CONFIRMATION OF ASSESSMENT
In the main, people seem to be getting written notice of a telephone assessment, as they should, sometimes followed up with telephone confirmation. But it’s not always clear that they are getting the minimum 7 days that they are entitled to.
“I got a letter with a date and time for a phone assessment next week and I’m so stressed”
“I was given approx 10-12 days notice, by letter.”
“I then got a letter saying I would then have a telephone assessment due to Covid-19.”
“Capita confirmed this morning via a phone call that my telephone assessment (review) is still going ahead as scheduled later this week.”
“I had my Telephone Assessment, on Friday. I had 3 days notice, so it was quite a shock.”
We often hear from members that they have waited in for a home visit from a health professional who fails to turn up. They then discover that the assessor claims they visited and no-one was home.
It seems that the same thing can happen with a telephone assessment too.
“On Wednesday April 1 st (yes really) my wife had a telephone assessment booked at 1pm. All prepared with notes and water. We waited and waited and waited. Then at 1:30 I called the Capita “help desk” telephone line. I was told that the assessor had called at 1:10 and then at 1:20 but hadn’t received an answer on the telephone. I explained that we were both here, the phones both had a full signal. I was told it could be a problem at the assessors end and I should call back on Monday 6th to rearrange. I called today and was told that my wife’s case has been transferred back to the DWP and Capita could no longer help. I now have to ring the DWP to get the application transferred back to Capita! So far it has been 30 minutes in the queue”
LENGTH OF ASSESSMENT
Members have generally said that this was quite a lengthy assessment process, with somewhere in the region of an hour seeming quite common.
“I have just had my telephone assessment which lasted for 1 hour and 7 minutes”
“I have had one today and what a nightmare 1 1/2 hours”
“The assessment lasted approx 50 minutes”
“The telephone assessment lasted for around one hour and ten minutes.”
So far, the reports by members about the manner of the assessor have been largely positive. There is often a sensible scepticism about whether a friendly manner necessarily means a fair report. But it does seem that assessors find it easier to be pleasant on the phone than some do in person.
“I’m my son’s appointee and had a telephone assessment on his behalf. The guy was brilliant showed great empathy. I asked at the start could I get my copy of the PIP form I filled in which was no problem. I didn’t need to go back the form once as all he wanted was an expansion on my son’s limitations.”
“He was pleasant and patient with me, even chatty in parts. But I’m under no illusions as to why he was asking what he asked. He ended the call wishing me well, to rest and to expect a decision in 8 weeks time. Whether I get the decision I’d like, as in what I feel I’m entitled to, remains to be seen.”
“I had dla to pip telephone assessment last week, friendly lady, asked questions confirming how my condition affected my daily living, basically everything that I had put on pip application form was reiterated.”
“[The assessor] seemed very professional and encouraging. Whether that is reflected in the outcome remains to be seen.”
“I too just wanted to say that the PIP phone assessment I had was okay. The assessor was polite and respectful. I realize that a ‘nice’ assessor doesn’t necessarily equal a good result but it was not the terrible experience I was expecting.”
In a time of lockdown, finding a private space to take part in a telephone assessment may be a real problem for many claimants.
But there really is no excuse for assessors to breach client confidentiality, just because they are working from home.
So, we were particularly appalled to hear from one member who told us:
“At the start of the call, the assessor said I would be on ‘Speaker phone so she could type at the same time. I wasn’t bothered about that, until she spoke to her husband about him putting the kettle on ? Now I’m wondering, if their partner was listening to me, on the Speaker phone?”
READING THE PAPERS IN ADVANCE
When there is no possibility of observing the claimant in person, it seems even more important that the assessor has carefully read the PIP form and any other accompanying evidence. Whether this actually happens or not appears to vary.
“from snippets, the assessor said during our conversation, he seemed to have read my form and accompanying sheets so that reassured me a little.”
“seemed to have read my form and additional sheets from the things he mentioned throughout the assessment”
“I asked if she had read the form and 3 other pieces of evidence I sent stating I could walk less than 20 meters? She hadn’t seen the evidence. No I haven’t was the reply it’s not on the system. I phoned capita and asked if it was on the system , the capita agent on the phone said I’ll ring the health care professional to ask her, and she’d said the health care professionals had read them”
Given the length of time the assessments are taking, it seems that the health professionals are going through the same questions they would ask if they were carrying out a face-to-face assessment.
“The assessor ran through most of the questions that you can find in the guidance on this site (PIP assessment and review guide, p78 ‘Questions you may be asked at your medical assessment’),and seemed very professional and encouraging.”
“asked questions confirming how my condition affected my daily living, basically everything that I had put on pip application form was reiterated.”
“He didn’t ask very much about my mobility (apart from could I use the stairs if I went out of my front door? – although he did acknowledge he knew I didn’t venture outdoors – was I able to move about my home? So I’m not sure if the few mobility questions were a good sign or not. The questions were more on the Care side of things – do I cook if so do I use the main cooker? what do I cook when I’m able? how often do I bathe? do I use my washing machine? do I manage my medication? Do I use a computer? how do I pay my bills?”
UNCERTAINTY ABOUT WHO CAN GIVE EVIDENCE
It is well established in DWP guidance that claimants can have someone with them at a face-to-face assessment to help them give evidence. But this is something that does not seem to have been addressed by assessment providers in relation to telephone assessments, though there is no question that the same guidance should apply.
“I am the appointee for my son who has mental health problems. A phone assessment is scheduled for next week. My son doesn’t ever speak to anyone on the phone due to anxiety issues. Does anyone know if the assessor is likely to continue the assessment with myself only or terminate it due to non-participation by my son?”
“My partner has a telephone assessment on Thursday. Told him it could last for I hour .He has copd and heart problems. I asked could I speak for him as he gets very breathless they said no he has to speak himself.”
NOT WANTING TO USE PHONE
Some people were very unhappy with the idea of a telephone assessment. One person clearly had not been made aware of the possibility of a conference call being set up.
“I feel very down and out about this [telephone assessment] as it’s breaching my “self isolation” as I could not go through it alone so my father who also falls into the vulnerable category must assist me and come into my home. I also feel a phone assessment would not highlight my health issues.”
“At a face-to-face assessment (with me present which reassures my relative) the assessor will see their condition. However if a paper assessment – there are no recent psychiatric reports – I fear the outcome. If a phone assessment – I know my relative cannot cope with talking to a stranger on the phone and may well put the phone down or say anything to end the conversation after 5 minutes. I have asked GP to send me letter stating relative cannot cope with phone assessment but realise after this post that now I should ask GP to write more about their condition. I still fear the outcome. But thank Benefits and Work for all the help you give everyone.”
GLAD TO USE PHONE
But for some people, a telephone assessment is a definite improvement on having to attend an assessment centre.
“got a letter “inviting” me for a f2f in March (despite going into a great deal about my anxiety/agoraphobia and mobility problems on my forms). My stress levels went sky high. I then got a letter saying I would then have a telephone assessment due to Covid-19. I have to say I was relieved to get a phone assessment as I truly could not have made a f2f.”