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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed plans to begin reintroducing face-to-face assessments for health and disability benefits, including for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

It says this decision comes in line with the latest public health guidance and adhering to strict COVID-safe measures.

PIP helps with some of the extra costs caused by long-term disability, ill-health or terminal ill-health. The finances could be used to purchase essential mobility equipment for people with long-term conditions, facilitate vital home adaptations or help cover the costs of a carer.

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Under normal circumstances, disabled people would attend face-to-face appointments for PIP assessments, where an assessor, contracted by the DWP, would determine what level of award would be most suitable for the individual, if at all.

PIP is made up of two parts: daily living and mobility. The daily living part covers activities such as struggling to prepare food, difficulties with washing and bathing, or struggling to communicate with others. The mobility part covers difficulties going out and moving around. People might be eligible for one or both parts of PIP, depending on their level of need.

In March 2020, DWP announced that all face-to-face assessments for PIP, as well as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), would be suspended due to COVID-19 being in high circulation throughout the UK. This decision intended to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus.

Instead, new disability benefits claims were carried out via telephone or paper-based assessments, where appropriate, to ensure disabled people could still access the vital support they needed.

Now, the DWP has confirmed that face-to-face assessments for PIP, ESA and Universal Credit will resume from May, initially for those who are unable to be fully assessed by other channels.

People will be invited for their appointments by letter, which will clearly set out what to expect at their appointment.

Face-to-face assessments will take place alongside existing paper-based assessments and telephone assessments, which will continue to take place where suitable.

The department says it has worked with its assessment providers to ensure that assessment centres are fully compliant with COVID-19 safety measures. It outlines that this reintroduction of face-to-face assessments will be kept under review to ensure the DWP’s approach remains aligned with the latest public health guidance.

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