The changes that Personal Independence Payments claimants need to know about

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The Government has confirmed a change for claimants of Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

Updated guidelines for health professionals carrying out assessments have been published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on gov.uk – as The Daily Record reports.

According to the guidance, face-to-face and phone assessments can now be audio recorded and there are also changes in the section on covert recordings.

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The DWP states that claimants must consent for the assessment to be audio recorded in advance of the consultation taking place.

The health professional conducting it must also “publicize these conditions” and include them in communications sent to claimants before they attend.

The DWP confirmed video recording of consultations is not permitted to ensure the safety and privacy of claimants and staff.

Audio recording of PIP consultations

The guidance on GOV.UK states: “At a face-to-face assessment, the claimant must sign a consent form in which they agree to not use the audio recording for unlawful purposes.

“At a telephone assessment, consent should be captured verbally on the recording.”

DWP also said that in some circumstances, claimants who wish to use their own equipment to audio record their consultation must follow the same consent process that the health professional does.

Restrictions on claimants’ use of recordings

The DWP said that if it is only the claimant’s personal data that is being audio recorded then there are no restrictions on the use the claimant can make of the recording.

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However, the DWP reserves the right to take appropriate action where the recording is used for unlawful purposes – for example, if it is altered and published for malicious reasons.

Covert recording of consultations

A claimant may make a covert recording of the consultation without the health professional being aware.

However, if they do notice that a claimant is covertly recording their consultation, the restrictions of use will be explained to them.

Note-taking during the consultation

Claimants and companions taking part in a consultation are entitled to take notes for their own purposes.

They may keep the notes and do not have to provide a copy to the health provider, although the DWP says they may record that notes were taken.

It’s important to be aware that any notes taken are for the claimant or companion’s own purposes and are not considered an official record of the consultation.

Earlier this month, the DWP awarded a multi-million-pound contract to leading video specialist provider, Involve Visual Collaboration Limited, to host video assessments for health benefit claimants as an alternative to face-to-face meetings.

The initial two-year contract is worth £3.95 million, with the option to extend it for a further two years, making it worth up to £7.79m in total.

Signage for the Department for Work & Pensions

The contract forms a critical part of the DWP’s Strategic Digital Video Project, which is increasing efficiencies and cost savings by virtualising the benefits service available to claimants across the UK, a situation which has been accelerated as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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A recent DWP National Statistics report revealed that the total number of benefit claimants increased rapidly during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, rising from 20.5 million in February 2020 to 23 million in February 2021.

Due to the economic disruption caused by coronavirus, the DWP sought alternative ways to be able to support customers in a cost-effective, timely and efficient way, while keeping public sector workers safe.

The DWP’s priority is to deliver accessible, effective, and fair services to all customers, and assessments have traditionally been completed via face-to-face consultations.

However, to respond to the increase in benefit claimants resulting from the pandemic and overcome the challenges customers may face in attending in-person appointments, the DWP introduced video call assessments for certain benefits and business areas.

These include:

  • Personal Independent Payment (PIP)

  • Universal Credit

  • Industrial Industries Disability Benefit

  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • Fraud Investigations

As part of this significant contract, Involve will support and manage cloud-based SaaS technology in collaboration with its partner, Induction Healthcare Group, to provide its web-based video assessment platform – Induction Attend Anywhere.

The platform will allow DWP assessors to host and record secure, reliable video assessments with claimants about their financial benefit support needs, as an alternative to an in-person meeting.

Virtual assessments will improve accessibility to DWP services, as customers will be able to attend remotely, which will reduce work absences, and the need for travel and childcare costs.

Virtual meetings will also mitigate Covid-19 health risks and make it easier for people with reduced mobility or a disability to access the support they need.

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Involve said that the DWP is prioritizing the need for personal assessments and this technology will enable them to deliver a more efficient service that reduces operational costs, reduces customer waiting times and gives customers more flexibility, while maintaining important in-person contact.

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Involve has over 30 years of experience in delivering audio visual and collaboration solutions across healthcare, corporate, legal, and public sector markets, including key contracts with the NHS, Her Majesty’s Prisons and the Ministry of Defense.

Commenting on the contract, Mick Roach, Director of Strategic Alliances at Involve, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has driven a huge increase in the demand for virtual meetings, due to the challenges of meeting in-person.

“As a result, the public sector has had to adapt and speed up their digital transformation to support those they serve.

“Having seen the positive impact that video technology has had within the healthcare space, we are excited to partner with the DWP to provide a more accessible service for their customers.”

Involve was chosen from a shortlist of providers following a competitive process.



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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