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DWP Telephone Assessments

Claimant experience of telephone-based health assessments for PIP, ESA and UC

Woman on the phone
Published: July 2021

This research was commissioned by Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), with the aim of exploring how the new format of the telephone assessments was working, and whether benefit claimants were satisfied with the service.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments and Work Capability Assessments (WCA) included a face-to-face element to provide evidence towards the benefit decision. Since the introduction of the lockdown measures in March 2020, the usual face-to-face medical assessments were temporarily suspended and replaced with telephone assessments.

This research will allow DWP to improve the current service, and help shape future, provision of assessments for health and disability benefits.

Findings

  • If given the choice, 45% of PIP claimants would prefer telephone assessments and 42% would prefer face-to-face. For WCA, 62% of claimants would prefer telephone assessments and 23% would prefer face-to-face.
  • For both PIP and WCA, the most common reasons for preferring telephone assessment were not needing to travel, finding it easier or more comfortable, and less stressful.
  • For both PIP and WCA, the most common reasons for preferring face-to-face assessment were feeling that they would be better able to explain their condition, and being able to communicate and build rapport with the assessor more easily.
  • 75% of PIP claimants were satisfied with how the telephone assessment was conducted, as were 94% of WCA claimants. Of those PIP claimants who were dissatisfied, 38% described issues with the assessor’s behaviour such as appearing not to listen, understand or care about the claimant’s condition. The small number of WCA claimants who were dissatisfied made similar complaints.

Methodology

NatCen conducted two quota surveys of benefit claimants who have recently had a telephone assessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for Universal Credit (UC) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA). The surveys took place between July and September 2020 and involved a telephone interview lasting around 20 minutes, conducted by NatCen’s Telephone Unit (TU).

For the PIP survey, 837 participants were interviewed from a sample of 6,000 PIP claimants across England, Scotland and Wales. For the WCA survey, 1146 participants were interviewed from a sample of 8,000 Universal Credit (UC) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants.