The government’s response to a damning inquiry into the disability benefit system “falls short”, MPs have said, after it refused to accept a number of recommendations designed to restore trust in the assessment process.
A report by the Work and Pensions Committee published in February found failings in the process for assessing personal independence payment (PIP) and employment support allowance (ESA) claims had contributed to a “pervasive lack of trust” in the system with “untenable human costs” to claimants, as well as financial costs to the public purse.
It revealed that all three private firms contracted to assess people for disability benefits were failing to meet the government’s own quality standards, and concluded that the process was in need of “urgent change”.
In its response, the government said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would improve the recording of assessments and the design of application forms to make it easier for claimants – two recommendations that were made by the committee.
But ministers rejected both the suggestion that claimants should receive their assessment reports without having to ask, and the recommendation that the DWP should conduct an audit of arrangements for home visits, including reasons for refusal.
Responding to the government’s response to the inquiry, Frank Field, chair of the committee, said the decision to record PIP assessments as standard was a “tremendous step forward” and would “go a long way” to restoring trust. But the Labour MP added that the response “fell short” in certain areas.
“A commitment to improving the gruelling application forms is also very welcome, and clearly the government has listened to the thousands of claimants who contributed to our work,” he said.
“But the response falls short in several areas. For example, we think claimants should always receive their assessment reports without having to ask, and we are concerned that the government lacks the levers to get value for money out of its private contractors.