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PIP assessments - not able to have interpreter and someone on the phone for support

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Welfare and Housing, Helen Bamber Foundation (London)

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Hello, one of our clients has her assessment for her first PIP claim this morning. I called up last week to check shew would have an interpreter (they hadn’t planned on doing so though it was in her questionnaire) and asked for me to be called in to support the client who was very anxious about the assessment.

Today they called our client for the assessment and said that it would not be possible to have a fourth person on the call and they could not dial me in. Whilst the client continued with the PIP assessment, I called the Independent Assessment Services to ask if this was policy that if someone needs an interpreter they cannot have another person on the call remotely.

The person first said that yes this is how it is, “that’s why it is called a 3 way call, because you have 3 people on the call, not 4”. I said that I was concerned that this indirectly discriminates against people who need an interpreter and does not allow them to have support over the phone during Covid-19 lockdown, and they said that it is nothing to do with discrimination, “it’s just a 3 way call”. I asked if this was a policy and if so I could receive a copy. They then went to speak to another team and told me that it is a policy of theirs. I said I wasn’t sure that that policy was right, and they said it was nothing to do with what I thought was right, it’s their policy. I asked to be directed to where it was, and was told to go to “our website” - clarified that they actually meant the DWP website, and was then told that the policy was available on both the DWP and IAS’s websites.

This is the second time this has happened for us. I was wondering does anyone experienced this, or know of whether there actually is a policy which states this (I doubt it) and/or am I completely wrong to say that this system indirectly discriminates against people who need an interpreter?

[ Edited: 17 Jun 2020 at 10:53 am by ZoeHBF ]

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I’ve passed that on to feedback to a colleague who attends the PIP stakeholder forum - will let you know if any response

Mike Hughes
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Senior welfare rights officer - Salford City Council Welfare Rights Service

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I think you need to ask whether this is a policy restriction or a technical/IT restriction. Either way I’d be looking at a letter before action.