capability Assessments (WCAs), and Capita.
Fair assessment pledges
The DBC, whose members include Epilepsy Society, presented both providers with a list of ten pledges for a fair and effective assessment, based on the concerns voiced by those they represent.
Both companies have detailed how they will try to meet each pledge, revealing stark differences between providers. For example, Capita will try to ensure applicants with certain conditions will be matched with assessors who have specific expertise in that area. The DBC believes will lead to fairer outcomes. Atos, however, will randomly assign assessors.
Issues with the assessments could result in applicants not being awarded the benefits they need to help cover the additional costs of having a disability.
Other key issues and differences included:
- Atos will only offer assessments at home to applicants who meet a range of criteria set out by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Capita will aim to offer home assessments to around 60 per cent of applicants.
- Capita have asked the DWP to let them offer audio recording of assessments to applicants, but have not yet received permission to do so.
- Tom Pollard from MIND
Tom Pollard, DBC co-chair and Senior Policy Officer from mental health charity Mind, said: 'The DBC has serious concerns about the abolition of DLA and the introduction of PIP but we also know that the way assessments are delivered is vital.
'We often hear of applicants’ health deteriorating further as a result of a poorly delivered assessment. Having two assessment providers gives us an opportunity to compare how different approaches work and drive up the quality of assessments for millions of people with disabilities, including mental health problems.'
Contact your MP
The DBC is encouraging supporters of its member organisations to contact their MP and highlight concerns about the assessment provider in their area.
DBC Co-Chair, Claire Nurden from the MS Society, said: 'The DBC is urging people to contact their MP to let them know about this important report. MPs need to aware of who will be delivering these vital assessments in their constituency and what issues they should be raising with the provider and the Minister for Disabled People.'
You can download the DBC PIP pledges in the pdf below.
Epilepsy Society has produced a guide to PIP which is available free of charge to download here.