Author Topic: W&P Committee highly critical report on ESA/PIP assessments  (Read 84 times)

lankou

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W&P Committee highly critical report on ESA/PIP assessments
« on: February 14, 2018, 07:53:49 AM »
Obviously far more at link:-

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/829/829.pdf

Summary
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA, introduced in 2008) and the Personal Independence Payment (PIP, introduced in 2013) provide vital financial support to disabled people. Claimants of PIP and ESA should be able to rely on assessments for those benefits being efficient, fair and consistent. Failings in the processes—from application, to assessment, to decision-making and to challenge mechanisms—have contributed to a lack of trust in both benefits. This risks undermining their entire operation.
Most claimants proceed through their PIP and ESA assessments without significant problems, but a sizable minority do not. Since 2013, 290,000 claimants of PIP and ESA—6% of all those assessed—only received the correct award after challenging DWP’s initial decision. Those cases, set alongside other recurring problems with applications and assessments, have ramifications far beyond the minority of claimants directly affected. Applying for PIP or ESA—and in doing so, facing up to the full limitations imposed by a health condition—can be stressful and challenging. A deficit of confidence in the assessment processes adds considerably to claimants’ distress.
Central to the lack of trust are concerns about the ability of the Department’s contractors to conduct accurate assessments. We heard many reports of errors appearing in assessment reports (which may or may not effect eligibility). Such experiences serve to undermine confidence amongst claimants. So does the proportion of DWP decisions overturned at appeal. At worst, there is an unsubstantiated belief among some claimants and their advisers that assessors are encouraged to misrepresent assessments deliberately in a way that leads to claimants being denied benefits. This reflects poorly on contractor assessors and on the Department. The Department must urgently address these concerns. Offering audio recording of assessments by default would reassure claimants that an objective record of their appointment exists, to call on in the event of a dispute. Providing a copy of the assessors’ report by default with claimants’ decision letters would also introduce essential transparency into decision-making.
All three contractors carry out assessments using non-specialist assessors. Without good use of expert evidence to supplement their analysis, the Department will struggle to convince sceptical claimants that the decision on their entitlement is an informed one. The Department should introduce new requirements on contractors explicitly to indicate how they have used all additional evidence supplied. The resulting checklist should be supplied to DWP’s Decision Makers, and to claimants alongside a copy of their report.
It is extraordinary that basic deficiencies in the accessibility of PIP and ESA assessments remain, five and ten years respectively after their introduction. The Department must ensure it and its contractors communicate with claimants in ways that meet their needs, providing Easy Read and non-telephone options where necessary. It should give clear, consistent guidance on home assessments, ensuring all claimants who need a home visit receive one in a timely fashion, and that the process for obtaining it does not place burdens on claimants or the NHS. It should also issue refreshed, clearer guidance on the role of claimants’ companions during assessments, ensuring their contributions are appropriately reflected in assessment reports. These are small, but valuable steps.
PIP and ESA assessments 4
The Department maintains that high overturn rates of its decisions at appeal reflect the presence of new evidence that was not available to its decision makers. It has displayed a lack of determination in exploring why it takes until that stage for new evidence to come to light. This is all the more striking because by far the most common form of “new evidence” is oral evidence obtained from the claimant. It is difficult to understand why this evidence was not, or could not have been elicited and recorded by the assessor. The Department and contractors should use audio recordings to quality assure the whole assessment, rather than just the resulting report. Given what we know about reasons for overturn, this should focus on questioning techniques and ensuring claimants’ statements during the assessment are given appropriate weight. It should also ensure that, when claimants bring a companion to assessment, their input is sought and recorded appropriately. All of this will improve the quality of decision making and cut down on Mandatory Reconsideration requests, allowing for a more thorough investigation of decisions that are disputed. It will also save public money, reducing the cost of poor decision-making to the Department and the Courts.
Ultimately, while the Department sets quality standards, it is up to contractors to meet them. The Department’s existing standards set a low bar for what is considered acceptable. Despite this, all three contractors have failed to meet key targets on levels of unacceptable reports in any single period. In Capita’s case, as many as 56% of reports were found to be unacceptable during the contract. The Department’s use of financial penalties to bring reports up to standard has not had a consistent effect. Both Capita and Atos have seen increases in the proportion of reports graded “unacceptable” in recent months. Large sums of money have been paid to contractors despite quality targets having been universally missed. The Government has also spent hundreds of millions of pounds more checking and defending the Department’s decisions.
The PIP and ESA contracts are drawing to a close. In both cases, the decision to contract out assessments in the first instance was driven by a perceived need to introduce efficient, consistent and objective tests for benefit eligibility. It is hard to see how these objectives have been met. None of the providers has ever hit the quality performance targets required of them, and many claimants experience a great deal of anxiety over assessments. The Department will need to consider whether the market is capable of delivering assessments at the required level and of rebuilding claimant trust. If it cannot—as already floundering market interest may suggest—the Department may well conclude assessments are better delivered in house.

