Maximus deny refusing to allow up-to-date evidence to be submitted, but members tell us it’s been happening.
Benefits and Work members continue to report problems with ESA50 forms, used as part of the work capability assessment (WCA) process.
Initially we were hearing from claimants who said they had never received an ESA50. The big issue now, members tell us, is Maximus using ESA50s that are over two years old and refusing to allow new ones to be submitted.
Two year old forms
Last month, Maximus told us that everyone being assessed or reassessed for ESA should receive an ESA50 and that it was not their policy to refuse anyone the opportunity to complete one.
Since then, however, we have heard from a number of members who have been asked to a face-to-face assessment even though they have not completed an ESA50 since 2013. When some members have asked to be sent a new ESA50 this has been refused. Instead, they have been told that they can tell the health professional at their assessment about any changes to their condition since the ESA50 was completed.
Last week Gardiner55 posted a comment saying:
“Assessment for my son notified by Maximus but no ESA50 had been completed recently. Rang Maximus and asked for a form to be issued but point blank refused saying they had a form completed in 2013!!!
“Rang DWP and they 'advised' to attend otherwise SANCTIONS asked for a form to be issued but again refused.”
Also last week, Izzy posted:
“Help!! I got called to another medical after 26 mths on esa. What a farce got zero points and used info from Esa50 form completed in January 2013 although my health and its effects on my everyday activities deteriorated.”
Clearly this is not satisfactory. The whole point of an ESA50 is to allow a claimant to provide detailed and up-to-date information about how their condition affects them.
We approached Maximus about this and a spokesperson told us:
“We would never refuse a customer the opportunity to submit an up-to-date ESA50.
“Any customer who believes that the information on their ESA is out of date is welcome to complete another form and either send it to us, or bring it along to their assessment.”
We specifically asked Maximus: do you have a policy on when and whether to allow claimants to submit an additional ESA50 if the one being used is very dated?
Maximus told us:
“Yes, we encourage customers to provide an up-to-date representation of how their condition affects them and their ability to manage everyday tasks. If they submit another ESA50 we always accept this.”
We also asked Maximus: if claimants download and complete a new ESA50 and take it on the day of the assessment, does the assessor have a duty to read it, add it to their file and take the evidence into account?
“Yes, all evidence presented on the day is considered by the assessor including updated ESA50s.”
What you can do
So, according to Maximus management, everyone gets sent an ESA50 before they have an assessment. If you believe yours is out-of-date, or that you haven’t actually received one, you can download an ESA50, complete it and either post it to Maximus or take it with you on the day.
Under no circumstances should you be refused the opportunity to provide an up-to-date ESA50.
Maximus appear to be very keen to avoid criticism of the service they provide. Whilst they aren’t admitting that problems have occurred in the first place, it does seem likely they are working with staff – many of whom were previously employed by Atos - to try to prevent them happening in the future.
So, if you are told you can’t provide an up-to-date ESA50, we suggest you download one and send it in anyway, along with a copy of this article. Take a copy of your ESA50 and this article with you to your assessment, as well, in case it hasn’t been put on your file.
In addition, make a formal complaint to Maximus customer services and let us know too.
The WCA remains deeply unfair, but together, we can at least make sure Maximus always gives claimants the chance to provide detailed, accurate and up-to-date evidence.