PIP assessment changes called into question by MP – ‘poor decisions’ need to be avoided

PIP rules were discussed in parliament yesterday as ministers representing the DWP took questions from MPs. On top of this, Universal Credit and that state pension was also covered.

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Benefit claims of all kinds have had to adapt in recent months as the lockdown has made all forms of physical meetings difficult.

This however comes with it’s own difficulties, and the Labour MP Bambos Charlambous asked Justin Tomlinson (the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work) for an estimate on the average time taken to process work capability assessments during the covid-19 outbreak.

Justin Tomlinson responded with the following: “We have temporarily suspended face-to-face work capability assessments so that we do not place people at unnecessary risk.

“Healthcare professionals continue to make recommendations based on paper-based evidence where possible, and we have introduced telephone assessments.

“We are in the early phases of delivering telephone assessments and are closely monitoring the processing times.”

While telephone assessments may seem like an appropriate solution to the problem, they too come with certain problems, as evidenced by Mr Charalambous example case: “One of my constituents who has progressive multiple sclerosis and is partially paralysed on his left side had to undergo a work capability assessment by phone.

“This resulted in his personal independence payment being cancelled, and then reviewed and reinstated at a lower rate.

“The decision is now being appealed so that he can get the higher level of PIP that he was previously on.

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“Does the Minister agree that stringent safeguards need to be in place when making such telephone assessments to ensure that poor decisions are avoided?”

Justin recognised the issue in his response: “I absolutely agree. We have independent audits looking at this.

“We are in the early stages of using telephone assessments, and there is a mix of the benefits because the WCA is separate from PIP.

“PIP is a few weeks further on in terms of using telephone assessments.

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“Stakeholders welcome the opportunity and it is something we will explore in the Green Paper. However, I am happy to look at the individual case.”

Assessments for PIP are usually mandatory unless the claimant has a terminal illness.

Citizens Advice explain that it is important to be prepared for this assessment as the DWP will use it to determine the claimant’s eligibility.

So long as a claimant is eligible they’ll receive a payment which is dependent on the severity of their condition.

There is a “daily living part” which will pay a weekly rate of either £59.70 or £89.15 per week.

Some people may also qualify for a “mobility part” which can pay £23.60 or £62.25 per week.

Eligible claimants will receive a decision letter detailing this once they have applied which provides them of a date for their first payment and what days of the week they’ll usually be paid. 

All of the eligibility rules can be found on the governments website and impartial advice can be sought from the likes of the Money Advice Service. 

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