Covid-19: Processing Work Capability Assessments

Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 29th June 2020.

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Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Home Office)

What estimate she has made of the average time taken to process work capability assessments during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

We have temporarily suspended face-to-face work capability assessments so that we do not place people at unnecessary risk. Healthcare professionals continue to make recommendations based on paper-based evidence where possible, and we have introduced telephone assessments. We are in the early phases of delivering telephone assessments and are closely monitoring the processing times.

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Home Office)

One of my constituents who has progressive multiple sclerosis and is partially paralysed on his left side had to undergo a work capability assessment by phone. This resulted in his personal independence payment being cancelled, and then reviewed and reinstated at a lower rate. The decision is now being appealed so that he can get the higher level of PIP that he was previously on. Does the Minister agree that stringent safeguards need to be in place when making such telephone assessments to ensure that poor decisions are avoided?

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I absolutely agree. We have independent audits looking at this. We are in the early stages of using telephone assessments, and there is a mix of the benefits because the WCA is separate from PIP. PIP is a few weeks further on in terms of using telephone assessments. Stakeholders welcome the opportunity and it is something we will explore in the Green Paper. However, I am happy to look at the individual case.