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A report by the SSAC published last week has found that some PIP and ESA claimants are missing out because of the suspension of face-to-face assessments and raises concerns about the accuracy of decision making based on telephone assessments.

The report found that there were some claims where neither a paper assessment not a telephone assessment was appropriate. As a result of the pandemic, a backlog of these cases has developed.

The report found that:

“Delays in getting these assessments has meant delays in entitlement decisions, leading to ESA claimants remaining on the assessment rate, and UC claimants remaining on the standard rate, and potentially missing out on additional income that they may be entitled to.

“For PIP claimants, no financial support is available pending assessment as there is no assessment rate for PIP. While additional income claimants may be entitled to can be backdated, the delay in accessing income as it is needed is problematic.”

SSAC has called on the DWP to establish a maximum time period for which claimants can be kept waiting for an assessment and decision.

SSAC also found that there were concerns from advice agencies that the accuracy of decision making has been affected by the pandemic:

“. . . advisers tell us they have observed increased variation with some awards being much higher than they would have expected, and occasionally unexpectedly lower. This observation is supported by DWP’s statistical summary which identifies that the PIP statistics for April to July show ‘distortions’ to trends in awards, clearances and decisions.”

SSAC has called on the DWP to research and publish data on what difference the type of assessment makes to awards, looking at telephone, paper-based and face-to-face assessments.

SSAC say that “This is vital, given that face to face assessments are not likely to be resumed for all claimants in the immediate future.”

SSAC also want an assessment of recent decision making “to ensure consistency and accuracy are maintained”.

Many claimants will be surprised by the idea that accuracy was a feature of DWP decision making prior to the pandemic, but unsurprised to learn that standards may have now fallen even further.

You can read a copy of A review of the COVID-19 temporary measures: occasional paper 24 on the .gov website.

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