Reduce the stress of a face-to-face assessment

Most face-to-face assessments have currently been suspended due to coronavirus, though they are being reintroduced from May 2021 for some claimants. You are most likely to have a telephone assessment instead, though some assessments will be on paper only and video assessments are being introduced.

The thought of having to attend a face-to-face assessment for universal credit causes enormous levels of stress for some claimants.

In fact, not everyone has to have an assessment. In addition to the above provisions in relation to Coronavirus, many people with long-term health conditions are awarded UC without one.

Many people with long-term health conditions are awarded universal credit without one.

The type of condition you have, the amount of detail you included in your UC50 form and the level of supporting evidence, especially medical evidence, you are able to provide will all make a difference.

But, if you do have to have a face-to-face assessment, you can help to reduce the stress by ensuring that you are as well prepared as possible for the appointment.

Our guides to claiming universal credit explain how the assessment is carried out, how the health professional’s software works and tell you what questions you are likely to be asked.


Health Assessment Advisory Service (HAAS)

Universal credit assessments are carried out by a private sector company called Maximus, operating under the name of the Health Assessment Advisory Service (HAAS).

The assessments were previously carried out by another company called Atos.

The assessments and Atos itself, got such a terrible reputation that they gave up the contract in the end, and it was handed over to Maximus.

Whilst the company itself may have changed, the assessment system and the LiMA software used to carry it out remain the same.

There have been calls by many disability groups, charities and MPs for the system to be completely overhauled or abandoned.

In the meantime, however, the better prepared you are for your face-to face assessment, the better the chances of getting an accurate result.


Should you have your UC assessment recorded?

Claiming universal credit on mental health grounds

One of the things you will need to decide is whether you want to have your assessment audio recorded.

You are not allowed to do this yourself, unless your recording equipment meets the strict criteria set by the DWP.

Instead, Maximus provide a dual recording machine to produce two CD recordings of your medical, one of which is given to you at the end of your examination and the other is kept by Maximus.

Choosing to use the equipment provided by Maximus may lead to delays in getting an appointment, however, as there never seem to be enough recorders to go round.

Many people believe that knowing that they are being recorded means that the health professional is less likely to make inaccurate statements or unreasonable assumptions.

Other people have had their assessment recorded and are still astonished by the difference between what happened at their assessment and what the health professional wrote in the UC85 form that they completed on the day.

But at least, if you have a recording, you have evidence you can present to a tribunal about what actually happened at your assessment.

In the end, the decision about whether to have your medical recorded is one only you can make, but we would say there are very good reasons for doing so.


Can you have a home assessment?

If you are unable to attend a medical examination centre because of your health condition or disability, then you should be able to have a medical at home. Medical evidence that you are unable to travel to an examination centre will make a big difference to the strength of your case for having a home medical, although the law does not say that you have to provide such evidence. If you need a home medical and are refused one, you should make it clear at the appointment that you are unhappy about it going ahead. You could also ask your intervene on your behalf and request a home medical.

If you are unable to use stairs safely in an emergency, make sure you check whether the centre you are being sent to is on the ground floor as soon as you receive your appointment. If it isn’t, contact Maximus and ask them to make alternative arrangements.


Knowing what happens at your UC assessment

Claiming universal credit on physical health grounds

It really makes a difference if you know what form the assessment takes and what questions you are likely to be asked.

  • Our detailed guides to claiming universal credit include information on:
  • The unfair assumptions that may be made based on how you travel to your assessment.
  • Your right to have someone with you at the assessment.
  • Your right to have your assessment audio recorded.
  • The software the health professional will be using at your assessment.
  • The questions you are likely to be asked at your medical.
  • The visual observations the health professional may be making before, during and after your assessment and the assumptions that may be made based on them without saying anything to you.


Stop panicking and start preparing

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