Department to trial new system and methods in small ‘transformation area’
The Department for Work and Pensions is to build a digital platform to support the delivery of its planned “integrated assessments” for claimants of disability benefits.
The department plans to replace separately managed assessment services for a range of benefits with a single, unified service. The new integrated process will cover health and disability assessments for Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit, and Personal Independence Payment.
Existing services are run discretely and by separate firms, with US outsourcer Maximus delivering Work Capability Assessments for UC and ESA claimants, while PIP assessments are provided by Atos and Capita.
The new overarching service will be managed from a central digital system which is currently being developed by the department, according to a parliamentary statement from minister for disabled people, health and work Justin Tomlinson.
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He said that, in order to ensure the integration is delivered “safely and carefully”, the new centralised assessment process will be trialled in an as-yet-unspecified one section of the country designated as a “transformation area”.
During this trial phase, assessments will be carried out by the DWP’s own staff, rather than by external providers.
Tomlinson said: “This will give us the flexibility to explore new ideas including: trialling better ways of carrying out face-to-face assessments; how to triage more effectively so that only those people who need a face-to-face assessment will have to undergo one; how to make it easier for claimants to understand the evidence they need to provide and why; how to remove the need for claimants to give the same information twice; [and] how to ensure that claimants are aware of the whole range of support available to them both from DWP and more widely.”
The minister said that the DWP will now begin the procurement process that will culminate in the appointment of suppliers to deliver Work Capability Assessments and assessments for claimants of Personal Independence Payment.
“We will work with the successful providers to ensure continuous improvement in their service, including how developments in the transformation area can benefit delivery by contracted providers,” he added.