The responses by the DWP and Capita to the coroners Prevention of Future Death report in the case of Philippa Day mean that claimants now have a review system where they can argue for a PIP assessment type that is ‘the most appropriate and safest’ in their case. This means claimants can argue for a face-to-face, telephone or paper assessment in their particular case.
In their response to the Coroner’s concerns, the DWP have said that they will improve the record keeping at call centres, increase the amount of mental health training staff receive and introduce ‘holistic’ decision making in which decision makers will be more likely to contact claimants before making a decision.
The DWP are also working with Capita and IAS to introduce a new review process which allows a claimant or their representative to argue for a different type of PIP assessment once a claimant has been given their assessment appointment. This could be telephone instead of face-to-face or vice versa or even a paper only review.
As soon as a request for a review is made, the PIP process will be paused for three working days whilst a different health assessor looks again at whether the type of assessment chosen is ‘the most appropriate and safest’ in the circumstances. This will not count as the claimant having refused to attend an assessment.
Once the claimant is told the result of their challenge they can either accept this or ask for a further review. In this case they will need to provide further evidence, although this does not have to be medical evidence.
The second review period lasts for 15 working days and then a final decision will be made. Again the PIP process will be paused whilst this takes place. There will be no further opportunity to challenge this decision and there is no right of appeal to an Independent tribunal.
Capita says that it “is already adopting the Change of Assessment and Further Review process” and that everything, including IT changes will be in place by September. We don’t know how much progress IAS has made.
There is no doubt that the DWP hope that this system will be used only rarely, where there is a danger to the life of the claimant if the wrong assessment type is used.
But there is no such stipulation in the undertaking given to the Coroner and it is very hard to see how such a restriction could be enforced or justified.
So, we can see no reason why a claimant who will suffer very considerable physical pain if they are obliged to undertake a journey to an assessment centre shouldn’t argue for a telephone or home assessment on the basis that it would be safer and more appropriate.
Or why a claimant on the autism spectrum who finds communication by phone distressing and ends calls as abruptly as possible should not argue for a face-to-face assessment on the grounds that it would be more appropriate.
We have published detailed instructions for both stages of the system in the latest version of the PIP Claims and Reviews guide (see page 89 onwards) along with three sample written requests for reviews to be changed to telephone, face-to-face and paper.
We should warn claimants that this is a very new system and you should absolutely avoid doing anything that could endanger your award. If you do intend to use it, make absolutely sure that it is already up and running in your area before you do so.
And be aware that ultimately the assessment company can refuse your request, however unreasonably, and you must accept their decision or face your claim being ended.
But the assessors will have a duty to act fairly and reasonably. If they do not do so then there is the possibility of an individual or organisation mounting a legal challenge via a judicial review or a discrimination claim.
For this reason, we have published a survey on Change of Assessment Reviews which we will keep open long-term. We are hoping that people who ask for an assessment review will complete it so that we can get a picture of how fairly review requests are being treated by both Capita and IAS.
You will find the survey here