The DWP are to introduce a major change to the assessment system for PIP and the work capability assessment for ESA and UC with just one company carrying out both assessments for any given claimant from August 2023.
Contracts for all assessment providers have been extended for two years to August 2023, after which the change to a single assessment provider in each of an undisclosed number of geographic regions will be introduced.
This means that the same company will have to have expertise in both PIP assessments and the WCA and will be able to use some of the evidence from one type of assessment when carrying out the other for the same claimant.
At present, all WCA’s a re carried out by Maximus.
PIP assessments are carried out by IAS (formerly Atos) and Capita.
Many readers will remember that Atos abandoned its WCA contract in 2014 after suffering years of increasingly negative publicity. The contract went to Maximus instead.
Atos may well be unhappy at the thought of returning to carrying out WCAs, but it seems to have little choice if it is to have any hope of holding on to its lucrative PIP contracts.
Meanwhile Maximus will have to develop expertise in PIP assessments and Capita will have to learn how to carry out WCA’s if they wish to stay in the market.
Other companies may also try to get a foothold.
It’s too early to say what the effect of all this will be on claimants.
On the positive side, the use of the same company is intended to lead to assessments being less onerous because, for example, a specialist report submitted for a PIP assessment can also then be used for a WCA.
But the main concern is likely to be that insufficient and misleading evidence gathered for, say, a PIP assessment will then be used as part of the evidence for a WCA, even if the PIP decision is subsequently overturned on appeal.
In addition, whilst the DWP say that there are no plans for a single assessment for both PIP and the WCA, a real fear is that evidence about say mobility from one assessment will be taken into account for the other, even though the criteria are quite different. The attraction of doing this for assessment providers is that assessments would be shorter and greater profits could be made.
The changes will not apply to Scotland, where PIP assessments will be carried out in-house by Social Security Scotland and discussions are ongoing about changes to the system in Northern Ireland.