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Mind responds to Government's announcement that they will reintroduce reassessments for people receiving disability benefits

Tuesday, 07 July 2020 Mind
In March the Department for Work and Pensions suspended face-to-face assessments for health and disability benefits, and introduced remote assessment options. They have announced that the suspension will continue and remote options will remain. However, the choice of which method of assessment a person has lies firmly with the assessors, not the individual.

The UK Government has also announced that reviews and reassessments for people already in receipt of disability benefits will begin again this month, as we begin to come out of lockdown. 
This comes following an announcement last week that benefit sanctions have been reinstated following a three-month suspension.

Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind says:

“Our nation is facing a mental health emergency, and it’s inexcusable that the UK Government is backing people into a corner where they have to choose between protecting their mental health or having money for food.

“We welcomed the introduction of different options for remote benefits assessments, because we know face-to-face appointments can be distressing or impossible for many people with mental health problems. But the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) must let people choose the right option for them, including a paper-based assessment. If someone has panic attacks when they use the phone, forcing them to have a benefits assessment over the phone is clear discrimination, and means they may be unable to access their benefits at all. We have also heard that many people haven’t been offered a remote assessment at all - which means they have been left for months in limbo.

“In order to recover from this crisis and deal with the looming recession, the DWP must respect that those of us with mental health problems are the experts in our own lives, and we need to be given the choice of what type of assessment is right for our health.

"Until these issues with remote assessments have been resolved, reintroducing benefits reassessments is a staggeringly bad decision that will put many people at risk. The DWP has to change course and make sure that no-one loses their benefits because of the impact of coronavirus. Now is not the time to be forcing people to jump through hoops - putting their income and their health at risk in the process.”

Gari Walters, a benefits advisor at Mind in Monmouthshire, says:

“Even though we are putting on the form that the client struggles with communication due to anxiety, they are still insisting on carrying out reviews over the phone. I have many clients that are unable to communicate with others and especially to numbers they don’t know. One in particular had a phone call assessment which lasted for 45 minutes before she had a “meltdown”, her words. This is unacceptable in the present climate as I am unable to offer the support and advocate as I normally would.”

Tom Goddard, a benefits advisor at Mind in Croydon, says:

“We are concerned that during this difficult time people experiencing mental health problems are missing out on money that they desperately need to see themselves through the pandemic. While people wait for a medical assessment, they are potentially missing out on around £300, or even £500, each month. Not being offered a remote benefits assessment means some people are not receiving the correct level of benefits to reflect their severe health conditions, at the time it is most needed.”

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