UNIVERSAL credit and the way claimants can collect their benefits could be facing a shake-up.
The Department of Work and Pensions' "Shaping Future Support: The Health and Disability Green Paper" was updated mid August to reflect potential changes the department is hoping to make.
The purpose of the reforms are to make the appeal process that bit less stressful for disabled people and people with health conditions, by making access less difficult.
It comes as there is a lot of uncertainty to some benefits, including Universal credit, with claimants of the scheme facing devastating cuts at the end of the month,
It's not the only scheme ending either as others are set to end in just a matter of weeks.
Therefore the paper is designed to consider the options for addressing short- and medium-term issues in health and disability benefits and look at "opportunities for wider change" in the sector.
The pandemic has had a part to play in the reforms too, as the way the department looks at how assessments can be carried out now is different to before the covid crisis began.
While things are returning to normal, and many work placing have encouraged staff back into offices, there is an agreed understanding that many things can still be done at home.
That's no different for benefit assessments which could see a future being carried out remotely and virtually looking forward.
Anybody wanting to voice their own opinion on the paper can do so on the government website too, but you don't have long as it closes on October 11.
We don't know exactly when these changes will come into force, but for many it's a process that is already being slowly adopted to make life easier for claimants and the department.
In the meantime we take a look at the different changes that could be coming into force.
No more face-to-face meetings
The use of paper-based assessments could be increased.
Currently people who apply for benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit are made to attend in-person appointments.
It means you could be able to enough provide evidence to allow a paper-based assessment to be carried out instead and save the need to leave home.
Video assessments as the new norm
As well as paper based methods, the use of video calls could be another future in how assessments are carried out.
As part of a trial period the DWP did carry out video call assessments on over 750, but the success of this means it would like to address more in the same way.
A future in telephone assessments
Telephone assessments could another solution too, especially for those with only a phone or who aren't comfortable with the video criteria.
An evaluation of whether telephone assessments will be a successful alternative should be underway to test this.
Less repeat assessments required
For those on PIP, the frequency of repeat assessments is to be reduced.
It's for those who have long term illnesses that won't benefit from frequent meetings where ultimately no improvements have been made.
Instead, there will only a be "light touch" review at the ten-year point.
Medical evidence spanning all benefits
The DWP first announced it wanted to create a so-called integrated health assessment service back in 2019.
In a nutshell, this would allow claimants to share medical evidence, with consent, if a person is applying for more than one benefit.
This will mean claimants do not have to provide information more than once.
Assessments made over the phone are starting to be recorded at the request of claimants.
It affects those on ESA UC and those on PIP could see their in person assessments recorded too.
The purpose of the evidence is to help build trust according to the DWP.
Less appeals made
Following from the recorded assessments the DWP wants better quality evidence to be gathered earlier in the decision-making process, to help reduce the number of appeals brought forward.
That way time can be saved as well as the stress of the process for both the department and claimants.
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