Inclusion London’s Response to Health assessments for benefits

Read our response to the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into Health Assessments for Benefits

The Work and Pensions Select Committee held an inquiry into health assessments for benefits.

Inclusion London submitted a response to this inquiry, which was informed by our response to the Health and Disability Benefits Green Paper consultation.

  • The current system is over-complicated, and the information about how to apply for benefits is inaccessible, with £16 billion in means-tested benefits remaining unclaimed each year .
  • There should be better signposting to information, advice and advocacy services for claimants, however, it must be noted that due to cuts to the advice sector, it can be difficult, especially for Disabled people with access needs, to find good and accessible advice.
  • The DWP must improve the quality of and the number of staff manning their phone lines, so that people are not waiting for long periods of time to get their call answered.
  • The benefits system must be made accessible in the first place so that more people can more easily engage with it, and are not forced to reply on help from family or friends, which in many cases is not appropriate or available.
  • There must be clear and accessible reasonable adjustments policy which must be widely publicised. The policy should not only set out existing adjustments the DWP can provide but set out the process of requesting and receiving adjustments in individual cases.
  • There must be an effective system of monitoring how well reasonable adjustments are implemented. Individual communication needs of claimants known to the DWP must be identified and systems put on place to meet those needs during all contact with the DWP or other organisations acting on its behalf.
  • Assessments must be redesigned so they are based on the social model, respect Disabled people’s dignity and start from a position of trusting what Disabled people say about their own impairments and needs.
  • PIP and WCA descriptors should be changed – many people with additional disability-related costs do not get PIP so criteria must be adapted to ensure that more people are eligible.
  • Disabled people with lifelong conditions that will not improve should not be subject to reassessments.
  • The DWP must be clearer on the type of medical evidence they are looking for, and Disabled people should not have to pay for said evidence. The DWP should be responsible for collecting medical evidence.
  • A range of types of evidence from different professionals should be allowed and equally considered, particularly for those people who do not have evidence from their GPs. This could include social workers, OTs and educational professionals.
  • Inclusion London welcomes the announcement from the DWP regarding the recording of assessments.
  • There should be mechanisms for claimants and tribunals to give feedback on the quality of assessments, e.g. if a tribunal finds that assessment findings should be overturned, in order to make learnings.
  • Inclusion London opposes the proposed merger of PIP and ESA/Universal Credit. These are two types of benefits which are designed to do different things, and we are concerned that the merging of the two would create a cliff edge for many Disabled people.
  • Inclusion London believes that assessments for all types of benefits should be bought back in house. As well as the financial savings of doing this, it would also increase accountability, improve feedback mechanisms, and make it easier to implement changes.
  • A key lesson that the DWP must learn from Disabled people’s experience of accessing the benefits system during Covid is that the system must be simplified and made more accessible. May claims were dropped due to people not having the support needed to apply for benefits. Furthermore, paper-based systems must remain as an option to be used by claimants, due to high level of digital exclusion and illiteracy.
  • Any new system, or reforms to the current system, must be made in co-production with Disabled and user-led organisations, such as the Commission on Social Security, which has produced a list of principles that the benefits system should be based on.

Download the full text of Inclusion London’s response in word document format on this link:
Inclusion London Response to Health Assessments for Benefits