Personal Independence Payments and Employments Support Allowance

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Summary of report content

During the second half of 2017, Healthwatch Brighton and Hove collated evidence from a number of local organisations to report on their experiences of supporting people through Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) assessment interviews. The report also contains a number of individual case studies and supporting organisational data and highlights the general issues and themes that emerged from this research. Healthwatch approached four individuals and 29 local organisations that provide support to individuals going through these assessments. Some organisations existed as part of a wider partnership and in some cases a joint or shared response was issued; in other cases only some organisations within these partnerships responded to our request for information. Of the four individuals asked if they would be happy to speak directly to us, one individual agreed to do so. The report addresses concerns around the assessors questioning styles, interpersonal skills, the level of specialist knowledge in the conditions to be assessed as well as the assessors approach to advocates. Concerns around the adequacy of current face-to-face assessments, cancellations of assessments and the increasing cost to applicants having to provide supporting medical evidence. The accessibility of the assessment centres and the failure to offer home visits is discussed as are the accuracy and quality of the PIP and ESA reports written after the face-to-face assessments. The refusal bias of assessment providers, and the number of these subsequently overturned on appeal is also noted. Healthwatch Brighton and Hove believe that a number of the above concerns could be addressed through the provision of better, ongoing, and more comprehensive training of assessors. In this regard, a number of local organisations expressly stated that they would be happy to help deliver some focussed training to the assessment providers. Training should provide a good knowledge of so-called ‘hidden’ or non-physical conditions and their impacts; as well as training in specialist areas such as: mental health conditions; suicide awareness; visual impairment; complex needs, as well as LGBTQ affirmative practice. Improved training could also help to improve the quality and content of reports. Healthwatch encouraged the assessment providers to undertake immediate reviews in the following areas and publish any outcomes: - how requests for home visits are actioned. It is of paramount importance that reasonable adjustments are always made were these are justified. - how cases are reviewed at Mandatory Reconsideration. It is important that a separate, review is undertaken by a different assessor and that the outcome clearly demonstrates how any additional evidence has been considered. As there was no response from either of the assessment provider organisations, the report has been published and provided to the Brighton and Hove Health and Wellbeing Board without provider input.

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General details

Report title 
Personal Independence Payments and Employments Support Allowance
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Brighton And Hove
Date of publication 
Thursday, 1 February, 2018
Date evidence capture began 
Thursday, 1 June, 2017
Date evidence capture finished 
Friday, 29 December, 2017
Type of report 
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Building and facilities
Communication between staff and patients
Complaints procedure
Health and safety
Health inequalities
Health protection
Holistic support
Information providing
Patient records
Quality of appointment
Quality of staffing
Service delivery organisation and staffing
Staff attitudes
Staff training
Other information of note about this report 
Solution Based
Case Study
Healthwatch reference number 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
What type of organisation requested the work 
If this work has been done in partnership, who is the partner? 
Primary research method used 
User stories
How was the information collected? 
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Social care services 

Details about conditions and diseases

Types of disabilities 

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
All people 18 and over
Other population characteristics 
People who are long-term unemployed
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff's views? 
Types of health and care professionals engaged 
Does the information include other people's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.