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23 March, 2020 Open access

Select Committee questions Secretary of State about ‘alternative arrangements’ for disability assessments in light of the coronavirus outbreak

Chair of Work and Pensions Committee also asks how many claimants are awaiting an appeal for disability benefits and what support is being put in place for them

The Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee Stephen Timms has questioned Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Dr Thérèse Coffey about the 'alternative arrangements' being put in place for disability assessments in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter dated 18 March 2020, Mr Timms welcomes the announcement that face-to-face health assessments have been suspended, but asks for more detail about the 'alternative arrangements' that are being put in place. In addition, he asks for the Department's view on a request by Mind and other charities that phone and paper assessments should stop for existing claimants.

NB - Mr Timms' letter is a further response to earlier corespondence between himself and the Secretary of State: a letter from Mr Timms to Dr Coffey dated 4 March 2020 and Dr Coffey's reply of 17 March 2020.

In respect of claimants with appeals pending in respect of personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA), Mr Timms also asks - 

Finally, Mr Timms queries the government's response to a report by Citizens Advice which recommended -

Requesting a reply by midday on Tuesday 24 March, Mr Timms highlights that committee members need time to read the reply before an evidence session scheduled with Dr Coffey and the Permanent Secretary Peter Schofield the following day, adding -

'This is a worrying time for all of us, but it’s particularly tough for people on already low or precarious incomes. They’ll be concerned about how they can continue to support themselves and their families, and will be looking to the Government for a strong safety net to help them through this unprecedented crisis. The DWP has already taken some welcome steps. But there is much more still to be done.' 

For more information see Chair writes to Secretary of State on response to coronavirus outbreak from parliament.uk