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

Charlotte Mulliner says:
November 10, 2017 at 10:21 PM
Subject: PIP and ESA Assessment
Claim process is very tough both physically (the length of the form) and emotionally, having to think about all the 'normal' things that you can't do. Almost impossible to do without help from advice agencies, and it can be very hard to get an appointment at some agencies due to excessive caseload with so many people needing help with appeals.

Most importantly, more reliance on medical evidence is needed rather than making everyone fill in forms over and over for long-term or permanent conditions. My shortest gap between assessments was 4 months between forms (ESA, 2011) and I have been ill for over 20 years. I wasn't told the length of the first award of ESA so the new form came as a shock and I wasn't able to get the right support to complete it.

Mandatory reconsideration appears pointless, just making sure that the paperwork was done right with no actual reconsideration of the evidence. MR alone took over 6 months the last time I had to go through the process (ESA, 2011). I was fortunate that I was able to remain on ESA at the reduced rate during the whole 17 month appeal process, as I would not be well enough to meet JSA commitments.
Stephanie says:
November 10, 2017 at 10:16 PM
Subject: ESA Assessment
ESA assessment

Kept waiting over 45 mins
Almost first words were'a lot to get through, go into too much detail will run out of time
Assessment felt rushed
Had not seen/read paperwork
Said too much detail/paperwork
Said complete form ineligible
Offered copy but refused
Not listening
Wasnt allowed to finish sentences
Made inappropriate comments re fog, was told no worse than she was.
Pressurised me to remember things but then told not to worry
Constantly told running out of time
Told a lot to get through. Clear updated info had not been see.
Tried to get me to contradict
Twisted comments
Brusque manner
Told Karen more for company not carer as doesnt wash me, incorrect, hair etc
Told not to worry if moved things along as needed to complete process.
Not to worry about paperwork, report sent to a bunch of penpushers at dwp who only skimmed paperwork and only used info from assessment.
Badgered about use of crutch, in and outside.
Misleading question ie talking about stairs when suddenly asked about' 2 steps at a time, didnt make sense had to ask 3 times to clarify.contradiction re shower put words into mouth. How long travel took, got cranky when didnt know
Vm to call urgently at 10.10. Picked up after hearing. Suspect it was going to be cancelled.
Told on arrival papers had only just been faxed through!
Told had written far too much bit like war & peace!
Didnt want to know how long took to get dressed, difficulties
Closed eyes because of pain, got told to open them and focus on what she was saying!
Told having someone with me wasnt helpful.
Sister told not to help me.
Was running very late, assessor had no lunch break because she saw me!
Tried to cancel
Unprofessional
Told karen not to help.
Bully and pushy
Wouldnt let me use crutch when standing for exercises
2 crutches
Travelling time.
Constant comments about medication levels
Also said if have sciatica and OA in knees would have be referred to hospital
People with fibro always write too much.
peter says:
November 10, 2017 at 10:10 PM
Subject: ESA Assessment
The assessment was a total farce,the health professional lied numerous times,proving that she was complicit with the dwp, dates were changed and she painted a totally false picture.Treated me with total dis-respect,when i tried to explain my situation and ask some pertinent questions she opened the door and said "on your bike mister".I have worked for over 30 years and have had spinal surgery this year.This inhumane process makes a mockery of paying years of tax and N.I.stamps.Humiliating,demoralising and in no way professional.
Mrs S says:
November 10, 2017 at 10:06 PM
Subject: PIP Assessment
On behalf of my daughter( 1 of a pair of identical twins with Genetic Disorder OI. AKA Brittle Bone Disease)

