The Work and Pensions Committee is holding an inquiry into whether assessments for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are working well. As soon as the inquiry was announced, Headway’s team began gathering evidence from people with ABI, their families, carers and professionals, about their interaction with the welfare benefits system.
Dr Clare Mills, Headway’s Public Affairs Manager, said: “We heard from over 550 people in just a couple of weeks. The strength of their feelings about the failings of the current process came through powerfully. In their responses, people felt the effects of their brain injury were often ignored, not recognised, or misunderstood – and that they felt they were not believed by assessors and decision makers.
“Although many people had included medical evidence with their claims, this was often ignored or even rejected. There is a widespread lack of trust in the system and little understanding of people’s needs and what their lives are really like.”
Headway’s submission to the Work and Pensions Committee concentrates on three key calls:
- Specialist assessors/decision makers should process claims from people affected by ABI. Alternatively, as a minimum, all assessors/decision makers should undergo specialist training in ABI. This would address concerns around knowledge of hidden disability and increase trust and confidence in the proces.
- Applicants submitting specialist medical or third-party evidence have no means of knowing whether this has been considered, so there should be a system for recording and confirming consideration of evidence by assessors/decision makers.
- Offering audio or visual recording of face-to-face assessments would assist ABI survivors, many of whom have memory problems. Recording would ensure all assessment information to be securely retained by assessors/decision makers. It would also provide robust evidence, if mandatory reconsideration or appeal is required.
The next step is for the Work and Pensions Committee to consider all the evidence it has received and issue a report. The Department for Work and Pensions then has to respond to the findings. Headway will continue to push for changes to the assessment system and keep speaking to Parliament on behalf of people affected by ABI.
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Your feedback will be used to campaign for a fairer benefits system that takes the needs of people with brain injury into account.Back