Face-to-face assessments for Universal Credit, PIP and ESA have been suspended - here’s what you need to know

By Rhona Shennan
Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 12:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 12:18 pm
This is what you need to know about face to face assessments being suspended (Photo: Shutterstock)
This is what you need to know about face to face assessments being suspended (Photo: Shutterstock)

With the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus continuing to spread across the globe, the UK government is moving into the ‘delay’ phase of the four step action plan to battle the virus. Some social distancing measures have been implemented - one of which is the temporary cancelling of face-to-face assessments for those claiming sickness and disability benefits.

This is what you need to know about the suspension of face-to-face assessments for Universal Credit, PIP and ESA and what you need to do if you had an appointment scheduled.

Why have the appointments been cancelled?

The announcement from the government states that the meetings are classed as an “unnecessary risk of exposure” for vulnerable people.

The move is described as a “precautionary measure” which reflects the decision for the government to move past the “containment” phase and into the delay phase of the four step plan to battle the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus.

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.”

Can I still claim my benefits?

The government notice explains, “Anyone already receiving PIP, ESA, Universal Credit or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, will continue to receive their current payments as normal while alternative arrangements are put in place to review or reassess their claim.”

The announcement stated that those entitled to a benefit will receive support, and that “new claimants are able to access the safety net”.

Anyone who had a face-to-face assessment appointment scheduled from Tuesday 17 March onwards does not need to attend - you will be contacted in order to discuss the next steps and alternative arrangements.

The alternative arrangements could involve eight telephone or paper based assessments.

What if I need to make a new claim?

For those who need to make a new claim for financial support during the virus outbreak, the government states that those affected by coronavirus, whether you’ve been instructed to stay at home or are infected with the virus, will be able to apply for Universal Credit and receive up to a month’s advance up front without physically attending a jobcentre.

The government also stated that the seven waiting days for ESA for new claimants will not apply if that person is suffering from the virus, or is required to stay at home - and this will be payable from day one.

How long are face-to-face assessments cancelled for?

This temporary suspension of meetings is effective from Tuesday 17 March 2020, and will be in place for the next three months.

“We will be regularly reviewing this position in line with Public Health advice,” the notice said.

What is the ‘delay’ phase?

The so-called delay phase is the second step in the government’s four step plan to battle the Covid-19 outbreak, with the first stage of ‘containment’ already behind us.

The delay phase is designed to slow down the peak of the outbreak, impeding the number of confirmed cases.

In the delay phase, the public have already seen various social distancing measures, like large events and public gatherings being cancelled.