To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to question 150714 answered on 12 February 2020, on Employment and Support Allowance: Work Capability Assessment, if he will make an estimate of the number of claimants who have had their contributory based employment and support allowance payments stopped because of the temporary suspension of face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits.
26 February 2021
Individuals claiming contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA(C)) do not have their benefit stopped because face-to-face assessments have been suspended. Entitlement to ESA(C) ends after 365 days unless the claimant has been placed in the Support Group.
Throughout the pandemic we have continued to assess people on paper evidence, using this route whenever possible. We also introduced telephone assessments in June 2020 in a phased approach which allowed us to build capability and improve processes. From 1 February 2021 the combination of paper and telephone assessments will enable us to ensure that claimants receive their correct benefit entitlement as quickly as possible and reduce the time claimants who may be entitled to a higher award have to wait for their assessment.
We recognise that some assessments have unfortunately not been completed within the 365 day window due to the pressures presented by the pandemic. If, following their assessment, and the subsequent decision, an ESA claimant is entitled to a higher rate of benefit, payments are backdated where appropriate, so that they do not lose out.
Where an individual’s contributory ESA ends, if they require further financial support, they may be able to claim Universal Credit, depending on their personal circumstances.