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23 April, 2020 Open access

Disability benefit awards to be automatically extended by six months if due for reassessment in the next three months

DWP Minister also advises Select Committee that the Department is ‘adopting a very sympathetic, claimant supportive view’ when undertaking paper-based reviews

Disability benefit awards are to be automatically extended by six months if due for reassessment in the next three months, the government has confirmed

In its first online evidence session, held earlier today with DWP Ministers and senior officials to explore how the Department has responded to the coronavirus outbreak, the Work and Pensions Select Committee heard evidence from DWP Minister Justin Tomlinson on how the system of paper and telephone assessments of disability benefit claims is working since the decision to stop face-to-face assessments was taken in March 2020.

Mr Tomlinson said -

‘What we have done, for those that would be due for a reassessment in the next three months, we’ve automatically extended their benefit by six months. If their condition has deteriorated, and they feel they would be entitled to more money, they can still request a reassessment but otherwise they are automatically extended.

For those new claimants, the terminally ill, and for those who ask for it, we are seeking to do it by telephone, by paper based reviews adopting a very sympathetic, claimant supportive view of this because we recognise that there are increasing challenges to be able to get adequate medical evidence so we are relying very much on the claimant’s case as they explain it.’

In addition, Mr Tomlinson highlighted how the Department’s experiences of assessing claims during the COVID-19 outbreak will provide valuable lessons on using medical evidence and claimant evidence in a better way, which in turn should reduce the need for face-to-face assessments in future -

‘… this is actually very beneficial for us because we were due to publish the Green Paper that was looking at the assessment process, claimant experience, recognising there’s anxiety amongst claimants, what more could we do to reduce that. And actually through, in effect, the enforced changes we have had to do to handle the COVID-19 emergency, we are actually testing those and I actually think that when we return to normal state I think there will be some very valuable lesson about how we can better use medical evidence, oral evidence from claimants and increase the proportion of cases that are done as a paper-based review.’

Today's Work and Pensions Committee evidence session can be viewed at