Written evidence from the National Deaf Children’s Society (HAB0049)

About us:

The National Deaf Children’s Society is the UK’s leading charity for deaf children and young people. Our vision is of a world without barriers for deaf children. We support deaf young people up to the age of 25 and provide advice on applying for the benefits they may be entitled to, particularly PIP.

Our data:

We have considerable insight from our membership surveys and our casework in supporting deaf young people and their families to claim PIP and to challenge decisions at the First Tier and Upper Tribunal.

About our evidence:

We have focused on the questions within the call for evidence that we believe are particularly relevant to deaf young people, and so we have not answered all the questions asked.

  1. How could DWP improve the quality of assessments for health-related benefits?

We have found the quality of PIP assessments carried out on behalf of the DWP extremely variable.  Deaf young people face the problem that their condition is a low incidence disability and so assessments are carried out by assessors who have no expertise in deafness.  Common problems that repeatedly appear in assessment reports include: 

 

All assessments carried out for deaf young people should be reviewed by an expert in deafness and deaf issues.   Whilst it may not be feasible for an expert in deafness to carry out all assessments for deaf young people, it is entirely possible for one to review them. 

A problem for deaf young people is that when they finish education, professionals whose evidence may have previously helped with DLA claims, like Teachers of the Deaf or speech and language therapists are no longer available.   We would recommend that in these cases, reports be obtained from audiologists that address the PIP criteria, and that the DWP should pay for these reports.

Medical or corroborative evidence should only be sought from professionals who are able to comment on the impact of deafness on the young person, i.e. a Teacher of the Deaf or audiologist rather than a GP.   

6. How practical would it be for DWP’s decision makers to rely on clinician input, without a separate assessment, to make decisions on benefit entitlement? What are the benefits and the drawbacks of such an approach?

7. Appeals data shows that, for some health-related benefits, up to 76% of tribunals find in favour of the claimant. Why is that?

a. What could DWP change earlier in the process to ensure that fewer cases go to appeal?

Questions 6 & 7 overlap so we address them jointly. 

A great many young people claim PIP without any advice and are not awarded the benefit.  Too often with the cases we support with where the initial claim has been refused, the problem is that the young person has simply not been believed, either by the assessor or the DWP decision maker or both.   The young person finds that unless they can provide professional evidence that “proves” that their hearing loss causes them a problem they are refused. 

We believe deaf young people claiming PIP should not have to provide proof of facts that are well established within the evidence base on deafness. For example, that their hearing technology does not restore normal hearing or that background noise impairs their ability to hear.   These are all facts that any audiologist will verify. 

We think assessors and DWP decision makers need to focus their attention on whether the stated level of problems are consistent, plausible and relevant to the PIP descriptors.   More than anything else this would improve decision making on PIP cases for deaf young people. 

10. What lessons should the Department learn from the way that it handled claims for health-related benefit claims during the pandemic: for example, relying to a greater extent on paper-based assessments, or using remote/telephone assessments?

a. Is there a case for making some of the changes permanent?

Some of our families and young people have found  Telephone and Video assessments  useful during the pandemic.  However, others have found them completely inadequate.  For example, we had one young adult who was not allowed to participate in their telephone assessment - the assessor insisted on talking to their parent, even though they were not the appointee.  It was simply because the assessor found it easier to communicate with the hearing parent than the claimant on the phone as the deaf young person required the assessor to speak more slowly and repeat some of the questions.   Online meetings can be harder for deaf young people as lipreading is more challenging off a computer screen.

Deaf young people  should be  given the choice of whether to have a face to face, telephone or video assessment.   For all  formats of assessment, the availability of sign language interpreters and other reasonable adjustments needs to be a priority, an adequate assessment cannot take place if the claimant is unable to participate fully. 

 

November 2021