Delayed assessments for disability benefits
Kirsty McKechnie describes a report from CPAG’s Early Warning System highlighting delays carrying out assessments for disability benefits means that many disabled people are not receiving, or are losing, support intended to help them meet the additional costs of ill health or disability.
PIP assessments
The Early Warning System has received an alarming number of case studies1Eleven between October and December 2020, alongside advisers reporting the issue for multiple clients. Report available at cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/report/assessment-delays-ill-health-and-disability about claimants who have made a new claim, but who have not received a decision prior to their existing personal independence payment (PIP) award ending.
Some PIP awards that were due to end after March 2020 were automatically extended for six months. Case studies suggest that this stopped for a period in October 2020. We have received a number of cases regarding claimants whose PIP has stopped pending a decision on their new claim:
who were incorrectly advised by the DWP that their award could not be extended because they had been awarded PIP by a tribunal; or
who did have their award extended but the six-month extension has now ended; or
whose award end date fell after the extension period appeared to end in October.
DWP Minister Justin Tomlinson stated on 21 January 2021 that: ‘The Department has been automatically applying extension of awards of PIP for all claims due to end between March 2020 and January 2021, except those where a new decision has been made since review and reassessment activity resumed in July.’ But this appears to be at odds with the evidence submitted to the Early Warning System.
Work capability assessments
In March 2020 the DWP suspended all face-to-face assessments stating that telephone assessments would be carried out instead. Despite the DWP reporting that telephone assessments had been introduced, in September we reported that no assessments appeared to be being carried out at all,2https://cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/latest-findings-early-warning-system-julyaugust-2020https://cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/latest-findings-early-warning-system-julyaugust-2020which created a considerable backlog. The Early Warning System has received an increasing number of reports of claimants having their contributory employment and support allowance (ESA) stopped after 365 days without an assessment ever having been carried out.
Tomlinson confirmed in January 2021: ‘There are no plans to extend the time limit for people claiming contributory employment and support allowance who reach their 365-day limit and have not had a work capability assessment.’ He went on to say: ‘Furthermore, we now have a ring-fenced operational team in place to identify contributory ESA claims that we can progress in the absence of face-to- face assessments – for instance, those where further evidence might exist on other DWP benefit systems.’3Employment and support allowance’, Written question UN 138435, 15 January 2021, https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2021-01-15/138435
In November and December, we received four cases where a telephone work capability assessment has been carried out, but the claimants have been told there was not enough information gathered to make a decision, so a face-to-face assessment will be required – leaving them receiving the standard allowance or assessment rate indefinitely.
While the DWP is clearly aware of the issues, statements from the Minister do not reflect what appears be happening in practice in relation to PIP and have not yet resolved the delays in relation to ESA. If you have similar cases, please submit cases from Scotland to cpag.org.uk/scotland/ews and cases in the rest of the UK to cpag.org.uk/policy-campaigns/early-warning-system.

 
1     Eleven between October and December 2020, alongside advisers reporting the issue for multiple clients. Report available at cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/report/assessment-delays-ill-health-and-disability »
2     https://cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/latest-findings-early-warning-system-julyaugust-2020https://cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/latest-findings-early-warning-system-julyaugust-2020 »
3     Employment and support allowance’, Written question UN 138435, 15 January 2021, https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2021-01-15/138435 »