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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  COVID-19: Benefit claims and administration  →  Thread

Are Telephone assessments suitable for PIP claims?

JP 007
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Welfare rights - Dundee City Council

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Joined: 2 February 2012

We have come across some bad results from telephone assessments particularly on Mental Health descriptors.
If the claimant has difficulty socialising and planning and following but is sitting securely in their home on the phone during assessment, it stands to reason the decision making will be compromised!
A problem which is only going to get worse and cause difficulties for many vulnerable people?

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

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The experience has been variable but, arguably, on the whole, mostly positive across a range of impairments or health issues. People with mental health issues find there is no longer any judgement to be made on whether they can make good eye contact; are well kempt and well fed or whether there is evidence of their perspiration or shaking etc.

Certainly for the duration of the first lock down we found that HCP assessments had a much higher than average success rate somewhere between 90 and 100% recommending appropriate awards and it was refreshing to see that the health condition itself didn’t seem to impact that. In recent months there has been something of a reversion to the norm but I can’t say I’d single out a specific group of conditions and say that they are especially suffering. 

As regards a generalised statement that such an approach is not suitable for PIP I’m afraid I disagree. They have their place and whilst they may not work or produce the desired outcome for one person with mental health issues they may do so for someone else so I don’t think it can even be said that there are specific groups who should be excluded from telephone assessments.

This is of course coloured by a certain naivety on the part of claimants who believe that “if only they could see me” all would be well when in fact their inability to see, understand and then actively challenge the many incorrect inferences which can be drawn during a face to face assessment is often the prime reason for a poor quality report coming into being.

A Stavert
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Welfare benefits officer - Scottish Borders Council, Scotland

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Joined: 16 June 2010

I agree with JP 007.  In about half of the phone assessments I’ve seen for clients with MH conditions the HP’s logic could be summed up as ‘they answered their phone and spoke for over an hour.  Therefore they can cook a meal, wash and bathe, use the toilet, get dressed, engage with others, make financial decisions and visit unfamiliar places unaccompanied.’

This includes some repeat clients who have had tribunal awards.