Contrary to the belief of the Work and Pensions Committee, it appears that preparations are being made for the introduction of video recording of PIP assessments, though with no clear evidence that this is what claimants want.
Earlier this week we reported on the Work and Pensions Committee’s concern that no progress at all had been made on the issues of video recording PIP medicals or improving PIP or ESA claim packs.
However, we have now heard from a welfare rights worker who tells us that, behind the scenes, work on video recording is indeed taking place.
The worker, who has asked to remain anonymous, told us:
“Just to let you know that DWP have been working on this issue over the summer – they have been consulting with a very wide range of charities and volorgs [voluntary organisations] to get their views, and the views of service users, about the issues.
“These were both technical and policy (when would videoing start for each claimant; how many camera’s would be used as one camera would not capture two facial expressions; how would home visits be recorded; could it be turned off and restarted e.g. if client had some issues they didn’t want recorded; who would see the video; would claimant get a copy; would Tribunals want to sit through a 45 minute assessment; how long would they be kept; would they be passed over to ESA; how optional would it be; how would this fit with on-line bundles and on-line Appeals; are there alternatives and much more besides).
“It may be slow progress but it’s not no progress and I’d rather that DWP consulted and listened than just went ahead with what they think is best. They are certainly not ignoring the issue. Until these issues are resolved, actual implementation can’t be timetabled.”
Whilst it may be good news that consultation is taking place, there are clearly concerns with this approach.
Firstly, why is the consultation essentially a ‘covert’ one, with not even Work and Pensions committee being informed?
And why isn’t it a much wider consultation?
The Work and Pensions committee received an unprecedented level of responses when they asked claimants to share their experiences of PIP and ESA assessments.
So, why don’t the DWP simply ask publicly for claimants to give their views about whether they want to have their assessments recorded and, if so, whether they would prefer video or audio?
And then why not publish the responses, but with anonymity preserved?
That way everyone would know what claimants really think.
In the past, we have seen the DWP justify drastic changes to the system by claiming that they consulted widely with the voluntary sector and service users before making them. But the vast majority of claimants never get a chance to have a say and the organisations consulted with very often argue that the decisions do not reflect the feedback that they gave.
Our, admittedly tiny, sample of responses suggests that there is very little enthusiasm – and a good deal of deep concern – in relation to video recording, but a strong desire for assessments to be audio recorded.
The idea of video recording assessments seems to have been introduced out of the blue by a government minister, rather than as a result of claimant demand.
It would be infinitely preferable if claimants were openly asked for their opinion before the project becomes unstoppable.