A DWP minister has indicated that face-to-face assessments will once again become the norm for both PIP and the WCA, though there will continue to be some telephone and video and assessments.
Justin Tomlinson, minister for disability, health and work told the commons work and pensions committee earlier this month that the pandemic had a severe effect on assessments, beginning with the closure of assessment centres.
First of all, we had to close down all our assessment centres. We then had to scale up telephone and video assessments, which we have never done before and, but for Covid, would have only been looking to discuss them in the Green Paper, let alone do a pilot. We then had to roll this out nationwide, literally in days. Again, we were using our stakeholders to let us know whether it was working. So far there has been very positive feedback.
A large number of assessors then moved on to COVID related jobs.
We also lost our health professionals. They all have at least two years’ health professional background so were at the front of the queue for the NHS’s rallying of secondment for Test and Trace, the vaccination roll-out and the immediate support in hospitals when there were the high levels of Covid infections in hospitals. That impacted massively on our capacity.
However, Tomlinson says that the system is now returning to normality, with WCA assessments resuming and face to face assessments returning for both the WCA and PIP.
As issues like this came up, we were able to respond and we are returning to normality on capacity issues. The WCA assessments will begin shortly and start to be scaled back up, as in face to face, and PIP will follow a few weeks later. However, we will keep video and telephone assessments. Through the health and disability Green Paper, we will explore to what extent and where they are best to be used.
It is not clear what proportion of assessments will continue to be by telephone and how many will be face to face, though we have yet to hear from anyone who has had a video assessment, so it is likely that these are likely to form a very small proportion of assessments at this stage.