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PIP and ESA report: "Process needs urgent change"

February 14, 2018

“No one should have any doubt the process needs urgent change.”

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, has spoken out today about the consistent failings of the process by which people with long-term conditions, including M.E., are assessed for disability benefits.

Commenting on the publication of his Committee’s inquiry report into Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Mr Field says: “Government cannot, must not, fail to recognise the unprecedented response the Committee had to this inquiry, remarkable for the consistency and clarity of themes that emerged through thousands of individual accounts […] Recording the face-to-face assessment would go so far toward increasing transparency and restoring trust it beggars belief that this is not already a routine element of the process. The resistance from the Department [for Work and Pensions] to instituting this is equally bewildering.”

Action for M.E.'s contribution to this inquiry was one of 4,000 submissions, the most ever received by a select committee inquiry. In it, we highlighted that a clear lack of understanding about M.E. and its impact, and the stigma still associated with the condition, results in unfair assessments and inaccurate assessment reports.

The Committee’s inquiry report now makes a number of recommendations which “aim to correct the worst of these problems and rebuild claimant trust,” asking the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to:

  • immediately institute recording of face-to-face assessment and provide a record and a copy of the assessors report to claimants
  • take measures to improve understanding amongst health and social care professionals, and claimants, of what constitutes good evidence for PIP and ESA claims, and to ensure this evidence is used effectively by contractors;
  • set out how it will measure, monitor and report on the supply of evidence into PIP and ESA assessments
  • improve accessibility of the process at every stage: from the format and style of the application form, to information about home visits, to information about accessing reconsideration and appeal
  • improve contractor performance and quality control via feedback through the claim process, including feedback from the appeal stage.

The DWP has not yet commented on the report, or addressed any of the recommendations its makes.