Maximus, the company carrying out employment and support allowance assessments, claim to be operating a policy which appears to discriminate against some claimants with mental health conditions by not sending them an ESA50 form, Benefits and Work can reveal.
Regular readers will be aware that Benefits and Work has been investigating why some ESA claimants are not being sent ESA50 forms prior to a face-to-face medical assessment.
ESA50 forms give a claimant the opportunity to explain how their condition affects them and ensure that accurate evidence is available to the health professional carrying out a face-to-face assessment.
They are a vital part of the work capability assessment and not completing one puts a claimant at a serious disadvantage, as the decision maker is then likely to be obliged to rely primarily on the evidence from the Maximus health professional.
In ‘Missing forms, missing medicals, missing qualifications’ we revealed that some claimants who do not get an ESA50 and who query this are being told things like:
“Not everyone will get a form.”
“One isn’t needed in your case.”
“You don’t need to fill one in.”
We contacted Maximus – trading as the Centre for Health and Disability Assessment (CDHA) - about this and they informed us in an email that:
“An ESA50 is automatically issued once a referral is made. This needs to be completed and returned, along with any medical evidence, prior to an assessment taking place. If a person’s medical condition changes after the form is submitted, these changes can be discussed during the assessment. There is no need to fill in another form. We ask everyone to bring any additional medical evidence along with them, when they attend.”
However, they went on to say that:
“The only people that would be asked to attend an assessment without completing an ESA50 are those who a doctor has recorded on the referral, have a diagnosed mental health condition.”
For the avoidance of doubt we asked them to confirm that this is the policy that they are working to and they responded:
“That is correct, but we would like to emphasise to people that they should follow the advice they are given by CHDA.”
Benefits and Work believes that every claimant should be given the opportunity to complete an ESA50 immediately prior to attending an assessment.
It is entirely proper that where claimants with a mental health condition fail to return their ESA50 within the statutory time limit they still should be given the opportunity to have a face-to-face assessment. But to fail to send out an ESA50 appears at best to be an extremely misguided, and potentially unlawful, ‘concession’ to claimants with a mental health condition.
Benefits and Work will continue to investigate this issue.
In the meantime, we continue to urge readers who are not sent an ESA50 prior to their face-to-face assessment to strongly consider downloading a copy of the ESA50 form, completing it and submitting it in any case.