MPs on the commons work and pensions committee have called for claimants to be paid an assessment rate of PIP if the DWP takes too long to carry out an assessment.
The suggestion was one of a large number put forward in the committee’s report ‘Health assessments for benefits’ which was published this month and which received contributions from thousands of Benefits and Work members last year.
The committee argued that assessment providers should have time limits for carrying out assessments written into their contracts and that there should be penalties for failing to meet them.
In addition, once the time limit is missed, an affected claimant should be paid an assessment rate until their claim is decided. Where a claim is successful, the payments would be deducted from the back pay. Where a claim was not allowed, no repayment would need to be made.
Among many other recommendations, the committee suggested that:
- Claimants should be able to choose whether to have a face-to-face, telephone or video assessment.
- All assessments should be recorded by default, with claimants being able to opt out if they choose. This is a move that all the assessment providers agree with, only the DWP stands against it.
- The deadline for returning ESA50, UC50 and PIP2 forms should be extended to two months.
- More weight should be given to evidence provided by carers and family members in relation to benefits claims.
- Young people in receipt of DLA should not be required to claim PIP until they are 18.
- The DWP should publish anonymized data every year on all instances of death or serious harm associated with health assessments and set out what steps it has taken to prevent them happening again.
Committee Chair Sir Stephen Timms MP said:
“We surveyed eight and a half thousand people as part of our inquiry and found a profound lack of trust in the system as a consistent theme.
Many will welcome abolition of the Work Capability Assessment. The Government’s process improvements, and recognition that the system causes undue stress and hardship, are steps in the right direction.
However, waiting years for changes won’t cut it when quicker wins are available: flexibility of choice on assessment by phone or face-to-face; recording assessments by default; extending deadlines to reduce stress; and sending claimants their reports. All this will give much-needed transparency to a process that so few trust yet affects their lives so fundamentally.
All efforts must be made for unnecessary limbo and stress for claimants to be put to an end.”