Benefits alert: Huge changes to Universal Credit & PIP assessments – what YOU need to know

DWP member explains how they informed Universal Credit claimants

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Due to a series of assessment changes which took place in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the DWP is looking to make further changes to how people are screened and given their benefit payments. As part of current departmental rules, claimants of benefits such as Universal Credit, PIP and ESA need to attend in-person appointments, usually with a health professional to assess whether they are fit to work. However, many claimants have recently come forward to say this process causes them unnecessary stress and turmoil, and can be repetitive for claimants with long-term conditions which affect their mobility.

In reaction to these concerns, the Government has been looking into ways to improve the assessment process for benefit claimants.

During the pandemic, the DWP halted in-person appointments due to Government-mandated social distancing guidelines.

Over this period, all assessment appointments were carried out over the phone between claimants and health professionals.

As of May 2021, these in-person assessments have slowly returned as part of the department’s general procedure for dealing with claimants’ illnesses or disabilities.

With the DWP returning to a pre-Covid normalcy of some sort, the DWP has launched its Shaping Future Support: The Health and Disability Green Paper.

This paper includes proposals which would change how assessments are carried out by the department and its staff.

As part of the green paper, the DWP is carrying out a 12-week consultation regarding the proposals, which is set to close on October 11, 2021.

During this consultation, affected stakeholders of these assessments are invited to give their thoughts on them, which include Universal Credit, PIP and ESA claimants. But, what are these changes?

Assessments to be recorded by the DWP

In order to foster trust between claimants and the department, face-to-face PIP assessments will now be audio recorded.

Phone assessments of PIP, ESA and Universal Credit claimants are also now starting to be recorded over the phone.

Video assessments to increase

As part of a department experiment which ran until the end of March, over 750 benefit claimants have taken part in video assessments.

Going forward, the DWP wants to increase this number in order to expand its outreach towards claimants and future DWP applicants.

Appeals to be reduced

The DWP is looking to significantly reduce the number of appeals brought forward against the department as part of the proposals put forward by the green paper.

In the paper, the DWP said an examination of tribunal cases found that better quality evidence needs to be gathered earlier in the decision-making process.

Repeat assessments to be reduced

Specifically, PIP claimants could see the frequency of repeat assessments they are entitled to take away as part of the green paper proposals.

This is supposed to benefit older PIP claimants above the state pension age who will receive an ongoing benefit award to assist them into old age.

Medical evidence to be shared across all benefit applications

To speed up the process for benefit claimants who receive multiple and different type of awards, the DWP is planning to allow an individual’s medical evidence to be shared across all benefit applications.

This would mean claimants will not need to provide any information more than once with the DWP.

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