photo of Yolanda Barker

MPs tell government to improve disability benefits assessments

A group of MPs has set out recommendations to the government on how it can improve disability benefits assessments.

Last October, the Work and Pensions Select Committee launched an inquiry into how people are assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

After hearing the experiences of thousands of people, the committee today released its report.

How to improve PIP and ESA assessments

The report makes recommendations to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), including that it:

  • Make sure both people claiming PIP and ESA and their health care professionals understand what good evidence they should send to support a claim.
  • Introduce a checklist system where assessors have to say if and how they used each piece of supporting evidence submitted when writing their report.
  • Send a copy of the assessor’s report to everyone when they get their initial decision.
  • Take audio recordings of assessments and use these to start checking the quality of the assessment process.

Sharing the experiences of people with MS

Lots of you wrote to the committee, telling MPs which parts of the current assessment systems are working for people with MS, and which parts need to be improved.

Yolanda Barker (pictured), who has MS, spoke to the committee. She told them how daunting it is to fill in application forms. She also explained that assumptions were made during her assessment: “From squeezing fingers they have decided that I can cook a meal, which I can’t.”

Yolanda also spoke about how her assessor “did not really have experience with multiple sclerosis”, making her feel “he does not think I am ill enough”.

We also submitted evidence to the inquiry, telling the committee how important PIP and ESA are for people with MS, but how the system is failing people too often.

“No surprise to people with MS”

Genevieve Edwards, our Director of External Affairs, said: “These findings will come as no surprise to people with MS.

“Thousands of people have already lost millions of pounds in vital support because of a completely unsuitable assessment process.

“The committee’s recommendations are an important step towards rebuilding the trust of disabled people, but they won’t be enough on their own. Ultimately, we need to see meaningful changes to the way people are assessed.

“For too long the welfare system just hasn’t made sense. The government must take responsibility to deliver a fairer and more transparent system that recognises the immense challenges disabled people face.”

What happens next?

The government doesn’t have to adopt these recommendations, but it must officially respond to the report within two months.

With your support, we’ve made progress in the last few years towards a welfare system that makes sense for people with MS. But there’s still a long way to go.

We’ll be continuing to call for changes to the way that people are assessed.

And, later this year, we’ll be campaigning for changes to PIP assessment criteria.

Have your say

We’re looking for people with experience of PIP to help us shape and be ambassadors for the next stage of our MS: Enough campaign.

>> Want to be involved? Email campaigns@mssociety.org.uk.