Petition Full review of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) application process

We want the Government to conduct a full review of the PIP process. This should look at DWP policy and the performance of ATOS and Capita, which conduct the health assessments for applicants. We believe the current process is inherently unethical and biased, and needs a complete overhaul.

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We believe that the Personal Independence Payment application and assessment process is inhumane and degrading. We believe Capita and Atos are not fit for purpose to be contracted as independent assessors, and that this leads to many people being unfairly denied benefits.

79% applications that are denied and taken to tribunal are overturned. This demonstrates that many decisions are initially incorrect. We believe that too often medical evidence is ignored, and decisions are not made fairly.

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Government responded

This response was given on 1 November 2022

While Government has no plans to review PIP, following the Shaping Future Support Green Paper we will publish a White Paper on better meeting needs of disabled people and those with health conditions.

In response to two independent reviews carried out in November 2015 and April 2017 and a Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry in January 2018, we have already delivered a number of improvements. These include improvements to the customer journey, our communications, the assessment and our decision making. In addition, we have improved our support for our most vulnerable customers. The Government has no plans to carry out a full review of PIP.

However, we continue to review our benefit processes and procedures, most recently, for example, publishing, Shaping Future Support: The Health and Disability Green Paper, in 2021. This explored how the benefits system can better meet the needs of disabled people and those with health conditions to build a system that enables people to live independently and move into work where possible. We received over 4,500 responses to the public consultation, and we are grateful to all the individuals and organisations who contributed.

Both PIP assessment providers, Capita and Independent Assessment Services (IAS), strive to provide excellent service to claimants and are held to account for their performance. They have consistently exceeded their customer satisfaction targets of 90% for PIP, achieving collectively 96.6% until the end of February 2022. More information can be found here.

PIP relies on regular reviews based on evidence about the functional impacts of a disability or health condition to ensure the claimant receives the correct award. As part of the Functional Health Assessment process, a paper-based assessment will always be considered in the first instance for all cases. Health Professionals may contact GPs, any named specialist medical professionals or the claimant if they need more information to undertake a paper-based review. All evidence must be interpreted and evaluated using medical reasoning, considering the circumstances of the case and the expected impact on the claimant’s daily living and/or mobility. Providers work continuously to drive improvements in assessment services. They have introduced new management processes to drive performance across their services, including enhanced assessment report quality checks to improve the quality of advice the DWP receives. In addition, PIP assessment reports have been redesigned to have clearer justifications which support improved benefit decision making.

Provider performance is measured across a range of service level agreements setting out the Department's expectations for service delivery. These include quality, performance delivery targets and customer experience. Contractual remedies are in place if the provider fails to deliver against the agreed service standards and service credits are applied, where appropriate, in order to recover estimated financial loss to the department. Ultimately the department has the right to terminate the contract if there is sustained underperformance in a range of areas.

Case Managers receive extensive training and are supported and coached by an experienced mentor before passing rigorous Line Manager checks to ensure they have reached the high standard that DWP expects. The Department has a thorough ongoing checking regime to drive continuous improvement and consistency across all Case Manager Teams. As a learning organisation, the Department is continually supporting Case Managers to develop their understanding of the functional needs arising from complex health conditions and disabilities to ensure that robust decisions are reached weighting all the claimant’s evidence, health professional advice and all supporting evidence.

It has always been our aim to make the right decision at the earliest opportunity so that claimants do not have to appeal. Consequently, and learning from tribunal decisions, we have introduced a new approach to decision making, both the initial decision and the Mandatory Reconsideration stage, giving Decision Makers additional time to proactively contact claimants where they think additional evidence may support a claim.

The new approach to decision making has resulted in a greater proportion of decisions being changed at Mandatory Reconsideration, which in turn has contributed to a reduction in the proportion of decisions resulting in an appeal lodgement. Only 7% of initial decisions made in 2020-21 have seen an appeal lodged against them, compared to 9% in 2019-20, and 10% in the three years previous. Overall, since PIP was introduced 4.5 million initial decisions following an assessment have been made up to March 2022; 9% have been appealed and 4% have been overturned at a tribunal hearing. More statistics can be found at Personal Independence Payment: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/personal-independence-payment-statistics-april-2013-to-july-2022/personal-independence-payment-official-statistics-to-july-2022

Department for Work and Pensions

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/620962)

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Original Government response

Shaping Future Support, the health and disability green paper, explored better meeting the needs of disabled people and those with health conditions. We will publish a White Paper later this year.

