COMMONS

Web forum: PIP and ESA Assessments

As part of our inquiry on PIP and ESA Assessments, the Work and Pensions Committee heard about your experience of claiming PIP or ESA.

Get involved

The web forum closed on Friday 10 November 2017.

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

You might want to tell us about:

  • Did you feel that the right decision on your entitlement to ESA/PIP was reached as a result of your initial assessment? 
  • If not—what do you feel were the reasons for this?
  • If you have experience of Mandatory Reconsideration, did you find this stage effective and useful? How might it be improved?
  • Overall, how "claimant-friendly" did you find the assessment process?
  • What steps would you recommend taking to improve it?

We have received an overwhelming response on this forum and we are really grateful to all of you who have posted. We moderate this forum so posts that breach discussion rules do not appear: please bear with us while we approve and post the comments you've sent us. Please be assured we are reading them all, and what you have told us will contribute to our inquiry.

Please read the forum terms and conditions and discussion rules before posting your comment.

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2828 Responses to PIP and ESA Assessments

Marjory says:
November 11, 2017 at 12:12 AM
Subject: PIP Assessment
I forgot to say in my earlier submission that, in spite of the fact that I have received a letter from the DWP stated that they had all the information they required to make a decision for PIP, when I checked with my GP they had not contacted her for any information regarding my conditions (OA in spine, hands, fingers and hips, Fibromyalgia, TMJD, Epilepsy, COPD)
Helen says:
November 10, 2017 at 11:56 PM
Subject: ESA Assessment
I have just finished doing my third WCA Questionnaire and feel thoroughly depressed as a result. I have multiple sclerosis (MS), a well-known complex and fluctuating neurological condition, which is progressive and currently without a cure. Following submission of both my previous ESA forms, in 2011 and 2013, I was placed in the support group having been deemed too severely disabled to undertake any kind of work. What does anyone think has happened to me in the intervening 4 years, and now that I am 60. Of course, my MS has progressed! Surely it is a waste of time for everyone concerned.

I understand the need to ensure that benefits go to the right people but this is not only absurd but the very process of assessment is stressful which can aggravate a lot of health conditions; MS in particular feeds on stress and the need to pick over the minutiae of my MS life and explain how it affects the minutiae of my non-MS life is soul destroying. This is particularly true in a world that would have us be positive all (or for the better part of the) time. But being positive, and doing our best to make the best out of our often grim situations, risks working against us.
Furthermore, last year I had occasion to query the amount I was getting paid. In total there were 4 letters from me, with the last in April this year, as well as phone calls. Whatever I did, the answer was the same. I apparently had in excess of £16K savings. When I wrote in April, I included bank statements from January 2016 to March 2017, and asked where this £16K was. A few months later, I was put onto the right money but it was only back-dated to April this year and not to the beginning of June when I first wrote.

This has caused considerable anxiety and resulted in several knock-on problems. Right now, a lady from the Royal British Legion is trying to sort it out for me but, once again, I am having to submit all my bank statements again. Some of these will have now been submitted 4 times, as well as being scrutinised by a domiciliary visitor from the DWP.

All these letters and enclosures have to be looked at by someone. I dread to think of the cost of continually not doing things right the first time!
John says:
November 10, 2017 at 11:55 PM
Subject: ESA Assessment
Written on behalf of my husband who went for his ESA assessment a few years ago.

The report we received was a work of fiction & bore no resemblance to what actually took place. The outright lies and inconsistencies it contained meant that there were three A4 pages written for his MR countering what the assessor had written. It went to a Tribunal that he subsequently won.

A few examples. The assessor had my husband dressed in a jacket that he said my husband had taken off with my assistance. My husband did not wear a jacket that day and the assistance I gave with his clothing was to help him put on his socks and shoes although no mention was made of this. Timings were wrong, names were wrong, information was wrong, relevant things that happened weren’t mentioned while things that did not happen were invented.

