The long awaited health and disability green paper Shaping Future Support was finally released yesterday. The 99 page document contains surprisingly few concrete proposals and comes close to admitting PIP was rushed and badly designed. It does, however, suggest creating a Severe Disability Group who would “never need to complete a detailed application form or go through an assessment”.

Amongst the issues Shaping Future Support does look at, those most relevant to Benefits and Work readers include:

  • Ruling out a single assessment system
  • Increasing the number of paper-based decisions
  • Continuing the use of telephone and video assessments
  • Testing a Severe Disability Group
  • Increasing holistic decision making
  • Changing the Special Rules for Terminal Illness

Ruling out a single assessment system
A single assessment for PIP and the WCA has now been ruled out. The DWP say that both initial claims and reviews for benefits take place at different times:

“only 4% of initial WCA and PIP assessments took place within 3 months of a claim for the other benefit”

“only 1% of PIP Award Reviews and ESA WCA reassessments occurred within 3 months of each other”

The DWP also say that the PIP assessment and WCA are looking at different things, so combining them would lead to a longer and more complex assessment.

However, the department is still working towards introducing an integrated health assessment service which will bring the assessments for PIP and UC/ESA onto a single, digital system. This will mean that, for example, medical evidence collected for one assessment can be used for the other.

Increasing the number of paper-based decisions
The DWP want to make more paper-based decisions. They say:

“To make more decisions quickly and simply, and reduce the need for face-to-face assessments, we want to maximise the use of paper-based assessments and make greater use of triaging. We would like to explore whether we can make decisions in straightforward cases without the need for an assessment. . .”

Where only a small amount of additional information is needed, assessors may be able to simply make a telephone call to a claimant instead of carrying out a full assessment.

Continuing the use of telephone and video assessments
The DWP claim that “In a recent survey, the majority of people who had a telephone assessment for PIP or for their WCA were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’”

They now wish to fully evaluate telephone assessments to decide what role they will have in the future.

The department also claims that in the same survey, 56% of people said they would feel ‘comfortable’ or ‘very comfortable’ having their WCA or PIP assessment by video call.

Over 750 people have gone through a video assessment as part of a test which ran until the end of March 2021. The DWP now plans to increase the number of video assessments as part of a pilot.

Testing a Severe Disability Group
The DWP have decided not to introduce a minimum award duration for PIP. Instead, the number of repeat assessments may be cut by the introduction of a ‘Severe Disability Group’ (SDG).

The DWP say: “People who do not come within the special rules for terminal illness may still have severe and lifelong conditions that will not improve. These people are unlikely ever to work again and will always need extra financial support to live independently.”

The intention is to place people in this position into the SDG so that they “can benefit from a simplified process without ever needing to complete a detailed application form or go through an assessment.”

The DWP say they are “working with a group of health and social care professionals to help us develop the criteria for the SDG and identify the evidence that would be required to meet them. We will consult with charities and disabled people’s organisations on the criteria.”

Increasing holistic decision making
The DWP say they introduced ‘holistic’ decision making at the PIP mandatory reconsideration stage in 2019. Since doing so the percentage of decision changed at MR stage has nearly doubled and there has been a decrease in the percentage of appeals lodged.

Holistic decision making has since been introduced at MR for ESA and UC and the DWP are now also using it to make the first decision about entitlement following a health assessment on ESA, PIP and UC.

Essentially holistic decision making simply seems to mean staff spending more time making decisions, collecting more evidence and speaking directly to the claimant.

Changing the Special Rules for Terminal Illness
The period in which a person can claim under the Special Rules for Terminal Illness is to be extended from within six months of their expected death to 12 months.

However, legislation will be needed to introduce this change and so far no date has been given for the new laws to be put in place.

PIP was rushed and badly designed
The DWP have come as close as they are ever likely to come to admitting that PIP was rushed and badly designed. Looking at the frequent successful legal challenges to PIP, the Green paper says:

“While it is normal for the courts to test new legislation, the extent of challenge and the success rate suggest that some aspects of the PIP assessment criteria would have benefitted from further testing before PIP was introduced.”

When PIP was brought in, the stated intention was that it would cut the benefits bill by 20% compared to DLA. In fact, it is costing between £1-2bn more than DLA would have cost.

The DWP say that “Implementing the required changes following successful legal cases is one of many reasons why the cost of PIP has increased.”

Have your say
You can download a copy of Shaping Future Support from this link You can also download a response form from the same page if you wish to take part in the consultation.

Alternatively, you can complete an online consultation form.

The closing date is 11 October, with a White Paper due to be published in mid 2022.


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