COMMONS

Are PIP and ESA Assessments working well?

29 September 2017

The Work and Pensions Committee launches a new inquiry on how the assessment processes for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are handled by Department for Work and Pensions contractors ATOS, Capita and Maximus, and how the application, assessment and appeals processes for these two benefits are working.

Disparity between applicants' memory of assessment and final report

In the last Parliament the Committee held an urgent one-off evidence session in the wake of the announcement of Government plans to restrict the number of people who qualify for PIP, a move which would limit the cost of PIP by £3.7 billion. Evidence taken then revealed worrying disparities between the applicants’ recall of the assessment process and the final report produced to enable Department for Work and Pensions to make a decision.

The Committee also heard concerns about the contractor assessors’ ability to understand and properly assess a wide range of physical and mental health conditions, and about the dignity and conduct of the assessment process. The latest data shows that claimants are successful in appealing against their decision in 65% of cases, for both PIP and ESA, and that there has been an 29% increase in such appeals being registered since this time last year.

Given high rates of overturn at appeal, the Committee invites evidence on the effectiveness of assessment processes used to determine eligibility for these benefits, and the experience of applicants going through it. The Committee is interested in receiving recommendations for change both on the assessment process for each benefit individually, and on common lessons that can be learned from the two processes.

Truly amazing rate of overturned ESA and PIP decisions

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“The truly amazing rate of overturned ESA and PIP decisions seems to point to something being fundamentally wrong with the initial assessment and Mandatory Reconsideration stages. Quite apart from the human cost this represents – the distress and difficulty for applicants trying to get help with daily living or getting into work – it looks to be wasteful, inefficient, and a huge cost to taxpayers.

“We would like to hear from claimants – and assessors – about whether and where the system works, or is failing, and how it might be fixed.”

Call for written submissions

This inquiry seeks to investigate the effectiveness of assessment processes used to determine eligibility for PIP and ESA. The Committee is interested in receiving recommendations for change both on the assessment process for each benefit individually, and on common lessons that can be learned from the two processes.

The Committee welcomes written submissions on any or all of the following questions. Submissions are due by 10 November 2017.

Assessors and assessments

  • Do contractor assessors possess sufficient expertise to carry out assessments for people with a wide range of health conditions?
  • Is Department of Work and Pensions quality control for contractors sufficient and effective?
  • Should the options for reforming the Work Capability Assessment mooted in the Government’s Improving Lives green paper be taken forward?
  • What examples of best practice in assessing eligibility for benefits are available internationally, and how transferrable are they to ESA and/or PIP?

Mandatory Reconsideration and appeal

  • Why do claimants seek to overturn initial assessment outcomes for ESA and/or PIP?
  • Why are levels of disputed decisions higher for PIP than for ESA?
  • Is the Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) process working well for claimants of ESA and/or PIP?
  • What accounts for the rate of overturned decisions at appeal for PIP and/or ESA?
  • Are there lessons that could be learned from the ESA MR and appeal process for PIP and vice-versa?
  • What changes could be made earlier in the process to ensure fewer claimants feel they need to appeal?

Claimant experiences

  • Do prospective claimants currently understand the purpose of the assessment?
  • How could claimants be helped to better understand the assessment process?
  • Are some groups of claimants particularly likely to encounter problems with their assessments – and if so, how can this be addressed?
  • Should the assessment processes for PIP and ESA be more closely integrated? How else might the processes be streamlined for claimants?

  • Send a written submission to the inquiry on PIP and ESA Assessments

Web Forum

If you have had an assessment, or are waiting for an assessment, for PIP or ESA, we'd like to hear from you.

Further information

Image: PA

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