The DWP have kept secret changes to guidance to Atos health professionals which may mean many people with visual impairments and hearing impairments have missed out on being placed in the support group.

The guidance relates to the understanding communication activity. Previously Atos health professionals had been told that claimants must have problems both with seeing and hearing before they could be awarded points.

But new guidance uncovered by RNIB tells staff that a claimant who has normal hearing but very poor sight to the extent of being unable to read 16 point print and who also cannot read Braille will be likely to be placed in the support group.

A claimant who has normal vision and can easily understand the written word, but who cannot hear at all and is unable to lip read is also likely to be placed in the support group.

There are a number of concerns about the accuracy of the new guidance –​ including references to Braille - and about whether Atos computer systems have been updated to reflect it.

In addition, there is no evidence that the DWP are revisiting decisions from March to September 2011 where claimants were assessed using the ‘​wrong’​ guidance. RNIB are pursuing the matter.

If you are concerned that you may have missed out when the old guidance was being used, or have been wrongly assessed since, please try to get advice from an advice agency about whether an appeal is possible or advisable.

Members can download a copy of the guidance from the ESA section of the members area.

Members can download a copy of the Medical Services update to understanding communication from the ESA section of the members area.

Our ESA on physical health grounds guide has been updated to reflect the new guidance.


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