Preparing for welfare benefits assessments

When applying for welfare benefits, many people are asked to complete an assessment as part of their application. The assessment is a chance for decision-makers to gather further information upon which to process the claim.

For many brain injury survivors, applying for benefits is stressful and tiring, and the idea of attending an assessment can be daunting. However, it is important to remember that the assessment is not a test, it is an opportunity for you to give more information, evidence, and examples of how your brain injury has affected your life so that you can access support that you are entitled to.

Try not to worry about the assessment, and instead try to concentrate on the information you want to get across to the assessor.

It can help to prepare for the assessment in advance and make various arrangements to make the process as comfortable as it can be for you.

Before the assessment

  • Your letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will contain details of the location of your assessment. If you feel that it will be too difficult or impossible for you to travel to the location, request a home-based assessment instead.
  • If you are a wheelchair user or struggle with mobility, contact the assessment centre to ask about their accessibility.
  • If you think you may struggle with attending your appointment on the date provided, you can contact the assessment centre to reschedule – however, be mindful that you can only reschedule once.
  • You may be required to wait a while for your assessment after arriving at the c If you are concerned that waiting might make you anxious or uncomfortable (for instance if there are bright lights, loud noises, a busy environment) ask in advance whether there is a quiet, separate room that you can wait in.
  • Arrange to bring someone to your assessment with you.
  • Ask in advance about any travelling costs you may be able to have reimbursed.
  • Take some time before your assessment date to go over your completed application form and jot down any additional points you want to discuss during your assessment that you might have forgotten to mention on your application.

During the assessment

  • Take a copy of your completed application form along with you, as well as copies of any other medical evidence that might help with your claim.
  • The assessor will be a healthcare professional, but they may not specialise in brain injury. Don’t be afraid to tell them about brain injury and how it has affected you, especially about the ‘hidden’ effects of brain injury that may not be visible to them.
  • You may not always be asked about things in an obvious way. It may be that you enter into what you believe to be an ordinary conversation including questions such as:
    • How did you get here today?
    • How do you normally spend your day?
    • What kind of things do you have/cook for dinner?

These questions are not conversations but form part of your assessment, so consider your answers carefully.

  • Avoid simply saying whether you ‘can’ or ‘can’t’ do something. Instead, discuss how safely and independently you can do a task, whether you complete it, how long it typically takes you and how you feel during/afterwards
  • Take your time with answering the assessor, do not feel rushed by them to answer quickly.
  • Ask the assessor to repeat a question if your problems with memory, attention, concentration, or fatigue cause you to forget what they have asked. Explain that this is an effect of your brain injury.
  • If at any point you are asked to carry out physical activities (for instance walking a certain distance) that you think may cause you discomfort or pain, tell the assessor and do not feel pressured to do it. If you carry out the activity, your assessor may assume you can always do it with no difficulty.
  • If you have problems with managing your anger and think the assessment situation may cause you to feel angry, tell your assessor beforehand so that they are aware of this and explain that it is an effect of brain injury.

The most important thing to remember is to be honest about the impact of your brain injury. Offer as much detail as you can, including any effects that fluctuate or details of incidents when things have gone wrong for you, such as any accidents at home or times you have struggled while being out.

For more detailed guidance and advice, see the factsheet Preparing for welfare benefits assessments (PDF).