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Experiences of ESA and PIP after brain injury

Mon 05 Feb 2018

A study to explore how brain injury survivors feel about the process of applying for the welfare benefits Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payment.

The results of the Headway survey Experiences of Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payment after brain injury show that the majority of brain injury survivors have a negative experience of applying for these benefits.

The system of applying for both benefits is reported to be largely focused on the physical impact of having a disability, neglecting other elements of disabilities. For brain injury survivors, the majority of effects that can hinder employment opportunities or affect daily living are ‘invisible’ and not easily explained on the current application forms. Indeed, 76% and 77% of respondents felt that it was difficult to explain the effects of brain injury on the application form for ESA and PIP, respectively.

Respondents felt that assessors were lacking in specialist knowledge of brain injury. 71% and 60% felt that the assessor for ESA and PIP, respectively, did not have an understanding of brain injury. Further, assessors were widely reported to lack empathy and patience, resulting in a stressful and even traumatic experience for many brain injury survivors. Many respondents also commented on the fact that their medical evidence was not taken into consideration, and that the assessment location/environment was not suitable for them despite requests made in advance.

Consequently, there was a strong sense of frustration and anxiety reported by brain injury survivors and their carers about their needs not being recognised or respected throughout the application process.

Based on these findings, we have made the following recommendations:

Download the full report and explore the campaign using the links below.


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Headway - the brain injury association is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Charity no. 1025852) and the Office of the Scottish Regulator (Charity no. SC 039992). Headway is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 2346893.

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