Disabled benefit claimants are set to see the welfare system upended over the coming months and years as the DWP prioritizes its health and disability green paper efforts, which explores how the system can better meet the needs of disabled people. Today, Justin Tomlinson was questioned on the Government’s plans by the Work and Pensions Committee and the Minister was forced to address PIP assessment concerns.
As Mr Tomlinson covered the Government’s plans, Steve McCabe the Labour MP for Birmingham, Selly Oak, raised concerns on the assessment processes facing disabled claimants: “I was struck by a sentence in the National Strategy.
“I don’t know if you’re responsible for this, but it says, what you’re doing is reducing the need for repeated assessments for the individuals needs [while they] remain the same.
“Why shouldn’t you apply that same principle to people on PIP and Work Capability Assessments (WCA)? I dealt with a blind constituent of mine who ‘s constantly called up to the office on the other side of town for his PIP assessment.
“Well his sight is not going to come back. If we’ve got the principle for this, why don’t we apply it to other benefits?”
In response, Mr Tomlinson assured the committee that the DWP is aware of this issue and is working on it.
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“We couldn’t agree more,” he said.
“It’s a key part of the green paper, we have a firm commitment to remove unnecessary assessments and reassessments. That’s not a completely new concept, we’d already brought into WCA a severe disability criteria.
“We think we can go further.” Mr Tomlinson went on to break down how in working with charities and stakeholders it became “abundantly clear” that the Government had to remove the six month rule for terminally ill claimants.
During this process, a “lightning rod” highlighted the point that the DWP were “clearly” doing unnecessary assessments and this is “not in the claimants interests.”
Mr Tomlinson continued: “It’s not in our interests, we have to pay for it, there is a finite capacity, it doesn’t make sense to do that.” It was reiterated assessments would not be abolished in their entirety but for severe cases, the need for continuous reviews will be tackled.
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“Where you’ve, frankly, secured the highest rate of support [from PIP], and you have a degenerative condition, it is in no one’s interest to waste time assessing somebody,” he said.
“So the green paper consultation is looking how we can identify those groups where we can remove that, we estimate potentially a fall of a million less assessments or reassessments, it’s a big number.”
Mr Tomlinson concluded by explaining how a triage system could help with these efforts. Assessors could confirm “we’re 95 [percent of the way] there” and just ask claimants specific questions on if their condition had changed at all.
This could then reduce the need for full reassessments and “in effect” remove the need for face-to-face assessments in all but the most necessary of cases. This would then remove the administrative burden for the claimant and the cost for the state.
Under the current rules, a person will be eligible for PIP if they have a physical or mental health condition or disability where they:
- Have had difficulties with daily living or getting around (or both) for three months
- Expect these difficulties to continue for at least nine months
Additionally, claimants will need to be aged between 16 and state pension age and have lived in England, Scotland or Wales for at least two of the previous three years.
Claims for PIP can be made by calling or writing to the DWP and following this, claimants will be assessed by an independent healthcare professional to work out the level of help they need. So long as a claimant is eligible, they’ll receive a payment made up of two elements.
The daily living part of PIP will pay either £60.00 or £89.60 per week.
Mobility payments will pay out either £23.70 or £62.55. How much a person receives from these two elements will be dependent on how their condition(s) affects them.
Before claiming, applicants will need to have certain information at the ready. This includes their contact details, banking details and information on their doctor or health worker.
As a claim is made, the following process will be followed:
- Claimants will be sent a “How your disability affects you” form. They’ll then need to call the PIP enquiry line if they need it in an alternative format such as braille, large print or audio CD.
- They’ll need to fill in the form using the notes that come with it to help them. They can also read Citizens Advice’s help on filling in the form.
- The form will need to be returned to the DWP – the address is on the form. Claimants have one month to return the form. DWP will start processing the claim when they receive it.
- If more information is needed, an independent health professional will send a letter inviting the claimant to an assessment. Assessments can be in person, over the phone or by video call. Claimants will be asked questions about their ability to carry out activities and how their condition affects your daily life.
- Finally, they’ll get a letter telling them whether they’ll get PIP. If they do, they’ll be told how much they’ll get, when they’ll be paid and the date their PIP will be reviewed so they continue to get the right support.
Once a person receives PIP, they’ll need to inform the DWP of any changes in their condition or circumstance. Where this occurs, they may need to go through reassessments to ensure they’re receiving the correct amounts.
Express.co.uk contacted the DWP asking for comment.