I would like to update the House on the Department’s plans, under the Health Transformation Programme, to reform assessment services for Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit (UC) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP). In March 2019, we announced that we would transition towards an integrated assessment service, with a single digital platform developed by DWP. Today I am pleased to announce the next steps in these plans, which are a key part of this Government’s commitment to transform how we support disabled people.
Our claimants include some of the most vulnerable in society and so our approach is based on delivering this complex and important transformation safely and carefully. To that end, we will initially develop the new service on a small scale in a defined part of the country, a Transformation Area.
For claimants in this Transformation Area, assessments will be conducted by the DWP, rather than outsourced to providers. This will give us the flexibility to explore new ideas including:
- trialling better ways of carrying out face-to-face assessments;
- how to triage more effectively so that only those people who need a face-to-face assessment will have to undergo one;
- how to make it easier for claimants to understand the evidence they need to provide and why;
- how to remove the need for claimants to give the same information twice;
- how to ensure that claimants are aware of the whole range of support available to them both from DWP and more widely.
Our ambition in developing the new service is that it captures the experience and insights of those who use the service or who represent users of the service. We have already acted on this and will continue to drive forward engagement on the future of the health and disability agenda through our upcoming Green Paper.
I can also inform the House that today we will be issuing two Prior Information Notices to advise the market that the Department is seeking to procure contracts to deliver PIP and WCA assessments from 1 August 2021 to ensure continuity of service when the current contracts end on 31 July. The Transformation Area will start in Autumn 2021 and operate alongside these contracts. We will work with the successful providers to ensure continuous improvement in their service, including how developments in the Transformation Area can benefit delivery by contracted providers.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords