Headway, which contributed to the inquiry, has urged the government to take immediate action by implementing the recommendations of the Work and Pensions Committee and the charity’s own Right First Time campaign.
The inquiry, which looked at the processes for claiming Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA), attracted an overwhelming response from claimants, their families, and professionals. In total, more than 3,500 individuals and almost 200 organisations contributed.
Frank Field MP, who chairs the influential parliamentary committee, said of disability assessments: “A pervasive lack of trust is undermining its entire operation.
“In turn, this is translating into untenable human costs to claimants and financial costs to the public purse.
“The 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 from thousands of individual accounts.
“No one should have any doubt (that) the process needs urgent change.”
Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, said: “The voices of brain injury claimants who have been consistently failed by the system have been ignored or swept aside by the government for too long.
“The government can no longer fail to act, with this report yet another clear indication that disability benefits assessments are not fit for purpose – particularly for those with hidden, fluctuating or complex conditions.”
Among the findings of the report was a recommendation that claimants’ interviews are recorded in order to increase transparency, and the introduction of a checklist system requiring assessors to record whether and how they have used supporting evidence.
“We welcome the findings of this inquiry, which not only echo the issues we have been raising for many years, but also the key calls-to-action outlined in our recently-published Right First Time report.
“We will continue to do all we can to ensure that improvements are made and the ‘untenable human cost’ identified by the Work and Pensions Committee is finally eradicated.”
Work and Pensions Committee recommendations
The Work and Pensions Committee has issued a strong series of recommendations including:
- Default audio recording of face-to-face assessments without delay; in the longer term, looking to provide video recording for all assessments.
- Detailed guidance for claimants and training for assessors on the role of companions attending the assessment, including how to record and use evidence from companions.
- Providing all claimants with a copy of the assessor’s report by default, alongside the DWP decision.
- Introduction of a checklist system requiring assessors to record whether and how they have used supporting evidence.