We are committed to ensuring individuals applying for health and disability benefits receive high quality, robust and accurate assessments and decisions on their claim. We work continuously to improve the quality of service.

Last year we published Shaping Future Support: The Health and Disability Green Paper. This explored how the welfare system can better meet the needs of disabled people and those with health conditions to build a system that enables people to live independently and move into work where possible.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) contracted providers

Both PIP assessment providers, Capita and Independent Assessment Services (IAS), strive to provide excellent service to claimants and are held to account for their performance. They have consistently exceeded their customer satisfaction targets of 90% for PIP, achieving collectively 96.6% until the end of February 2022. More information can be found here.

As part of the Functional Health Assessment process, the feasibility of a paper- based assessment will always be considered in the first instance for all cases. Health Professionals may contact GPs, any named specialist medical professionals or the claimant if they need more information to undertake a paper-based review. Health Professionals are expected to consider all available evidence when formulating their advice. All evidence must be interpreted and evaluated using medical reasoning, considering the circumstances of the case and the expected impact on the claimant’s daily living and/or mobility. Providers work continuously to drive improvements in assessment services. They have introduced new management processes to drive performance across their services, including enhanced assessment report quality checks to improve the quality of advice the DWP receives. In addition, PIP assessment reports have been redesigned to have clearer justifications which support improved benefit decision making.

The department maintains providers’ high standard through Independent Audit that continually monitors performance and provides feedback to providers. Quality performance is also regularly reviewed at DWP and provider governance meetings at a national level and in each of the provider areas.

Provider performance is measured across a range of service level agreements setting out the department's expectations for service delivery. These include quality, performance delivery targets and customer experience. Contractual remedies are in place if the provider fails to deliver against the agreed service standards and service credits are applied, where appropriate, in order to recover estimated financial loss to the department. Ultimately the department has the right to terminate the contract if there is sustained underperformance in a range of areas.

Correct decisions

It has always been our aim to make the right decision at the earliest opportunity so that claimants do not have to appeal. Consequently, and learning from tribunal decisions, we have introduced a new approach to decision making at both the initial decision and the Mandatory Reconsideration stage, giving Decision Makers additional time to proactively contact claimants where they think additional evidence may support a claim.

The new approach to decision making has resulted in a greater proportion of decisions being changed at Mandatory Reconsideration, which in turn has contributed to a reduction in the proportion of decisions resulting in an appeal lodgement. Only 7% of initial decisions made in 2020-21 have seen an appeal lodged against them, compared to 9% in 2019-20, and 10% in the three years previous. In addition, since PIP was introduced 4.5 million initial decisions following an assessment have been made up to March 2022; 9% have been appealed and 4% have been overturned at a tribunal hearing.

The latest statistics on PIP initial decisions for the period April 2013 to March 2022 and Mandatory Reconsiderations and appeals for the period April 2013 to June 2022 show that 66% of appeals cleared at a hearing, where the initial decision was disallowed, were overturned. Out of the 4.5 million PIP initial decisions made, 1.6 million (36%) were disallowed, 1.1 million (23%) registered for mandatory reconsideration, 390,000 (9%) lodged an appeal, and 200,000 (4%) were overturned.

PIP Case Managers receive extensive training and are supported and coached by an experienced mentor before passing rigorous Line Manager checks to ensure they have reached the high standard that DWP expects. The Department has a thorough ongoing checking regime to drive continuous improvement and consistency across all Case Manager Teams. As a learning organisation, the Department is continually supporting Case Managers to develop their understanding of the functional needs arising from complex health conditions and disabilities to ensure that robust decisions are reached weighting all of the claimant’s evidence, health professional advice and all supporting evidence.

Department for Work and Pensions

This response was given on 28 September 2022. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

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