Promises which do almost nothing for claimants
Commenting on the Government's response Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
"The Department has responded to this Review with a series of promises to do almost nothing for claimants.
A woman in Wirral made doubly incontinent by cancer, although there are now no external signs of her cancer, has been refused PIP. She has no money. Feeding Birkenhead gave her amongst other things babies' nappies so she could get out of the house.
We then found on making contact that she was cleaning the babies' nappies and reusing them as she was so ashamed to ask for new ones, and couldn’t afford to buy anything else. Thanks to Feeding Birkenhead she now has new ones, as well as some food and Christmas gifts for her grandchildren, while she awaits her Mandatory Reconsideration.
We have heard literally thousands of accounts of the stress and suffering caused by the assessment process for PIP and ESA. We have heard of the externalised costs of this process, right through to the tribunal system that is left to overturn so many of the decisions that this process generates. But the human cost is immeasurable.
Paul Gray made really clear, helpful, evidence-based recommendations, several which have been clearly articulated in evidence heard by the Committee. This response is a terrible missed opportunity that will provide no comfort to the claimants facing this ordeal."
Commits to doing very little
The response theoretically accepts or partially accepts all of Paul Gray's recommendations, but commits to doing very little, instead containing a remarkable variety of different phrases for not taking action now:
- On ensuring that evidence provided by carers and companions is given sufficient weight, the Department will "investigate how assessments could be better structured" to allow this;
- On recording and copies of report by default, the Department will "look at a further feasibility study" and "run a series of tests";
- On allowing assessors more time to consider additional evidence provided by claimants, the Department will "develop a process to gather information…on the timescales needed to prepare for assessments"; and
- On improving audit quality, the Department will "explore changing the quality regime" and "review the application of audit guidance"..
- and many, many similar examples.
ATOS and Capita medical assessments
The Committee has also received the data it requested on the proportion of PIP medical assessment reports produced by ATOS and Capita at each of the PIP guideline grades of: acceptable, acceptable - HP learning required, acceptable - amendment required, and unacceptable.
The data shows that Capita's output has worsened - they're producing a smaller proportion of totally acceptable reports than they have been for most of the last year, and a greater proportion of unacceptable ones.
Atos's unacceptable level is fairly steady, but their proportion of completely acceptable reports has also dropped by ~10 percentage points over the last year.
On Wednesday the Committee will take evidence directly from Paul Gray CB, Leader of the Independent Reviews of PIP and Chair of the Social Security Advisory Committee, and Dr Paul Litchfield OBE, Leader of the 2013 and 2014 Independent Reviews of the ESA Work Capability Assessment.
They will be followed at 10am by Sarah Newton MP, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Department for Work and Pensions, in the final evidence session of this inquiry.