That assessment was not recorded, however we made sure that the subsequent one was and that passed without problem and the report was accurate!
Heather says:
November 10, 2017 at 11:55 PM
Subject: PIP and ESA Assessment
I've been on benefits for 7 years, due to a serious injury which left me with chronic pain, and a subsequent worsening of my long-term mental health problems. My first two assessments (for ESA and DLA) were OK, as the assessors were fairly nice, listened fairly well, etc. I didn't know what I was doing at the time, so I assumed that they had gone well. For both of them, I got far too few points. I went to Tribunal and was awarded both benefits, daily care and mobility, although I can't remember which levels. Since then, I've had 5 more assessments (including one a couple of weeks ago). I've had to go to Tribunal for every one of them, and every time I've won. This is ridiculous, not to mention a waste of money! It's also incredibly stressful for me. I ended up having to borrow over 3000GBP one time, as it took 14 months for me to get to Tribunal.

The assessments have definitely gotten worse: the assessors are less friendly (one made me cry because he was so nasty), the write-ups have been full of more mistakes or lies, and the locations have gotten further and further away (my last one was 20 miles away, and I live in Cambridge, which has a fairly large population!). One assessor said that he would have thought that he'd be able to see something if I were in that much pain (I was shaking and sweating with the pain, despite being on a huge amount of meds - I'm not sure what else he wanted. I have muscle wastage and my spine is crooked, which I showed him, but he wasn't interested.) Another clearly didn't think that my mental health problems were serious (they are, according to every mental health worker I've seen in the past 28 years). He left my depression and anxiety meds off the list he typed into the computer, and although they were on my ESA form, the decision-maker clearly didn't look at that at all, as she wrote "No mental health meds, therefore mental health problems are not disabling" in her decision.

Having to explain all the things you can't do on a form, and then to a stranger, and then possibly again to a Tribunal, is incredibly depressing. I was an up-and-coming research scientist, extremely physically active, and doing a PhD at Cambridge when I injured my back. Now I volunteer a bit for my living Co-op, live on the edge of poverty, often can't get out of bed, and take a variety of powerful medication, which have unpleasant side-effects. I focus on what I can do, and on the wonderful things that I have in my life now (people, mostly), but in order to do that I definitely don't think about the things I can't do! Having to detail the fact that I can't stand long enough to stir-fry some veggies, or that I can't even clean a toilet without my back going into spasm, makes me feel horrendous, and my depression and anxiety get much, much worse.

The fact that the process is so claimant *unfriendly*, that they treat you as if you're a fraud from day 1, that they lose your paperwork, don't read things you send them, and make so many mistakes, just makes it all worse. Every time I've had to go through applying, re-applying, or having a review (1 year into my 2-year-long award this last time!) my depression has gotten really bad (to the point that I stop washing, eating, and communicating, resulting in either a few trips to A&E for self-injury or a few friends having to keep me on suicide watch), and my anxiety has skyrocketed. This past time I couldn't sleep for 6 days. I finally went to my GP, and he gave me sleeping meds, but I shouldn't have to get to the point of endangering my life simply to get the support I need! I wouldn't have been able to complete filling in the form, never mind the rest of the process, except that I have a very intelligent, very angry friend who deals with it all for me. This is even more humiliating, because I'm an intelligent, highly-educated person, and I used to do far more difficult things that this. The system has just worn me down to the point that I had to take anti-anxiety meds just to fill this in.

Please, <1% of us are applying fraudulently. This is about ideology and incompetence. The craziest thing about it is that I could probably be working now, if I didn't keep getting thrown off course by having to go through this process! I worked part-time for 2 years, although when it got far too stressful (boss asked me to do 30 hours a week) I had to give it up. I need to be stronger to try that again, but I think I could get there, if I didn't keep having to start from scratch after going bonkers because of an application. Please, I've wasted almost 11 years of my life because of my disabilities. Give me the support and the time to get myself as well as possible so that I can go off of them!
Marjory Thomson says:
November 10, 2017 at 11:52 PM
Subject: PIP Assessment

All ESA and PIP assessments should be recorded (Video and Tape), the onus to provide the equipment for this should be on the DWP/Contractors and not on the claimants. The provision of this service would help weed out the rogue assessors as well as pinpoint inadequacies in the assessment procedure and aid in the decision making process.

