I would like to update the House on the Department’s plans and progress, under the Health Transformation Programme, to reform assessment services for Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Owing to Covid-19, we have had to review our commercial approach and our revised approach is set out below.
There is no change to our ambition: the Government remains committed to developing a transformed service that will support those with disabilities and health conditions, through:
- the creation of a single, integrated health assessment service;
- a single digital platform developed by DWP;
- developing this new service on a small scale in a defined part of the country, by creating a Transformation Area, which would be a safe environment to test, adapt and learn from new ideas and processes.
These measures will make a real difference to the millions of claimants who use our services.
We had previously announced that we would be undertaking a procurement exercise to establish contracts for conducting Work and Capability Assessments (WCA) and PIP health assessments from 1 August 2021. The impact of Covid-19 means it is not possible to launch that procurement at this time.
We recognise that it is vital for our claimants to have a safe and stable service. Consequently, my Department intends to explore options to extend the current contracts for up to two years, which will ensure continuity of services when the current contracts end on 31 July 2021. We will continue to review these extensions to ensure we only extend for the time we need to effectively respond to the consequences of Covid-19.
The extension period will provide time to fully understand and evaluate the impacts of Covid-19 on these critical services, ahead of future procurements.
We recognise that there are positive lessons to be learned from our experience of delivering our services during Covid-19, and the changes we introduced. We are reviewing these and they will inform future delivery, where appropriate. We expect these to be reflected in our wider transformation plans, including the forthcoming Green Paper and subsequent policy decisions regarding the delivery of health assessments.
A key objective of the Health Transformation Programme is to improve the trust and transparency in the assessment process. We remain focused on improving the claimant experience and we will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure their insights and experiences are incorporated into the development of the new single, integrated health assessment service and to ensure we are delivering the high quality service claimants rightly expect and deserve.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords