The review was carried out to investigate if the benefit was working as intended, providing support to those with the highest additional costs associated with their disability. It aimed to build on recommendations from the first review and looked at how effectively further evidence was being used to assist assessors to make correct decisions, as well as the speed and effectiveness of information gathering.
Recommendations in the second review include:
- Giving evidence of carers sufficient weight in the assessment.
- Improving the transparency of decision making, with claimants being provided with the assessment report along with their decision letter.
- Providing an audio recording of the assessment, with the option for the claimant to opt out of having sessions recorded.
- Assessments should begin with gathering a functional judgement instead of a medical history – looking at how their disability effects their capability to carry out day-to-day activities. Options for confirming the medical history in advance of the assessment should also be explored to ensure that the assessment has a more functional focus.
- There should be enough time given to explore functional impacts in sufficient detail.
However, despite widespread calls, the review did not recommend the introduction of specialist assessors who have a expert knowledge of complex conditions such as brain injury. It states: “The Review considers that whether a health professional is a specialist in a particular health condition should not have an impact on their ability to conduct a functional assessment, providing adequate training is in place.”
Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, said: “This review represents another missed opportunity to ensure that brain injury survivors have access to the specialist medical assessors who understand the complex and often hidden nature of their injuries.
“In not recommending their introduction, the process will continue to fail brain injury survivors and their families, impacting their ability to increase independence and lead fulfilled lives.
“We do, however, welcome and support some of the recommendations in the review, including calls for better transparency in the claims process, clearer instructions and more weight given to the evidence supplied by carers.
"We are also pleased to see a call for better auditing, the option to have assessments recorded and measures to ensure assessments have a greater focus on the functional impact of a claimant's condition – as well as the time to gauge this.
"It is now up to the government to respond to this final independent review, and we will take a keen interest in how it addresses the recommendations."
Headway contributed evidence for the second review to ensure the views of people with brain injury were taken into account. You can read our response in the Consultations section.