I naïvely assumed that everyone applying for PIP the first time would be handled in equal,comprehensive and stepped process. Not so.Her IDENTICAL TWIN was processed differently..the DWP sending a 15 page booklet of questions to her lead Paediatrician. When scheduling the interview,we did query if there would be time for the MANY Paediatric Consultants information to be acquired & read BEFORE the interview. We were told it would be fine. Her twin sisters were sent for & read so she had the opportunity of a fairer analysis of her medical reports as well as an informed interactive assessment. I can not understand why there was this random discrepancy, unfair & led to my daughter being discriminated against because her disability is unseen.
From the outset the ‘assessor’ treated my daughter in a brusque, clinical & cold manner.She has degenerative Hearing loss& chronic tinnitus ( due to Brittle Bone Disease), Yet the interviewer barely looked up at her, simply typing. Not a conversation of her daily life or restrictions at all. Her manner was blunt and actually derisive. I especially recall she didn’t believe one answer & was scornful,repeating several times. There was no compassion when asking about pain..I was heartbroken to hear my little girl admit that “No Day is without pain”. I know it, she regularly attends Paediatric Pain Management Clinic, but to survive so much she has striven to be stoic to cope with her daily restrictions& pain. I finally intervened when she was asked to do something medically inappropriate for someone with spinal stabilisation & previous spinal surgeries. Bend and twist. The assessors response was “So you refuse to attempt this...”
The assessor chose to skip the section on work! As a school pupil her life at school is her career & the negative impact of her condition is relevant. Especially to say about her limited timetable, OT help with chairs,writing slopes & pens. The awful impact on her attendance due to her chronic pain & surgeries. She has had to have LEAtutors& extra time in exams due to hand & back pain. All of which are lifelong problems.
The woman, who didn’t introduce herself,her role or qualifications, treated my daughter as if she were lying malingerer, actually showing obvious disbelief at some of her answers. I believe without medical notes& with such a comlex unseen muscular skeletal disease she , wrongly,judged a book by its cover.
No surprise when the’ no ‘ award letter arrived. But the comments really distressed & demoralised my daughter. Stating she could do things , unaided, that she truly wishes she could, such as using cutlery without pain. I was angered to read that the assessor judged using the “ most suitable information available “..despite having NO MEDICAL REPORTS. We requested an appeal with the use of Dr reports but were told only the same information could be used! Pointless.
My daughter was so disheartened by her negative experience she simple keeps putting off reapplying,feeling that she needs her energy to cope with daily pain, exams, school & daily life. She has been discouraged from asking for the support she needs &diserves ,which her identical twin sister has been awarded.
The most upsetting aspect of this flawed ‘ lack of assessment ‘ is that my daughters first-ever adult contact asking for support with her lifelong, painful disability was so negative & downright degrading.
Nicola says:
November 10, 2017 at 10:03 PM
Subject: PIP Assessment
This is my personal opinion. The contract with Atos is a disgrace. They are incentivised to lie and auto remove benefits at any opportunity. My brother who has aspergers had to last month get a doctor to prescribe him heavy medication just so he can lower anxieity enough to attend an appointment which if he misses will see his benefit including support which is helping him to work towards employment be revoked. He knows this because in past assessments they have automatically revoked benefit in spite of no change to personal circumstances. He knows he has to appeal the next assessment before he even attends a meeting. But he needs support and knows he has to go to his appointment because the support is helping him be independent and will help him to find work. He really wants to work. After weeks of anxiety and taking a drug he cannot take long term because of potential psychological damage he is told to come back another time when they have the relevant medical officer available. This is an appointment that was made for a medical asssesssnent. Why is my brother being forced to take drugs and undergo a process that will delay him into employment? This is not why I pay taxes and is inhumane if not illegal practice just to claim outcome payment which are poorly conceived and costing people their mental and physical health. The whole programme needs to push the off switch immediately before anyone else dies from this disgusting and undue process.
Katherine says:
November 10, 2017 at 09:45 PM
Subject: PIP Assessment
I have battled mental health problems alone in secret since I was at university at 20 years old. Suisidal thoughts and mood swings were part of my norm. I just thought was part of everyones intimate internal life and life was hard. I kicked myself and got on as best I could as my best friend had lukemia in her 20s, and she was the one who was really ill. It got harder and harder as I got older.I was living a struggle everyday wishing I wouldn't wake up, that the torture would be taken away. I sought professional help eventually in 2012. Looking back I needed help years before. Doctors in my 20s told me I had viruses when I went to ask why I couldn't get out of bed. I wasn't forthcoming about my darkness. I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder in May 2014, having a previous diagnosis of severe clinical depression in 2012. I suffered a severe manic psychotic episode May 2015 and was sectionned. Before that I had not claimed benefits as I was unaware I was entitled to them (no one in my family or friends have ever been on benefits) and I was too unwell. My elderly, unwell, pensioner parents were just happy I was alived and supported me. To cut a long story short. The hospital staff explained my entitlements and refered me to Framework and an outreach worker helped me apply for ESA and PIP. In 2015 I was given ESA Support Group but turned down for pip I don't remember much about the process I was too unwell. The framework support worker advised me to appeal but I was too unwell. I built up my resilience to engage in the process again as advised by a peer support worker in 2016 who was getting PIP and she was higher functioning than me, I got support from an experienced charity worker. Again I was turned down, upset by the report which suggested I had lied about the fact that when I have a depressive episode I can't walk 20m. When I have one I can't get out of bed, let alone walk 20m. The process made me more unwell and I did not engage to appeal. My medical team advised me to apply again and I am awaiting the decision of my initial assessment I expect to be turned down but this time I am thankfully well enough to write this! And appeal the decision. This time I've had the support of Citizens Advice who have been invaluable. All the support workers I have had believe I should have been awarded PIP in 2015 when I was discharged from hospital still unwell but well enough not to be a risk to myself or others (because I had a supportive family and the ward needed the bed for someone worse off than me - though you won't find that in my medical notes). I am a highly intelligent attractive athletic articulate individual with years of hiding my problems with systems to cope. I am concerned that at a time when I really needed the financial support because I was too unwell to look after myself the system let me down. A system I have payed tax into as a teacher since 22 years of age, I'm now 44. I'm lucky. If I didn't have a supportive family I would be on the streets or dead now. I find myself in a difficult financial position. I dont want to be on benefits but I need the support. Small steps. I focus on hope, control and opportunity even though I am someone who has to take smaller steps than most at this time. I have faith and belief in myself. I hope that the system can be improved to help support others who may find themselves in my position in the future.
Lynne says:
November 10, 2017 at 09:35 PM
Subject: PIP and ESA Assessment
Not fit for purpose, scrap everything and start again.