Ideally, assessors should sign the reports and let clients read and approve the reports before sending it to DWP. Failing this, a copy of the report sent out automatically to clients at the same time as to DWP. By sending a copy direct to the client, this would cut down on clients needing to make calls to DWP asking for one (I have called three times in three weeks and at the time of my last call it had not been sent out). This would also ensure that clients are able to check for any inaccurate/false information allow additional time to prepare for a Mandatory Reconsideration should it be required.

The waiting times at every stage of the process are far too long and extremely stressful. Instead of having to wait for the result of a Mandatory Request before requesting an appeal, they should be allowed from the outset to cut down on waiting time. It is my personal opinion that Mandatory Requests are nothing but a stalling tactic in that hope of wearing clients down so that they will accept whatever decision is reached at that stage and not go through the further stress of an Appeal Tribunal. There should be a time limit on how long MRs and Appeals should take.

If clients believe they should be awarded more points for certain activities, why is it necessary for Decision Makers to look at the whole claim and for the DWP to say that it could mean fewer points? If those points already awarded to clients have been proven why should it then be necessary to look at those again and not solely on those points that are being contested?

Why when making a query at Mandatory Reconsideration regarding points given solely in the Care criteria is it necessary for the Decision Maker to look again at Mobility and vice versa?

Why is there a need for constant re-assessment for people who have long-term mental /physical disabilities and conditions for which no improvement is indicated?

Any Assessors found to have deliberately lied in the completion of reports should be investigated and their professional governing body informed.

More care should be taken when arranging appointments for claimants that forms are read and notes made of any factors affecting where and when they should take place. In spite of living in Fife, and stating on my DLA-PIP form that I had difficulties functioning in the mornings; the appointment for my assessment was 10.30am in Tayside (Dundee). While looking at information for the assessment centre in Dundee, I noted that there was no disabled parking outside and the nearest available parking was a street away in a multi-storey car park. I would not be at all surprised if the fact that you were able to get there at all counted against you as you would need to be fit to walk the distance from the car park to the centre! Fortunately, I was able to have it changed to 1.30pm at an assessment centre in Fife. Whilst I arrived and reported to the Reception by 1.30pm, I had to wait at least 20 stress filled minutes before the Assessor came out to introduce herself. I am sure if I had been 20 minutes late for the assessment, I would most likely have found it cancelled and my claim stopped for what the Assessment Centre/DWP would deem as being non-attendance.
Chhimed says:
November 10, 2017 at 11:35 PM
Subject: PIP Assessment
Claimants should have the right to video record the interrogation as the HCPs obviously cannot be trusted to give an honest representation of the assessment. A voice recording would not be adequate as it will not actually show what takes place.

Calling these interrogations “assessments” is an insult to people’s intelligence. They are actually enhanced interrogations and cross examinations. They quite obviously involve a pattern of deception with a clear intention and agenda to not give a genuine and honest representation of the evidence relying on a blatant derogation from the facts, truth and legislation!

Calling the assessors “Health Care Professionals” (HCP) is a perverse joke and an insult to the real medical professionals.

The DWP Decision Makers (DMs) appear to be working to an agenda to deny a claimant points and thus the benefit by totally disregarding the relevant benefits legislation and also cherry picking through the interrogator’s report and only using that which will justify denial of points and thus denial of the benefit. They also want to ignore Lord Freud’s ruling regarding the descriptors for applications for ESA and PIP that a claimant needs to be able to do the activity: "Reliably, Repeatedly and Safely or else they cannot do it at all!" I understand that it was later added that the activity needs to be done in a reasonable frame of time as well as taking into account pain and fatigue.

I am always in pain, as well as enduring various levels of fatigue, before I attempt to undertake any activity, yet the DMs want to totally disregard this and pretend that I am a fit and healthy able bodied person. They also seem to want to totally disregard common sense, such as suggesting that it takes a considerable amount of strength and grip to steer a car, rather than the reality that a modern car has power assisted steering and can easily be steered with one finger, or the palm placed against the steering wheel, with little effort whatsoever.

The DM’s also seem to assume that the claimant, their GP, medical record history, hospital Consultants and all hospital procedure findings are all lies and only the “HCPs” working for ATOS and CAPITA are telling the truth. However, if the HCP mentions something which might go in the claimant’s favour, then the DM will disregard this to falsely justify denial of points.

