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Claimants on disability benefits, including Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), will no longer be required to attend face-to-face assessments amid the Coronavirus outbreak, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed.

The change also covers health checks for Universal Credit and recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

All face-to-face assessments for disability benefits will be suspended for the next three months, with the temporary move being effective from the 17th of March 2020. However, the DWP has confirmed that those entitled to disability benefits will continue to receive support and new claimants will still be able to access the safety net.

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This move is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to Coronavirus as the country’s response ramps up in the ‘delay’ phase.

Events up and down the country are being cancelled and rescheduled due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, with both Naidex and Med-Tech Innovation Expo postponing their shows until later in the year.

In the 2020 Budget announcement, Rishi Sunak MP also revealed a number of measures to help support those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, whether primarily or as a secondary cause of the outbreak.

Importantly, the UK Government announced a COVID-19 Response fund, initially set at £5 billion, to help: the NHS treat Coronavirus patients; local authority actions to support social care services and vulnerable people; and ensure that funding is available so other public services are prepared and protected.

Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey said: “As we move into the next phase of our response to coronavirus, it is right we take steps to protect those with health problems.

“Temporarily suspending face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits will allow us to ensure we continue to provide a safety net for those in need, while removing unnecessary risk of exposure to this disease.”

Anyone who has a face-to-face assessment appointment scheduled from the 17th of March onwards does not need to attend and will be contacted to discuss next steps and alternative arrangements, which could involve either telephone or paper-based assessments, the DWP has advised.

Although this new measure will be in effect for the next three months, the Government has said it will review this timescale regularly in accordance with Public Health guidance.

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