Face-to-face health assessments for benefits suspended amid coronavirus outbreak
Claimants on disability benefits will no longer be required to attend face-to-face assessments. The change also covers health checks for Universal Credit.
Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits will be suspended for the next three months, the Department of Work and Pensions has announced.
A spokesman for the DwP said the temporary move, effective from March 17 is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus as the country’s response ramps up in the ‘delay’ phase.
The spokesman said those who are entitled to a benefit will continue to receive support, and that new claimants will be able to access the safety net.
However, benefits charity Turn2Us is calling for assurance from government that there will be no delay in people receiving their money.
Sara Willcocks, head of communications at Turn2us, said: ‘At face value, the decision temporarily to suspend DWP face-to-face disability and sickness assessments is welcome.
‘However, we need assurances that alternative arrangements, such as telephone or paper assessments, do not result in people losing their entitlements.
‘Assessments need to be fair, accurate and compassionate. The DWP must also ensure that there is no delay in getting people their money.’
The suspension will affect claimants of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), those on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and some on Universal Credit, and recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. And will also cover new claims to those benefits.
Work and Pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey said: ‘As we move into the next phase of our response to coronavirus, it is right we take steps to protect those with health problems.
‘Temporarily suspending face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits will allow us to ensure we continue to provide a safety net for those in need, while removing unnecessary risk of exposure to this disease.’
A DwP spokesman said anyone who has a face-to-face assessment appointment scheduled from March 17 onwards does not need to attend and will be contacted to discuss next steps and alternative arrangements, which could involve either telephone or paper-based assessments.
The spokesman said it is expected that measures will be in effect for the next three months but will be regularly reviewed in line with Public Health advice.
No further action is required by any claimant as a result of this change. They will be contacted with advice on next steps.
DwP continues to accept new claims for all benefits. Anyone already receiving PIP, ESA, Universal Credit or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, will continue to receive their current payments as normal while alternative arrangements are put in place to review or reassess their claim.
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