Last month we asked readers what sort of PIP assessment they would prefer.  The results are now in and it’s clear that claimants have a wide range of needs and preferences.  Four out of ten do not want a paper-based assessment and, for claimants outside Scotland at least, it’s important to know that you have the right to request a review - and then a further review - of your assessment type before it goes ahead.

The question of what type of PIP assessment claimants actually want arose after the DWP released figures showing that the vast majority of PIP assessments (77%) are still telephone, with a much smaller proportion of paper assessments (16%), fewer still face-to-face assessments (5%), and a tiny but growing percentage of video assessments (2%).

The issue is of even more relevance because the Scottish government have announced that claimants of the Scottish version of PIP, known as Adult Disability Payment, will have a paper based assessment as the default.

So how does all this fit in with what claimants actually want?  As far as we know, nobody has actually asked.

PIP assessment poll results

So we did ask. And 875 of our readers voted in our poll, whilst over 225 also left a comment explaining their choice.

The final results were:

Paper 59%  

Phone 20%

Face 20%

Video 1%

So, what is clear is that a majority of voters preferred a paper assessment, but a significant minority would opt for a face-to-face or a telephone assessment.  Only a tiny proportion would choose video.

For almost three out of five people, paper is the way to go. Many see little point in giving detailed information on their ‘How your disability affects you’ form only to have to give the same information again in an assessment.  Many also do not trust the assessor to accurately record their answers and some feel that the main purpose of the PIP assessment is to try to trip people up by asking the same questions repeatedly in different ways.

But for one out of five claimants, a face-to-face is preferred.  For some this is because they believe the assessor will be able to better understand the physical difficulties they have or see their emotional distress and thus write a more accurate report.  For others it is more about watching the assessor and making a  judgement about whether they are being listened to and understood, so that they can give further information if necessary. 

For another one in five, being assessed by telephone is the best option.  For some this is because they find travelling physically painful or distressing but still want to have a dialogue with the assessor. 

For others it is because social anxiety makes face-to-face assessments distressing and ineffective for gathering evidence, but they can manage a telephone call to an acceptable standard.

Despite, or perhaps because of, having lived through years of a pandemic where much communication has been via Zoom, video assessments are not popular. They were the preferred option for a tiny one percent of our poll respondents

Unfortunately, this is an assessment type which is on the increase.  The numbers are still small, but they are rising, whilst paper assessments have remained the same or fallen in the last three quarters.

Our poll results suggest that whilst the Scottish government have got it partly correct in making paper the default assessment, it still isn’t the right answer. 

They really need to go further and offer the option of choosing a different form of assessment if the claimant thinks that would produce the most accurate result.

Ask for an assessment type review

In fact, although very few people are aware of it, PIP claimants already have the right to ask for a review of their assessment type.  We don't yet know if the same applies to ADP in Scotland.

If you are still not happy you can ask for a further review.

Once this second review has taken place, you do not have the right of appeal to an independent tribunal, you must abide by the decision or look for another course of action. This could be a discrimination claim if the request for a different type of assessment could be viewed as a reasonable adjustment.

We don’t have any statistics on how many people ask for a review of their assessment type or what the success rate is.  But there is a reasonable chance that the assessment provider will find it easier to change the assessment type rather than go through two reviews and face the possibility of a discrimination claim.

There’s detailed information on how to ask for a review, including time limits and sample letters, in our Members guide to PIP Claims and Reviews.

Assessment type comments

Below are samples of some of the hundreds of comments readers left about what type of assessment they would prefer.  We’ve sorted them according to the type of assessment the poster said they would prefer.

If you prefer, you can read all the comments here.

PIP paper assessment

“Less stress with paper assessments. You can think about what you need to write. Face to face assessments always feel like an exam they are keen for you to fail and it is all down to personal interpretation of the assessor. One assessor (face to face) told me they did not agree with the medication I was prescribed (by a consultant). It also gives a clear trail of evidence. Last telephone assessment claimed questions had been asked that were, in fact, never asked. Reversal of decision made on the basis of telephone assessment, when I appealed and it got close to the tribunal date.”

“I had f2face and the assessor was a bare-faced liar in the report which dropped my points. I was so depressed  and despondent about this I couldn’t face fighting back.  They reduced my mobility component because of these lies. At least with paper they can’t invent stories.”"

“Paper based gives you time to fill out over a few days, when feeling well enough, and it gives time to utilise 'Benefits and Work' guides.  Face-to-face is too stressful with the assessor often not really assessing who is in front of them, with faces to computer filling in answers rather than looking at claimant. Most assessors have time constraints so unable to obtain correct picture of claimant  Telephone based is less stressful but it gives you less time to think, again the assessor in under time constraint to get certain number of claimants processed per hour/day.  If paper based is filled out fully using the guides provided by 'Benefits and Work', there should not be a problem and, although still stressful in trying to get everything down and in the correct boxes, you can take your time whereas all other options mean that you are under pressure on top of already being stressed out.”

