PIP and the Value of Further Evidence – a Follow Up Report
A report issued today has found that the Department for Communities has implemented a number of recommendations relating to how it uses further evidence in support of Personal Independence Payments, but that it must do more to improve the system for claimants.
‘PIP and the Value of Further Evidence – a follow-up report’ monitors the progress made since June 2021 when the Ombudsman found that repeated failings by the Department for Communities in how it handled further evidence amounted to ‘systemic maladministration’.
Further evidence is the name given to information supplied by a claimant’s carer or health professional (such as their GP). It is used in addition to the information gathered during a claimant’s consultation with a Disability Assessor.
Ombudsman Margaret Kelly made 33 recommendations on how the system could be improved, and the follow-up report shows that out of these, 10 have been fully met, 18 partly met, and 5 not met.
In particular Ms Kelly welcomed the fact there is now:
- Clearer information to claimants about how further evidence is gathered and used;
- Better training and guidance to Case Managers so they can obtain further evidence when it is needed;
- More information to claimants about the mandatory reconsideration process where claimants can challenge decisions, and also about the additional review stage; and,
- A better process for investigating complaints about further evidence.
However, she said she still has concerns that:
- Decision letters sent to claimants are still difficult to understand;
- It is still not clear to claimants if their health professionals will be, or have been, contacted during the assessment of their claim; and,
- Further focus is required to improve the data collated about the role of further evidence to help the Department to get decisions right first time.
Welcoming the progress made so far, yet noting the recommendations still to be met, Ms Kelly said:
“I will continue to engage with the Department for Communities, stakeholders and advocacy organisations to check on progress and to ensure further improvements take place.”