Report shows ‘lack of trust’ in system for health assessments

A report by the Work and Pensions Committee has found a “profound lack of trust” in the  system of health assessments for benefits, with the committee recommending some “quick and easy changes” to restore confidence.

The system is in place to help those with disability or ill-health access benefits, but according to the committee chair and Labour MP Sir Stephen Timms, several measures must be put in place to improve the system.

“We surveyed eight and a half thousand people as part of our inquiry and found a profound lack of trust in the system as a consistent theme,” Sir Stephen said.

This means there will only be one assessment in the future, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment, however the WCA will remain in place until at least 2026.

“Many will welcome abolition of the Work Capability Assessment, the Government’s process improvements, and recognition that the system causes undue stress and hardship, are steps in the right direction,” Sir Stephen said.

“Waiting years for changes won’t cut it when quicker wins are available: flexibility of choice on assessment by phone or face-to-face; recording assessments by default; extending deadlines to reduce stress; and sending claimants their reports.

“All this will give much-needed transparency to a process that so few trust yet affects their lives so fundamentally.”

Other improvements recommended by the committee, which is made up of 11 MPs, include lowering the rates of decisions reversed on appeal, which is currently at 69% for PIP assessments, and reducing assessment wait times.

The DWP said they will take the necessary time to look into the recommendations found in the report and will introduce a new personalised health conditionality approach in place of the WCA.

A department spokesperson said this will provide a more personalised approach with the aim to help those using the system live a more independent life.

They said in a statement: “This Government is committed to ensuring people can access financial support in a timely and supportive manner and therefore reducing processing times and further improving the claimant experience are key priorities for the DWP.

“The proposals set out in our recent Health and Disability White Paper will make it easier for people to access the right support and improve trust and transparency in our decisions and processes.”

The DWP added that a customer experience survey, conducted from April to December 2021, revealed 82% of customers were either “very satisfied” or “fairly satisfied” with the overall service they received.

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