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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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