Employment and support allowance (ESA) medicals – work capability assessments (WCAs) – are being used to make decisions about eligibility for personal independence payment (PIP), a government minister has confirmed. What’s more, in an effort to reduce the PIP backlog, many thousands of decisions are being made by temporarily promoted DWP staff who aren’t really decision makers at all.{jcomments on}

Benefits and Work also has evidence that the reverse is true: existing ESA awards are being looked at again and changed on the basis of a PIP medical report.

DWP staff and a government minister have revealed that employment and support allowance (ESA) medical assessment reports – ESA85s - are being used by PIP decision makers in a bid to speed up processing times and avoid face-to-face PIP assessments.

In addition, Benefits and Work has heard from members who have suddenly been moved from the work-related activity group to the support group solely based on evidence provided in connection with a PIP claim.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union’s November PIP news reveals that:

“PCS have received reports of staff working overtime printing ESA reports and sending them to Atos and Capita. We have serious reservations about this trial. This is partly because different descriptors apply to PIP and ESA and the evidence collected for ESA may not be appropriate for the assessment of PIP cases. Our main concern is that ATOS were removed from the Work Capability ESA contract because of the poor standard of their reports. If the reports were of too low a standard to properly assess ESA surely they are also of too low a standard for PIP!”

However, since the PCS newsletter was released Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper has informed MPs that:

“. . . when claimants have been unable to work and have gone through the work capability assessment, we are joining up the process, so that we take the ESA85—the report from the work capability assessment—and put it with their PIP form and any other evidence they have provided. That is enabling us to make more decisions based on the paperwork without needing to call people in for assessments. I hope that is sensible.”

Harpers response suggests that this is no longer a pilot, but one of the strategies the DWP are using in a desperate attempt to drive down the politically embarrassing waiting times for PIP.

In a separate development, Benefits and Work has heard from two members who were moved from the WRAG to the support group of ESA solely prompted by information obtained in the course of their PIP assessment.

Whilst for our members this was very good news, it raises the possibility of decisions going in the other direction and claimants ESA awards being reduced or stopped because of information gathered in a PIP assessment. We should stress that we have yet to hear of this happening and we are now trying to obtain details from the DWP of the circumstances under which PIP reports are passed onto ESA decision makers.

In the meantime, anyone making an application for PIP or ESA should be aware that the information you give may be used to decide more than one benefit and make their evidence as detailed and accurate as they can.


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