The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) uses third party contractors to provide health and disability assessments to inform benefit decisions. The Center for Health and Disability Assessment (CDHA), a subsidiary of Maximus, holds the contract under which assessments are conducted for various benefits, including Work Capacity Assessments (WCAs) for Work Allowance. Employment and Support (ESA) and Universal Credit.
Assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are provided under separate contracts. Atos (operating as independent valuation services) carries out valuations in Scotland, North of England and South of England. Capita is undertaking assessments in Wales and central England, as well as Northern Ireland.
Disability activists have long voiced concerns about benefit assessment processes. In February 2018, a report by the Committee for Work and Pensions found that failures in the end-to-end processes for PIP and ESA had contributed to a lack of trust in the two benefits and undermined claimant confidence. She made a series of recommendations relating to, among other things, the recording of assessments, the provision and use of evidence, the clarity of communications, guidance on home assessments and the role of coaches.
In March 2019, the DWP launched a “Health Transformation Program” to develop a new integrated “Health Assessment Service” for both PIPs and WCAs. The aim is to make the assessment process “simpler, friendlier, easier to navigate and more consistent for claimants, while providing better value for taxpayers”. The Department began testing different approaches in a ‘Health Transformation Area’ (HTA) in North London in April 2021. The DWP also began working to secure assessment services from private sector providers for the period 2023-2028.
Further information on the DWP’s proposals to reform assessment processes and decision-making, and to support claimants, can be found in the Health and Disability Green Paper of July 2021.
The Scottish Act 2016 delegated responsibility to the Scottish Government and Parliament for, among other things, disability benefits with additional costs, including DLA and PIP. The Scottish Government has said application processes for devolved disability benefits will not involve assessments such as the functional reviews carried out for the DWP, although there will be consultations ‘where that is the only practical way. to gather accurate information. Additionally, there will be “light” reviews of ongoing rewards. Decision-making will be made by healthcare professionals employed directly by its Social Security Scotland benefit delivery agency, not by private sector providers.