“Due to the effects of Morphene I take for severe joint pain Im often befuddled and cant express myself fully as the morphene makes me feel spaced out and drowsy plus its painful for me to travel to a face to face assesment and sit for the length of time before and during the assesment, with a paper assesment I can fill it in a bit at a time on days where I can manage on Paracetomol and get help to fill it in if needed”

“Just so, so much less stressful to have paper as thank God our daughter did last year for the first time.  On one condition-that they ALWAYS text or call, with a requirement to ensure you got the message, to say as soon as the paper report [PA3] is done. So you can request it and contest if necessary before the decision.  Hey, DWP, why not make this simpler and reduce the demand on call centres? Just offer a tick box on the claim/renewal form to say you would like to be sent the PA3, either by email or postal hard copy and make sure it does get sent if the box is ticked. Since lots of us would opt for email for speed, that would also save DWP on paper and postage. This could be done even for claims that get a phone or video assessment.”

“I prefer assessments by paper due to social phobia and confusion, I find it easier to explain my daily issues in detail without being asked complicated questions over the phone, or face to face as I get very anxious, stressed and find it difficult to breathe due to panic attacks”

“Paper is less stressful and gives me time to think about and write my answers and hopefully be better understood, I am Autistic as well and physically disabled so it’s very very stressful going to a assessment place and meeting strange person.”

“I much prefer a paper based assessment as it allows me to get every piece of information on how my condition affects me written down. I have Paranoid Schizoprenia, as such I am suspicious of anyone I don't know well. I couldn't cope with a face to face, just the thought of that would cause me severe anxiety, I wouldnt be able to think straight or give them relevant information.”

“I have hearing loss and was assessed by telephone - no choice but to have someone with me making sure I heard correctly - mobile was on speaker.  Assessor was beyond bad.  When my husband tried to repeat the question she said that repeating the question would mean the assessment would take too long and she would terminate the assessment.  Had no choice but to carry on with my husband writing key words down so I could be sure I was answering the questions she asked.  He was mouthing some of the things so I could be sure what I was answering. The whole thing was so traumatic.  The paperwork said the assessment would take up to 2 hours.  Mine was 40 minutes.  Got the lowest amount of mobility and really don’t want to go through that again.  Don’t think I was given any degree of dignity.  I meant to say I prefer paper based. Can’t cope with phones or Face2Face”

PIP telephone assessment

“With telephone assessment it was recorded therefore more accountable.  Outcome improved as a result.”

“With social anxiety, GAD, lifetime of depression, due for autism assessment and  physical health problems too telephone is best for me. Just the build-up for assessment has me in a tail-spin and to endure a journey by taxi i get there stressed, anxious, and over-whelmed. My telephone assessment was 90mins and that was hard too but I coped better in my own home surroundings and not having to see a face was better too. I still struggled to think fast due to meds to questions but I felt less pressure with no one looking at me. I was successful too and rightly so”

“By doing a telephone assessment you have time to think about your answers carefully. But I think this is less stressful than face to face, but any assessment  puts you on edge anyway.

I would prefer phone as i dont feel as stressed or have to travel therefore i find i give better details.”

“I had a phone assessment the last time and prefer it to face to face. I found it less stressful”

“I voted phone. If there had been a 2nd option it would have been video.  Paper assessment would be my preferred decision if PIP could be trusted to even read it properly and look at the evidence. That would probably work for me as I know what I'm doing with this and others I help too. However for the majority it wouldn't as helpful as it's unlikely they would be able to fill the form in correctly, get evidence etc if they didn't have correct support filling it in.  Certainly face to face for me is no! Its too soul destroying, getting there and the process of with my mental health”

“I can't drive, I can't cope in places I don't know and I have panic attacks. I still have a huge anxiety with phone calls but at least I'm in my own home.”

PIP face-to-face assessment

“Face to face is better as it allows me to judge the demeanour of the assessor through the assessment. I can pick up on any issues the assessor may be having and how much of what I say they take notes of. Paper and phone-based assessments don't give the assessor an opportunity to see you walking or in my case how my breathing is, and this is missed with paper and phone assessments. Face to face also means things don't get missed by over talking as they could on the phone or video link, and there is no ability to ask questions or correct mistakes with paper based.”

“Although they are extremely stressful, not least because of the waiting time involved, I feel a face to face assessment is better to assess my mental health. I hate using the telephone at the best of times and feel I would shut down and provide very limited answers over the phone. Paper assessments are great, but may not convey a nuanced picture of my health.”

“Face to face with a witness as this actually demonstrates the problems I have when stressed, and also mobility issues.”

“My last Pip review telephone assessment in Oct 2020 resulted in very few points and both awards being removed. As the basis of my claim referred to my struggles with Osteoarthritis and Fibromyalgia I did ask the assessor how she could report a condition she couldn't see? Also my description of my daily struggles were distorted. I did win back my award after lengthy MR using word format from B&W. I had made a covert recording where my distress and anxiety can clearly be heard. I added this information to my MR and believe this helped to get my decision reversed. So, for me, face to face assessments every time.”

“My daughter cannot under any circumstances cope with telephone or video assessments it has to be face to face as if the former it distresses her so much it impacts on her mental health and consequently she isolates herself from society.”