Make it ‘person centred ‘ approach where the clients answers are taken into consideration

More weight to be given to doctors and specialist evidence.

Paperwork to be made clearer to understand what is required., more time needs to be given for filling in the forms.

More flexibility needs to be given to the client on dates for assessment and place of assessment. Given health needs.

Premises used for assessment needs to be disabled friendly.

Parking needs to be provided at assesment centres.

All assessments need to be recorded and preferably videoed.

Assessor should be held accountable for their reports should they be proved inaccurate or false

Penalty’s should be placed on Capita manos ATOS for cancelling appointments, as they do For claimants.

Call centre should actually be able to act on information, not just put a note on peoples file, which is rarely acted upon.

Online assessment forms a necessity for disabled people.

Email capability communication for deaf people essential.

Altogether the process needs to acknowledge the client as a human being not a liar and cheat.

More compassion in the whole process.

Targets to be abandoned.

Commission to assessors to be abandoned to prevent miscarriages and discourage bad practises

Health professional and dwp official to held to account for bad practises


This would be a start.
Jonathan Gruhn says:
November 10, 2017 at 09:25 PM
Subject: PIP Assessment
PIP assessment is unfair.corsoAVE
Gary says:
November 10, 2017 at 09:19 PM
Subject: PIP and ESA Assessment
I have had experience of attending Assessments for both these benefits. I am now in the process of launching my third Appeal. My most recent Assessment was for my PIP's claim, in July of this year. I struggled to attend in the belief that it was the 'right thing to do', despite my previous negative experiences of attending ESA and PIP's Assessments. I admit that on the day of my July Assessment, I was very fatigued when I arrived, partly because of the journey and state of anxiety I was starting to feel - and I was also suffering from the side-effects of painkiller medication. So, from the start of my Assessment, I could not recall the answers to the questions she was asking me - they were about my medical health and written on my DWP claim form - so I said 'look at my PIP's claim form, I have written it all down'. But my Assessor became impatient, would not listen to what I was trying to say, and when I had trouble recalling the answers, threatened to terminate my Assessment immediately. Also, she would not, for the most part, enter into any discussion with me about how my health problems affect me. On the one point that she did, regarding the severe allergy attacks that I sometimes get, she dismissed it as 'hayfever', and would not listen to me when I tried to explain that it was much more serious than that. During the Assessment, I was extremely anxious, and I do suffer from panic attacks and anxiety, which often mean that I sweat a lot, and need to go to the toilet. I asked permission to go - and that was refused. She raced through the entire Assessment at a rapid pace, saying that she would only accepted 'yes' or 'no' answers. As a result of her denial of my need to go to the toilet, I had an accident at the end of Assessment interview. Her whole attitude was perfunctory and without empathy, in fact, it bordered upon being hostile. After my Assessment, when I arrived home, I was ill, and was confined to my bed for three days, and went into a bout of deep depression - I suffer from Bi-polar, type 2, so anxiety and being treated by others in an uncaring way can often tip my mood into a downward spiral, and I lose my motivation to do anything, including washing and eating meals. I also have physical health problems to cope with, and am affected by fatigue a great deal. If the Government is serious about saving money on public spending, they should impose a penalty on these private Assessment companies, every time a claimant goes on to win their Appeal, these companies should pay for the cost of the Appeal.
Anne-Marie says:
November 10, 2017 at 09:10 PM
Subject: ESA Assessment
s the daughter of a much loved father who tragically took his life following a treacherous Work Capability Assessment, I would like to have my say over the devastating impact this has had upon my family.
It would not be appropriate to enlarge on the case specific elements of the case other than to say I am quite rightly seeking real answers from the DWP which are being dealt with at a very top level.

I am indebted to the highly specialised individuals who have helped me in understanding how systemically wrong this barbaric process is. My family and I will be forever traumatised by finding my father hanging on a day when the DWP had pressured him in to finding a job; it would have been the first one following on from 13 years of serious mental ill health.

My father was subjected to far too many failures and the real story needs to be told, no stone has been left unturned in going through hundreds and thousands of documents, all of which appear to point the figure at those in charge for their absolute neglect in ensuring my father was safely conveyed through the Incapacity Benefit Reassessment [ESA] process.

My family are left shocked, in despair and in utter disbelief at how many failings there are in not ensuring a clear duty of care was in place and clearly understood, nor was there accurate 'flagging' of my late father’s highly vulnerable state. In consequence, he paid the ultimate price and we are left to pick up the pieces with so little support. What concerns me greatly is how little help is out there for people like my much loved dad, he desperately needed recognition of his problems, vital clues were missed, and now we must all learn from the human loss and tragedy which we have so painfully endured.

I have provided the DWP with endless examples of how their broken system could be fixed and would welcome an opportunity to speak with the committee and share some of the evidence I have submitted.

It is vital that we ensure this never ever happens again; no government reform is worth pursuing if people pay the price with their lives.

I am also deeply concerned that these same mistakes may carry on in much greater numbers as more and more people continue to be subjected to Work Capability Assessment under the already crumbling Universal Credit regime.