Departmental minister claims that assessors from Atos and Capita have access to case details, but some information – including tribunal decisions – is recorded in static digital images rather than text-based documents
The IT platform that underpins the administration of Personal Independence Payments records and stores the verdicts of tribunal decisions as static digital images, rather than text-based data, according to a minister.
The Personal Independence Payment Computer System (PIPCS) does contain information on the decisions made by independent tribunals – the services of which are available to those whose benefit claim has been denied by the DWP twice, including the initial application and an internal departmental appeal process.
Tom Pursglove, the minister for disabled people, health and work, said that those assessing claimants can access information on tribunal outcomes on PIPCS – but that “the decision itself is held as a digital image”, and not on a text-based form.
Other information – including copies of physical documents provided by claimants as evidence – is also only available to assessors via static images, while some details, such as notes entered by DWP officials, are text-based.
- DWP looks to improve SEO and online content to support Universal Credit switchover
- DWP brings in digital support for Universal Credit programme in £5m deal
- ‘A lack of transparency and accountability’ – DWP urged to shed light on fraud algorithm
“[Assessment] providers would be able to see the outcome of the tribunal decision,” said Pursglove, in answer to a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Margaret Greenwood. “They can view supporting evidence held, including documents sent in by a claimant to support an appeal. These would be scanned and held on PIPCS. Providers can also see information input by DWP Service Delivery colleagues in Decision Assist notes, as well as any ephemeral documents held on the system. The tribunal decision and supporting information can be used by providers to support their recommendations.”
PIP can provide support with living costs for those with a disability, long-term illness or other health condition. Claimants are often asked to undergo an assessment – either in person, or via phone or videoconference – in which a “health professional” will ask for more details about the applicant’s condition and its impact on their life.
Assessments are currently provided on behalf of the DWP by suppliers Capita and Atos, although from next year – when the process will be combined with Work Capability Assessments – the latter firm will no longer do so. Capita will remain in play, and will be joined by Serco, Ingeus, and Maximus, as part of a commercial shake-up.
The DWP is in the process of implementing an digital claims system for PIP. Testing of the service began in 2020 but online claims are still only available to applicants in some parts of the country.