To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department plans to take to identify universal credit and employment support allowance claimants who cannot be assessed by telephone or video as a result of their health condition; and what steps she is taking to determine the priority for face-to-face assessments when such assessments can safely resume in the event that her Department is unable to provide data on the number of (a) universal credit and (b) employment support allowance claimants who were not (i) offered and (ii) deemed suitable for a virtual or telephone work capability assessment during 2020.
We have continued to assess people on paper evidence, using this route whenever possible throughout the pandemic. In June 2020 we introduced telephone assessments in a phased approach with limited outcomes in the first instance. This allowed us to build our capability and improve processes. From the beginning of February 2021, all outcomes have been available in telephone assessments which enables us to ensure that claimants receive their correct benefit entitlement as quickly as possible and reduce the time claimants who may be entitled to a higher award have to wait for their assessment. We are also undertaking some video assessments where appropriate.
Through our enhanced capability and improved processes for telephone assessments, we are now able to carry out a second telephone assessment for those claimants who have previously had a telephone assessment with no outcome.
Where a claimant is unable to undertake a telephone or video assessment because of their health condition, they remain on their current award until we are able to gather the evidence needed for a recommendation to be made or, in contributory ESA, until their benefit is due to end.
Claimants who we are unable to assess by telephone or video because of their health condition will be prioritised when we are able to safely resume face-to-face assessments.