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People with Disabilities: Assessments

Volume 670: debated on Monday 27 January 2020

6. What steps she is taking to reduce the number of assessments undertaken by people with disabilities. (900398)

We have made improvements to reduce assessments for work capability and personal independence payments. This includes reducing review frequency for pensioners and people with severe or progressive conditions. We are also exploring our manifesto commitment to ensure a minimum award review duration for PIP awards.

I am grateful to the Minister for his remarks, but I would like to tell him about a constituent I met recently who suffers from a progressive condition and is bothered about the frequency with which she is required to provide information, often the same information, on a form that is both lengthy and complex. Does the Minister agree that once an award has been made, the frequency of assessments should be reduced? Might that be considered in the forthcoming Green Paper?

My hon. Friend has worked hard in this area for a number of years. As part of the forthcoming Green Paper, we will be looking at how we can better use evidence, how we can continue to improve the claimant’s experience, and how we can reduce the need for unnecessary face-to-face assessments through the integrated assessment principle.

The Government’s national disability strategy finally recognises that the assessment process for PIP and employment and support allowance is burdensome for disabled people. Given that the Government now admit to the failures of these assessments, given the mental distress that they have caused, and given that more than 70% of decisions brought to an appeal tribunal are overturned and thousands of disabled people have died after being found fit for work, will the Minister now do more than simply lessen the number of reassessments? Will he scrap these unfit-for-purpose assessment frameworks for ESA and PIP once and for all?

The hon. Lady calls for something to be scrapped while not setting out what the alternative would be. We recognise that when Labour introduced the work capability assessment it needed significant improvement. That is why we had five independent reviews and implemented more than 100 recommendations. We are now exceeding 92% claimant satisfaction with the work capability assessment, and 82% of PIP claimants are satisfied with the service they get. That is why, as a Government, we are now proud to spend an additional £10 billion a year supporting those with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

I often have constituents come to see me who suffer from ongoing conditions that might be considered invisible disabilities. They tell me that the current assessment process does not accurately capture their conditions. Will the Minister continue to keep the assessment process under review, to ensure that it is fit for purpose in assessing people with invisible disabilities?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As we have seen under PIP, 32% of claimants now access the highest rate of support, compared with just 15% under DLA. It is the hidden disabilities that have seen the most significant growth in that regard. For example, with mental health, 33% of claimants now get the highest rate, compared with just 6%—that is five times less—under the legacy benefits.