Last month Ellie Jones, Welfare Rights Adviser to the ME Association, met with the Director of Health at Ingeus. This is a well-established company that has been awarded a new contract to deliver disability benefit assessments by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The DWP has awarded new ‘Functional Assessment Service’ contracts to the following:
- Ingeus in South East England, London, and East Anglia.
- Maximus in the North of England and Scotland.
- Capita in the Midlands, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
- Serco in South West England.
These contracts are part of the long-term plan to merge the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) into a single assessment.
Currently, people claiming both PIP and an out of work benefit – such as Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance – must undergo 2 separate assessments. It was in the Transforming Support white paper (published in March 2023), that the government outlined their plan to combine the 2 assessments.
The new contracts will start in September 2024. However, any changes to the WCA, or the decision to remove the WCA completely, will require changes to existing legislation. This means that the 2 separate assessment processes are likely to continue until after the next general election.
Ingeus reached out to organisations who have knowledge about different health conditions and how they impact people. They wanted to know about the challenges people face when navigating the current benefit assessment systems. This is to inform the development of the new assessment service, and to support the training of their health assessors.
At the meeting, Ingeus appeared to be aware of some of the problems with the current system and were open to hearing from disabled people’s organisations about how these could be improved. Participation seemed to be a good opportunity to help shape the development of the new service.
The ME Association will continue to provide Ingeus with information about the difficulties that people with ME/CFS have when engaging with the current disability benefit system and we will make recommendations about how services could work better for those who are affected. Ingeus also brought up the fact that a lot of people with Long Covid are now claiming disability benefits, which means that this could be another opportunity to raise the profile of energy-limiting chronic illnesses more broadly.
If you have experience of the current PIP or WCA assessment processes and you would like to contribute to this work, we are looking for case studies.
Please email Ellie Jones with your story: Ellie.email@example.com. Use ‘disability assessment’ in the subject line. We will keep your full name and contact details confidential.
Ellie Jones, Welfare Rights Adviser. The ME Association.