Are the DMs more highly medically qualified than the HCPs, GPs, Nurses and Consultants that they are permitted to overrule them all, and totally disregard what they say as incorrect, as well as imply that they are all incompetent because imaginary and non existent investigations have not taken place?

So called: “Specially Trained, Health Care Professionals” working for ATOS and CAPITA are quite obviously grossly lacking in training, are not at all concerned about a disabled persons’ Health, do not Care about their welfare and do not behave with Professional conduct, integrity, and honesty or have sufficient competence for the task for which they are appointed. They are not interested in giving an honest representation of the truth of the disabled person’s health, disabilities and difficulties in their report, but are obviously working to another agenda specifically aimed at denying them points and thus benefits.
The criteria questions in the PIP application form are poorly worded and very biased against the claimant. In some cases it is not possible to give the correct answer. For example: where I have severe problems with pain medication being ineffective at lessening pain, but instead causing unacceptable side effects of fatigue, SS and IBS issues, the questions only allow for assistance from someone else with taking medication and not for the possibility that the medication does not do what it is supposed to. Therefore the DM has decided that I am able to take medication without assistance and score no points. The HCP said that the side effect problems are irrelevant and therefore chose not to mention any of that in her report, yet accuses me of trying to waste her time by talking about things that are irrelevant.
Amy says:
November 10, 2017 at 11:26 PM
Subject: ESA Assessment
Much of the information gathered from my capacity for work assessment was irrelevant and the information used to make the decision was either taken out of context or grossly inaccurate. I was also never give the opportunity to fill out the ESA50 form.

When my ESA was stopped this triggered a relapse of my worst symptoms that took many months to recover from. During this time I had to attend job seeker appointments and had to sign on. I struggled to manage these appointments and missed some and was at risk of having all money stopped. This caused a further rapid decline in my mental health.

Following my request for a mandatory reconsideration I was initially denied and it was even implied that my ability to attend the work capacity assessment on time was proof that I was capable of work.

Within in one week I received another letter stating that the decision had been changed and I would have my ESA reinstated, based on the fact that the new decision maker "concluded there was ignorance as to a material fact based on new information received from yourself and your GP" however, all the information had been previously provided, it had just not been reported on accurately.

You may contact me for any further details or a full copy of all documents band correspondence relating to this matter.
Carolyn Barnett says:
November 10, 2017 at 10:29 PM
Subject: PIP Assessment
I was told there is nothing wrong with my hands because I could lift my glasses up to put drops in my eyes, also she told me I don't get confused and I haven't got a poor memory I have Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogrens, hypothyroidism, enlarged heart,a slightly floppy valve,Sciatica, Fibromyalgia and 6 bulging discs. I was awarded standard rate for both and I won't question it in fear of losing money.
Charlotte says:
November 10, 2017 at 10:25 PM
Subject: PIP and ESA Assessment
It was very difficult to get the right permissions and equipment to record both ESA and PIP assessments - the rules were different for each, and one wanted two tape recorders (no digital recordings permitted). This is ridiculous, especially given well-documented cases of assessors behaving unethically. Recordings should be made as a matter of course, unless a claimant prefers not to be recorded.
Celia says:
November 10, 2017 at 10:22 PM
Subject: PIP Assessment
Currently assisting person PIP application rejected twice and obliged to go to Tribunal.
Booking appointments to see two local MPs. Will provide details and documents, so they can represent my views in Parliament. Will consequently be writing to relevant people at the House of Lords.

Recent changes to UK Benefits System made by DWP very wrong in my experience over last few months. National disgrace. Ashamed to have had an association, in the past, with the Conservative Party who set up this PIP sham. In my view honest, vulnerable people with serious problems are being treated badly, humiliated and to what end?

Simply: more stress, more anxiety, more personal money problems leading potentially to more cost long term to the tax payer. Most people want to work, it gives them a routine, a sense of well being and own earned money makes for independence - punishing them for the sake of "austerity" and marginalising them for their disabilities, physical and/or mental, is a retrograde, negative stance which damages society. Please review PIP set up and help people who need and deserve support to receive it. The impact on friends and family of this PIP fiasco is dire.