JLR2

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Re: W&P Committee highly critical report on ESA/PIP assessments
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2018, 08:11:46 AM »
I've been wondering what 'bad news' the government were looking to bury as they have their friends in the main stream media report so heavily on the Oxfam story.

Sunny Clouds

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Re: W&P Committee highly critical report on ESA/PIP assessments
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2018, 10:06:18 AM »
Thanks. 

I don't know how to say this, but whilst I don't believe much will be done to improve it in the forseeable future, just knowing that at least it's out there in black and white, that there are MPs who know it's happening, at least makes me feel that on a one-on-one,  no one can say I'm imagining what's going on.  For some (many?) of us who are impacted by all the anti-disabled vitriol, not being believed is one of the nastiest aspect and for me, personally, it's right at the top of the list of what hurts. 

(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)

JLR2

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Re: W&P Committee highly critical report on ESA/PIP assessments
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2018, 11:31:34 AM »
One wee thing that itches in the back of my mind is the chances of Frank Field looking to keep a line whereby these claims of satisfaction with many of these assessments is a useful tool for a future Labour Government's DWP. All that will change is we'll go from Labour slagging Tory welfare policy to Tory slagging Labour's. That was pretty much what we saw when Cameron was leader of the opposition as he attacked Blair and then Brown's governments before his, Cameron's, government brought use IDS and his war on Welfare benefit claimants.

Sunny Clouds

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Re: W&P Committee highly critical report on ESA/PIP assessments
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2018, 12:04:40 PM »
I believe that the Tories are nastier than Labour or Libdems where some areas of welfare are concerned, but not across the board.  I don't believe, though, that they're nicer in any respect, but I'm open to being proved wrong.  Those who know me will know that I'm one of those that considers New Labour to be 'Blue Labour'.  I assume New Labour supporters would consider Blair & Brown supporters to have been left of centre.  I thought that a lot of the time they weren't.

However, what I do feel angry with Labour for is a sense that they've abandoned the fight in respect of benefits.  What I mean by that is that I think quite a bit of anti-benefit, anti-welfare, anti-disabled, anti-vulnerable legislation has been pushed through parliament with little or no opposition from Labour.

I find it difficult in respect of my own MP, because he's a bit notorious for not voting much, but as has recently been highlighted in the news, there's no public record as to which MPs have paired off where one's sick or pregnant or whatever, and I think my MP does that quite a bit.  But it's an easy cover, isn't it, if you don't let people know whether you were doing that or not.

I'm going to go back to something I call 'the theory of the rotating scapegoats'.  I believe that since humans seem to work best in the context of groups with rival groups, the technique of leaders having scapegoats actually fulfills a useful function.  E.g. the vicar mentions in his sermon that teenagers are turning up looking scruffy instead of dressing tidily.  Tut tut.  Frowns and mild reprimands over the next 2-4 weeks over scruffy teenagers.  The teenagers do their best to smarten up.  The congregation tactfully doesn't tut tut at those that can't afford some new clothes to look smarter, and the vicar tut tuts over the retired people who say they've nothing to do but don't help with the tea and biscuits afterwards.  So long as the reprimands and disapproval are strong enough for people to want to change but not harsh enough to cause significant distress, it works and isn't nasty.

But the last few parliaments haven't been rotating the scapegoats.  They could have done.  There are lots of things they could have tut-tutted over, but they've stuck to the same targets over and over.

But then I'm going to inflict a pet rant on you.  You see, I actively dislike the type of neoliberalism that's obsessed with privatising everything in sight, and the way disaster capitalism (i.e. waiting for a natural or manmade disaster to swoop in and privatise everything in sight)  has caused misery and even deaths around the world is heartbreaking.  However, what really, really gets my goat is what I think of as the toddler syndrome.  You know when a toddler can't have a toy so they break it?  That's what the government's doing with large chunks of the welfare state.  It's sort of "If my mates can't make a profit out of it, who cares, let's stamp on it."   It's at its most visible in the NHS but here we see it in disbility benefits etc.
(I'm an obsessive problem-solver, so feel free to ignore any suggestions or solutions I offer, even if they sound terribly insistent.)