Benefits and Work have heard from a number of people who are very distressed at a claim which began circulating on the internet yesterday that the PIP assessment criteria have been made much more severe and that some people who have had an award may have to repay it. The information allegedly came from a source within Atos.
The story as published contains a number of verifiable inaccuracies, such as the statement that:
“The DWP, by law, is required to assess people within 18 weeks of initial application and many people were breaching these 18 weeks, causing some concern to those at the DWP, as this gives claimants a right of complaint and appeal, potentially.”
There is no legal requirement for a PIP assessment to be carried out within 18 weeks and no right of appeal if it is not.
The story also alleges that:
Any claimants who have been awarded benefits based on a PBR may have their benefits stopped for the duration of the assessment period, and if their disabilities no longer match new clarification "guidelines" the DWP has issued in a new directive as of today, it is expected that they will be asked to repay all monies they have received.
The DWP issued an updated PIP Assessment Guide on 27 May.
However, this actively encourages Atos and Capita to make more, not fewer paper based assessments by making it clear when it would be appropriate to do so. In recent evidence given to the Work and Pension Committee the DWP made it clear that many fewer paper based assessments were taking place than they had expected or wished.
It is exceedingly improbable that the DWP would attempt to recover payments of PIP already lawfully made because they had made changes to guidelines issued to assessors.
Many of the changes alleged in the story would, in reality, require changes to statute before they could legally be imposed and it is extraordinarily unlikely that the DWP would choose to ignore the law in such a wholesale and unsustainable fashion.
Given that the story is based on information allegedly given by an anonymous Atos employee to an equally anonymous source and that there is, as yet, absolutely no evidence to support it, we would strongly advise that it be treated as mere unsubstantiated rumour.
We will update our information if we find out more.