Saturday, January 25, 2020

Claiming benefits should never be ‘humiliating’ or ‘distressing’, say MPs

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An influential group of MPs have slated the UK Government’s response to an inquiry into the impact of highly controversial benefit assessments, that critics argue are causing huge amounts of fear and distress to vulnerable disabled people.

In February this year the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee (WPSC), a cross-party group of MPs, concluded a major inquiry into assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) carried out by private contractors Atos, Capita and Maximus, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

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The Committee criticised the accuracy and quality of assessment reports sent to the DWP, describing the reports as “shoddy” and “error-ridden”, and made a serious of recommendations to improve the assessments after the DWP failed to act on earlier requests.

The Committee has today (14 September 2018) published the Government’s response to their recommendations, which shows the DWP has yet to act on many of the Committee’s concerns.

According to the WPSC, the response indicates that Government has not yet, for example, commissioned the promised research on improving the claim forms that many claimants reported difficulties with.

There is also no update on video recording of assessments, which the Chair Frank Field MP argued “would go so far toward increasing transparency and restoring trust it beggars belief that this is not already a routine element of the process”.

Commenting on the DWP’s response, WPSC chairman Frank Field MP said:  “There is a welcome change of tone in this response which seems to finally begin to acknowledge the deep distress and difficulty PIP & ESA claimants have experienced.

“But that counts for little when it still refuses to engage with the huge problems in quality control—the reports riddled with errors and omissions, the huge numbers of overturned decisions, the outsourced contractors that rarely or never hit their targets—and when the pace of the change it is making is painfully slow.”

He added: “Claiming a benefit to which you are legitimately entitled should never be a humiliating, distressing experience. Government must move now, faster, to make this right.”

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