A member of benefits and Work has successfully challenged a claim by Maximus staff that she could not submit an updated ESA50 questionnaire prior to attending a face-to-face assessment.
Over recent months, Benefits and Work has repeatedly contacted Maximus to gain assurances that claimants have the right to be assessed using up-to-date ESA50s, rather than forms that are two years old – or even entirely non-existent.
The ESA50 form gives claimants an opportunity to explain in detail how their condition affects their everyday activities and is a vital part of the evidence considered at each stage of a claim. Because of the huge backlog in ESA assessments, many people have been called to an assessment years after they completed their ESA50.
Maximus have been clear in their replies to us that anyone who is concerned that the information in their ESA50 is no longer up-to-date is free to download a new form and send it to Maximus or bring it in on the day of their assessment.
However, this was not the experience of our member. She told us:
“I have recently been sent an appointment to attend for an assessment and on ringing the appointment line I informed the operator that I had not had an ESA50. She informed me that the assessment was being held using the one I sent in January 2014!
“I requested a new one as my condition has changed and I now have other health issues but was told I would not get one.”
Our member rang another Maximus office and asked again to be sent an ESA50 form. When she was told she could not have one, she replied that she was going to download one from the internet and bring it to her assessment.
The response was clear:
“I was told that it would not be considered! I quoted Maximus reply to Benefit and Works query about this and was told it will not be accepted.“
Our member then told them that she would be contacting Benefits and Work and the DWP to get our responses.
She did so and before the day was out she had received an email from Maximus customer services inviting her to email or post her completed ESA50 and even giving a named person to address it to. They requested that the form be sent as soon as possible so that they could review it in advance of her face-to-face medical.
Our member told us:
“It’s amazing what mentioning Benefits and Work and a phone call to the DWP informing them will do! By the way, for once the DWP were very helpful and advised me to send in a ESA50 both to them and Maximus and they told me to document any problems I have with Maximus!”
Here at Benefits and Work we are reasonably confident that, as a matter of policy, Maximus are willing to accept updated evidence from claimants, even though it may mean extra work for them. But it seems that this has yet to be effectively communicated to front line staff, the majority of whom were previously employed by Atos, whose customer service was seldom highly praised by claimants.
Maximus took over the work capability assessment from Atos with more than double the money and a clear commitment to dramatically improving claimants’ experience of being assessed. It seems they may still have some way to go.