The NAO expresses concern about disability assessments

The National Audit Office has expressed concern about the management of contracts for the assessment of people on ESA and PIP.  98% of claimants for PIP have been receiving face to face assessments. They are critical of ” a cycle of optimistic targets, contractual underperformance and costly recovery”.

The DWP has been quite clear about its reason for doing so many assessments:  they save money.

“The Department introduced a target of 1 million ESA assessments to be carried out in 2015-16. It told us it derived the non-negotiable target from the number of assessments needed to achieve expected benefit savings rather than from discussions with bidders or modelling of the possible number of assessments.”

Assessments do save money.  Some people would say that that’s because people aren’t really entitled, and the assessments find them out; but it’s just as likely that the assessments are counting people out for the wrong reasons, such as not getting to the interview, not understanding the tests, or relying on the wrong sort of evidence.   The assessments are slow, intrusive, and presumptuous (they overrule extensive medical evidence about people’s situations over time).  We ought to be asking whether assessments are really the right way to save money, or whether we need to review the rules so that the benefits make more sense to everyone.

3 comments

  1. caroline leclercq

    I am quite sure you are right on this and it is good to see it written down… But is there no statutory instrument in the UK ensuring that people do receive benefits and are not left with nothing?

    • Paul Spicker

      The short answer is no – there is no legal minimum income in Britain, despite our international obligations. (A ‘statutory instrument’ is something slightly different – that term is used for secondary legislation, such as the recent regulations on Tax Credits rejected by the House of Lords.) Anyone who’s sanctioned might well have nothing.

      This posting was about benefits for disability and sickness, and there are different issues. The main benefit providing some basic income for people who are too ill to work is Employment and Support Allowance; hundreds of thousands of claimants have now had their claims rejected after assessment. They can’t get JSA unless they declare that they are fit for work, so they may well have nothing. PIP (along with DLA and Attendance Allowance) aren’t basic income benefits – they offer extra allowances for people with disabilities, regardless of whether or not they work – but there’s been an increasing emphasis on removing those claims too.

      • caroline leclercq

        Thank you very much indeed for the full and interesting reply. I had feared it might be so – and I suppose there isn’t anything, any safeguard, at a European level either? Oh dear, if so.

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