“I have voted for face to face. My wife has ptsd and gets flustered easily. With phone or video she forgets who she is talking to and why. She falls back on the default 'i'm okay thanks'. Face to face means i can go with her and rephrase the questions so she understands.”

“I had Two face 2face assessments and was awarded PIP,  telephone assessment it was stopped.  I find it hard to explain myself on the phone but when I am with someone I can gage if they understand what I mean also that can witness the difficulties I have.”

“I prefer face to face because it is easier for them to see how the disability affects you rather than in a phone call where incorrect judgements could be made.”

“I am deaf & therefore cannot conduct a fair assessment on a telephone as I struggle massively to hear what is being said to me. I have always had a home visit in the past, however, for my last PIP reassessment, the DWP refused to do that and insisted that it was carried out by telephone. They totally ignored my support worker’s recommendation that given my severe deafness, plus other chronic health conditions, I must be seen at home. The DWP would then only offer a video appointment, which I had no choice but to accept, but had my support worker with me to help translate what I couldn’t hear. The sound wasn’t very good at all and I found it very stressful indeed. I am now already extremely anxious, worrying about what might happen at my next reassessment, which I think should be sometime next year? My ideal situation is a home visit with no face masks - but a clear visor would be fine, as long as they faced me when talking and spoke slowly and clearly. The DWP don’t appear to have any procedures in place for the deaf & hard of hearing and I felt discriminated against.”

“I am a welfare rights advisor and I have more control over the assessment when it is a face to face assessment. I find that most telephone assessments are difficult to hear and the main sound you can hear is the HCP's keyboard. At least 80% of the time I am not conferenced into the call when I should be. I accompany my client in a taxi to a face to face assessment and stay with them during the assessment and ensure that they get home safely afterwards.”

PIP video assessment

“As I have computer equipment at home, it is convenient for me to have a video assessment.  Anyone who can set up a video link in their own environment probably find this option easier whereas others who does not have access to technology will rather choose other alternatives.  It will be resourceful to lend out laptops for the disabled so they can attend their assessment by video for the appointment when they cannot attend a centre in person.”

“I voted video but not sure about paper I wont vote for face to face as the assessors in my experience lie and submit false non truthful information and lost me half my benefit”

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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Shrimp · 2 months ago
    I have had face2face and it boils my blood when you have filled in forms for hours explaining your condition, how if effects you, then going through it all again, presenting medical information, for you to then get assessment back saying "in my opinion you can do this this and this" when you have been telling them for years what you cannot do, do they really think I want to tell a stranger that I cannot always wipe my own bum.....  at one face2face they asked me to open the window after I had explained I have poor grip, of course I declined, another one said on the report that I had my kitchen counters lowered and therefore I could cook.....no counters lowered in my kitchen???
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Kay · 2 months ago
    Absolutely agree with many people that face to face assessments are there to try and trip you up into saying something that can be used against your submitted form. I don’t trust any assessor to do their job correctly in the current climate. Their goal is one only….to get people off benefits and to get the money that’s needed to be paid out by the DWP down and drastically. If only the DWP had the brains to see that a lot of the costs involved are through paying Capita, Atos and others a rather large sum per client. I’m sorry for such a negative review but it’s exactly how I feel, I’m waiting for my review to be accepted or declined, it’s hell, pure hell waiting. It’s like having a loaded gun pointed at you waiting for the trigger to be pulled.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Helen · 2 months ago
    I had a telephone assessment, I  recorded it ,the assessor stated in her assessment that she could not detect any depression or stress in my tone of voice so even though I have suffered both for over 20 years and have evidence that was submitted on different occasions her advice was taken over that ,capital would not let me send them the recording of the telephone call ,I did ask for a second decision by the decision maker but they stayed with the same result ,on top of this they referred to 1 weeks worth of medication that I had been given by my doctor in October, now keeping in mind the assessment took place at the end of November they kept referring to the great effect I was having from these tablets weeks later ,I  brought this to the decision makers attention but still declared the assessor was right in her assumption 😡
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Sally Dignam · 2 months ago
    I have just got my Tribunal date (this will be my 3rd Tribunal since I have been claiming DLA/PIP 
    I have been told the Tribunal will be by video link and already I am getting anxious.
    what has also made me stress is the guidance notes state “SSCS hearings are public hearings” which means the public may be permitted access to the “video hearing room” and “the hearing will be broadcast in a Court or Tribunal building”
    It’s enough I have to try and explain how my conditions affect me, the thought of this being broadcast terrifies me.?

  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Simon · 2 months ago
    I use Equalities Act 2010 and tell the DWP what type of assessment I will tolerate, as a reasonable adjustment, because of my various conditions.
    I have also helped others in this way and, although they may try ingnoring you initially, they have always co-operated in the end.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    ray powell · 2 months ago
    i had a phone assessment which lasted 2 hours .trying to trip me up on my answers .but now i recieve PIP for the first time after 4 tries
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Michael · 2 months ago
    I couldn't do a face to face or telephone for pip assessment as the fear 
    of losing control of my mental capacity would most likely involve me 
    in self harming or a risk to potentially harming the assessor.

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