5,700 PIP Claimants Turned Away From Assessments Due To Staff Shortages

5,700 PIP Claimants Turned Away From Assessments Due To Staff Shortages

13th March 2019 5 By Alex Tiffin - @RespectIsVital
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An answer to a written question to The Work & Pensions Secretary has revealed that, in 2018, 5,700 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claimants attended their health assessment to only be told there was nobody available to assess them. This is more evidence that private companies are unfit to run benefit health assessments.

Labour MP for Leeds North West, Alex Sobel, submitted a written question to Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd on March 4th asking;

“How many claimants of personal independence payment were sent home from their assessment appointments at Independence Assessment Services in 2018 due to staffing issues.”

Official portrait of Sarah Newton MP
Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton MP

As is the norm, the question was answered by the most relevant Minister from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). On this occasion, it fell to Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton MP to deliver the answer.

Newton answered yesterday, March 12th. Her response was as follows;

“In 2018 the number of claimants who attended an assessment appointment for Personal Independence Payment that were sent home unseen by Independent Assessment Service (IAS) due to the unavailability of a Health Professional was 5,700.

This figure has been rounded to the nearest 100.”

More Stress on Claimants

This figure may sound small in the grand scheme of things but, to the claimants who went through this, it will have added more undue stress to an already stressful situation.

Just last week Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd spoke of how she heard that claimants going through health assessments felt like they were; “being interrogated simply for wanting state help.”

This is something I can attest to myself. I had my Personal Independence Payment Assessment in 2018 via a home visit. In the run up to it I became increasingly anxious.

They may say it’s only so they can help assess your needs but, when you’re wheelchair bound and asked three times to stand up, it feels more like an interrogation.

Claimants with mental health issues have shared experience of how assessors have asked them; “why haven’t you killed yourself if you feel suicidal?”

Broken Assessment System

As I reported yesterday, Amber Rudd is proposing combining the health assessments for Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment into one.

Not only is this irresponsible due to the fact that the two benefit assessments are meant to be looking at entirely different things;

  • For Universal Credit it is to assess your capability to work. Hence the name; Work Capability Assessment (WCA)
  • For Personal Independence Payment (PIP), it is to see how your health condition affects your day to day living for things like washing and dressing.

It also doesn’t address the main issue claimants, charities and health professionals have with the current system.

Currently, claimants with any type of condition can be assessed by a Healthcare Professional (HP) with more than two years experience in their field.

Assessors include Occupational Therapists, Paramedics, Physiotherapists and Nurses. There is a near zero chance you will see a doctor as many refuse to take part in fear they may break their Hippocratic Oath to; “do no harm” to their patients.

This leads to claimants with complex medical conditions having to explain to their assessor what their condition even is. Then, to add insult to injury, an non medically trained civil servant at the DWP makes the final decision.

From start to finish the process is a nightmare and skewed against the claimant.

Previously, claimant’s own doctors would write detailed reports for the DWP who would in turn follow their advice unless anything seemed untoward.

This is what the assessment system for benefits needs to return to. It ensures that the claimant’s best interests are protected and, that qualified professionals are making the decisions. Not civil servants who are looking to save money.

The statistics show that health assessments simply are not fit for purpose. Removing face to face assessments, like is due to happen for disability benefits in Scotland from 2021 onwards, is the only way any form of faith can be restored to the process.

Otherwise it’s the same old stress, anxiety and drawn out appeals process for claimants who already have enough to contend with.

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