Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary has today announced plans to involve more private sector firms in benefits assessments. A single assessment service is to be set up and work carried out to create a single face-to-face assessment covering both PIP and the work capability assessment for ESA and UC.
The DWP will develop their own digital platform for the assessments and, as a result, hope that they can involve a wider range of assessment providers.
“We will also be transforming the delivery of assessment services. I have established the Health Transformation Programme to undertake the significant task of transitioning the currently separate Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit (UC), and the PIP assessment services into one unified, integrated service from 2021. To support this, we are developing a single digital platform. An integrated approach will allow for a more joined-up claimant experience across these benefits, which takes account of the multiple interactions an individual may have with DWP. We hope that developing our own digital platform will also enable a greater range of assessment providers to compete to help us deliver this important service in the future.
Rudd’s announcement is short on detail. But what it appears to mean is that, in the future, one company may get the contract to carry out both PIP assessments and WCAs in a particular geographical area.
If the DWP owns the software used to create the reports, then it can allow as many providers as it chooses to win contracts for the work.
This could see smaller companies making bids to carry out assessments in any given region and the increased competition would allow the DWP to pay less to providers.
Rudd also held out the possibility of claimants having a single appointment for assessments for PIP and for ESA/UC.
“This strategic transformation will also open up new opportunities to improve our functional assessments in the future. For example, we will test whether it is beneficial to claimants requiring face-to-face assessments to offer a single assessment for UC and PIP to capture all the information required for both claims in one appointment, reducing the need for claimants of both benefits to attend multiple appointments.”
It may be that rather than a single test for both benefits, what the DWP have in mind is a system that automatically copies and pastes information from a PIP assessment into a WCA assessment, or vice versa
In that way, once a PIP assessment was completed, much relevant information about the claimant and their abilities would already be in the ESA/UC report, allowing the health professional just to fill in any additional information where the two tests are significantly different.
Whether this ends up being good news or bad news for claimants, it’s probably too soon to say.