Business as near to usual as possible at Kester Disability Rights

Kester Disability Rights continue to operate as close to normal as possible given the restrictions imposed by the Government in response to coronavirus.  I have one very part time assistant who is now on indefinite home-working.  I'm in the office on my own as usual, not being able to work at home due to not having the internet there, and my office being about four hundred yards away (we seem to have to justify every movement at the moment).

For anyone wanting facts about the coronavirus situation I would recommend this.

The DWP is extending PIP award periods as it is currently banned from doing face-to-face assessments.  So if your award was due for renewal there's no need to worry as it will be extended.  All ESA / Universal Credit reassessments are also on indefinite hold.

A potential problem with the current situation is if your benefits review would have resulted in an increase in your payments but is now delayed.  That means if you wait for the review you could end up with an unrecoverable under-payment.  In these circumstances you can "apply for a supersession".  This means telling the DWP your condition has worsened / your needs have increased.  The date you tell the DWP creates a point where any increase can be backdated to. 

Most social security appeal tribunals and county court hearings will now be by telephone or on the papers.  Telephone hearings tend to move along more briskly than face-to-face so can be a good solution for many people.  There are likely to be serious issues for people such as deaf claimants for whom a telephone hearing will not be suitable.  Video-conferencing should be made available.  Paper hearings can be okay as long as the claimant is able to submit an adequate case in writing.  A signed witness statement with a statement of truth can substitute for oral evidence.

Kester Disability Rights has been using different type of hearings for people with different needs for quite some time.  Personal hearings were never a good solution for many people but courts and tribunals were always keen on them.  This has forced a re-think.

Coronavirus implications no more face-to-face personal assessments

Virtually everyone Kester Disability Rights supports has increased vulnerability to coronavirus infection.

 

Anyone summonsed for a face-to-face personal assessment for any benefit should now have the summons withdrawn by the DWP following Government Guidance about avoiding contact with other people to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.  This is the latest position from the Government.

 

For Personal Independence Payments (PIP) there is provision in the regulations for telephone assessments, which should now be standard if the claim cannot be decided by scrutiny of documentary evidence.

 

All Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit based on incapacity for work awards are indefinite (despite the DWP leading many claimants to believe they are time limited).  It is therefore straightforward for the DWP to call off all reassessments. 

 

For those subject to mandatory work-related activity, work search and so on this should also be suspended as it involves unnecessary social contact and the Government guidance suggests this is recognised..

 

There are also implications for those with reduced immunity scoring increased points for PIP under Activity 3 – Managing Therapy / Monitoring a Health Condition and this will depend on individual circumstances.

 

In fact, stopping any disabled person's benefits during the coronavirus outbreack cannot legitimately be done (if it ever could be) because of problems getting advice and support in the current circumstances.  And because it would add entirely unnecessary additional stress to an already very difficult situation.

 

Deaths of claimants told to do things they obviously can’t do and having their benefits stopped for not doing them has not stopped the DWP carrying out unnecessary reassessments.  But it looks like coronavirus is having an impact.