The DWP has been claiming extremely high levels of claimant satisfaction for PIP assessments, based on fewer than 1% of claimants being asked a single question in surveys carried out by Atos (IAS) and Capita themselves, Benefits and Work can reveal. The surveys are not anonymous and take place before claimants know what the assessor has written about them.
Benefits and Work first became concerned about claimed satisfaction rates when the commons Work and Pensions Committee was investigating PIP and ESA medical assessments. The committee found that: ‘The PIP and ESA assessment processes function satisfactorily for the majority of claimants’.
This conclusion was based on figures provided by the DWP that “all three contracted providers consistently exceed their customer satisfaction targets of 90% for PIP and 91% for ESA.”
Such high levels of satisfaction are hugely at odds with our own members experiences.
In order to try to find out more about the feedback process, Benefits and Work asked a range of questions using the Freedom of Information Act. The questions were, unsurprisingly, only partially answered by the DWP.
However, we learnt a lot from the answers we did receive.
4,305 feedback surveys were carried out for ESA in the year 2017/18. This means that fewer than half of one percent of ESA claimants are asked to give feedback.
For PIP the figure was 11,012 feedback surveys carried out in 2017/18. This is around 1% of PIP claimants.
Neither the PIP or ESA survey is anonymous.
Both rely primarily on a telephone survey which involves claimants being called and asked questions by a representative of the company which carried out the assessment.
The DWP says that in cases where no telephone number is available a postal survey is sent. Again this is unlikely to be anonymous.
Only for ESA is an online version available.
The DWP failed to answer our question about when the surveys take place – before or after the decision. But the anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that most are carried out whilst the claimant is still waiting for a decision. This means that the claimant will have obvious concerns about upsetting the company which holds their fate in its hands.
It also means that the claimant has no way of knowing how accurately, and in what detail, the assessor took down evidence. Or whether the assessor took into account any additional evidence the claimant may have brought along.
Only one question
For ESA there are a set of five questions, four for claimants who had a home visit.
“How would you rate the way in which your appointment was arranged?
Overall, how did you feel you were dealt with by the receptionist at the assessment centre? (this question is not asked of claimants who had a domiciliary visit)
How would you rate the health care professional for courtesy/politeness?
How would you rate the health care professional for professionalism?
How would you rate the health care professional for gentleness of the assessment?”
According to the DWP:
“The overall satisfaction score is based on the 5 questions above, or 4 questions for domiciliary visits. It is calculated by taking all positive answers to these questions (very good and quite good) as a percentage of all those answering.”
For PIP assessments, on the other hand, there is one single question asked:
“How satisfied were you with your overall experience with Capita / Independent Assessment Service’.”
The DWP say that:
“The overall satisfaction score is based on this question. It is calculated by taking all positive answers to these questions (satisfied and very satisfied) as a percentage of all those answering.”
There is so much wrong with this method of getting feedback that it is hard to know where to start detailing it.
But, these are some of the objections we have.
The feedback is collected by the company that undertook the assessment and is not anonymous. , This means that the claimant is likely to be very wary of criticising the health professional, for fear that it may result in a more negative assessment.
The assessment companies have targets to meet for positive feedback. This gives them a strong incentive to try to ensure that they only collect feedback that they believe is likely to be positive.
The feedback questions do not deal with the accuracy of the report or whether any additional evidence provided was taken into account. Yet it is failings in these areas that cause a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst claimants.
The sample sizes are very small and there is now way of knowing if they are representative. For example, what proportion of those sampled have physical health conditions and what proportion mental health conditions? It may be that people with some conditions have a much better or worse experience than others. We also don’t know how many were home visits and how many took place at assessment centres.
The DWP use the very high customer satisfaction rates as a shield against criticism. So far the Work and Pensions committee and many other agencies have accepted these figures at face value.
It is time that those with a responsibility for holding the DWP to account looked more closely at the quality of the feedback the DWP relies upon.
Until anonymous feedback is collected by an independent agency after the claimant has had their decision, these customer satisfaction figures should be given the value they deserve: they are entirely worthless.