Tories suspend face-to-face benefit assessments amid coronavirus crisis – but what’s behind their compassionate veneer?

They took their time about it.

And one has to question whether it would have happened without pressure from organisations representing sick and disabled benefit claimants, and the general public.

Here’s the decision, as described on the UK government website:

Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits will be suspended for the next 3 months, the government announced.

The temporary move, effective on Tuesday 17 March 2020, is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus as the country’s response ramps up in the ‘delay’ phase. We will ensure those who are entitled to a benefit continue to receive support, and that new claimants are able to access the safety net.

It affects claimants of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), those on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and some on Universal Credit, and recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

The suspension of face-to-face assessments also covers new claims to those benefits.

Note that the face-to-face assessments are only suspended – so beware of treachery.

It would be easy for the Tories to restore face-to-face assessments after a certain period (not necessarily three months; we don’t know how long the coronavirus crisis will last) – and decide that thousands of claimants have been overpaid, or even paid benefits they should not have received at all.

Let’s be honest – the assessment companies are now known to have falsified reports in the past, in order to prevent people receiving benefits they were owed, and with both Atos and Capita set to see their contracts renewed at huge cost to the public purse, there’s nothing to stop them doing it again.

And if benefits have been paid out, then it is likely the Tory government will want that money back.

So it seems likely the Tories are using the coronavirus crisis to create a debt trap for thousands upon thousands of vulnerable people – and hiding behind a veneer of compassion while they do it.

Source: Face-to-face health assessments for benefits suspended amid coronavirus outbreak – GOV.UK

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5 thoughts on “Tories suspend face-to-face benefit assessments amid coronavirus crisis – but what’s behind their compassionate veneer?

  1. trev

    According to Charlotte Hughes they have also suspended “ALL” face-to-face interviews at Jobcentres, though I have yet to discover if that only applies to Universal Credit as I have a JSA signing appointment in the morning (Tues) and I haven’t been told anything, so at this point I don’t know if they have suspended signing appointments for JSA, though they certainly ought to. Benefit payments could be made automatically for the foreseeable future without a signature and with jobsearch requirements also temporarily suspended. I suppose I’ll find out in the morning when I get to the Jobcentre.

  2. trev

    I rang the jobcentre half-hour ago and was told that JSA signing appointments are going ahead as usual and that all jobcentres are open as normal. I’ll be setting off there soon….

    1. Simon Cohen

      What! That’s disgusting, they should be suspending signing appointments. The economy is collapsing with mass unemployment on the way as the virus spreads and they still ask you to sign on?

      The DWP is an insane machine, hell bent on keeping the harassment going until the last minute.

      1. trev

        Yep, I attended my appointment yesterday and signed on as normal, business as usual in the Jobcentre, no one wearing face masks, standard 10 min. interview after waiting for 10 mins. prior to being called to the desk. Still expected to do the required jobsearch too, which means visiting either the Jobcentre or public library several times a week as I don’t have broadband and only limited internet on my phone. Library is full of people doing jobsearch every day. But at the same time we’re being advised to avoid social contact with friends and family, avoid pubs, restaurants, theatres, etc. It’s nuts. They could just suspend jobsearch requirements and sanctions and commence automatic Benefit payments for the foreseeable future.

  3. Dez

    Maybe they are afraid their system of face to face will collapse as soon as their own staff have a temperature or cough and stay away immediately leaving some pretty miffed applicants being unable to move on because of the absence of contract staff. Fiesty unrest in the offices and on the news is not something the Cons could do with at this time…..would not look good for their tainted image.

Comments are closed.