In October 2021, JUSTICE responded to the Department of Work and Pensions’ Shaping Future Support – The Health and Disability Green Paper consultation.
The response drew upon the JUSTICE and AJC Reforming Benefits Decision-Making report, which looked at improving the administrative and procedural aspects of the benefits system to ensure the system works well for everyone.
Our response highlighted the need for a number of procedural changes to the benefits system, including the following:
- Better data collection and evaluation on the disabilities and health conditions of claimants. This is vital in order to understand the accessibility and support needs of claimants.
- Improvements to the quality of the health and disability assessments, including through opt-in audio recording of assessments; clarity over who obtains medical evidence; claimant choice of assessment mode; assessment by those with specialist knowledge of the claimant’s condition, and an end to assessment outsourcing.
- Recognition of claimants as experts in their own disability / health condition so that there must be a strong evidential basis and explanation for rejecting a claimant’s own account of their impairment.
- Clear structures and rules to prevent the inconsistent and unfair application of discretion, including a standard list of topics to cover in initial interview, longer interview times for individuals with disabilities, additional opportunities to avoid sanction through a ‘yellow card’ system and to explain non-compliance.
- The adoption of a ‘no wrong door’ approach to Universal Credit including meaningful paper-based and telephone channels of engagement.
- Improving routes of redress which claimants, particularly those with health conditions and disabilities, often find lengthy, daunting and stressful, by removing the mandatory reconsideration stage so claimants can appeal directly to the Social Security Tribunal.
- Better provision of advice, information and support through improved signposting, better use of video, an expansion of Help to Claim and the creation of an advice portal providing a comprehensive and quality-controlled list of advice organisations, where they are based and what they are able to assist with.
- We also strongly welcome the introduction of independent advocacy support which should be available throughout the benefits process and should be entirely independent from the DWP.