Benefits health assessments system continues to let people down, say MPs
14 April 2023
The health assessments system to access vital benefits for those who cannot work or face extra costs due to disability or ill-health continues to let down those who rely on it, according to the Work and Pensions Committee.
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In its latest Report, the Committee calls for the implementation of several measures that would be relatively quick and easy wins to improve trust, drive down the high rate of decisions reversed on appeal and reduce waiting times.
It says assessments should be recorded by default, with claimants having the option to opt-out, adding that footage could be used to review cases more accurately without having to go to appeal, and help assessors learn from past mistakes.
Some of the improvements the Committee suggest could drive down the high rate of decisions reversed on appeal, which still stands at 69% for Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Although the Work Capability Assessment used for Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance is due to be abolished, it will remain in place until at least 2026. Meanwhile, PIP assessments will continue, so retaining the status quo is not an option.
MPs on the Committee also recommended allowing claimants to choose between remote or in-person assessments, extending the deadline to return forms, targets to reduce assessment waiting times, and payments to people who have been forced to wait beyond the new targets.
The predecessor Committee originally published a report on significant problems in assessments in 2018, but many of the recommended changes have not been made.
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.”
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