In January we published a report highlighting that delays carrying out assessments for disability benefits meant that many disabled people were not receiving or were losing support intended to help them meet the additional costs of their disability.
- Delays to PIP awards meant that claimants’ awards were ending before a decision was made on a new claim. Poor communication with claimants led to confusion about whether awards would be extended or not.
- Delays to work capability assessments mean that contributory ESA awards were ending after 365 days without an assessment having been carried out.
- Failings of telephone assessments mean that UC and ESA claimants were told they would have to wait for a face to face assessment (which were not being carried out due to COVID-19) and therefore remain on the basic amount of benefit indefinitely.
We recently met with DWP officials to discuss the contents of the report and can provide the following update.
PIP assessment delays
It was acknowledged that some PIP awards did go out of payment before a new decision could be made, but this should no longer be the case
If a PIP award is due to end soon without a decision on a new claim the case should be escalated to the health care assessment provider or the award should be extended.
These cases can be raised with local partnership managers and then if need be through escalation routes. Please contact CPAG’s advice line for frontline advisers and support staff if escalation is required.
ESA /UC work capability assessment delays
It was acknowledged that there are delays with assessments being carried out due to COVID.
If the claimant’s health has deteriorated since their claim was made, send information to DWP as the assessment may be expedited.
If new-style ESA stops after 365 days, pending an assessment, the claimant should continue to submit fit notes to DWP and claim UC if appropriate.
If the claimant is placed in the support group following assessment, the additional amount will be backdated to the 14th week of the claim
Face to face assessments
PIP assessments are due to resume in assessment centres from 17th May onwards with COVID precautions in place. There is no date for assessments at home re-commencing yet. Telephone assessments will also continue to be offered in the majority of cases.
Supporting evidence need not necessarily come from a medical professional, but may be better if coming from someone who knows and can articulate the day to day impact of the claimant’s illness or disability.
Claimants do not need to provide a letter confirming their condition from their GP. If DWP require this (for the purposes of PIP, ESA or UC) they will request this from the GP directly and pay any costs directly.
If sufficient evidence is provided with the claim, it may be possible for a decision to be made on the information provided without the need for a further assessment.
What now for the Early Warning System?
We will continue to monitor cases coming directly from front frontline workers and through CPAG in Scotland’s advice line. If the update we have given does not reflect what you are seeing in practice, please tell us, so that we can report back to DWP. You can report cases to be used anonymously or if you have your client’s permission, provide details of the case so that DWP can investigate that case individually.