Investigation and assessment into the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Our action

We are investigating whether the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, or his employees or agents, have broken equality law. The Secretary of State oversees the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

We suspect that they may have failed to anticipate and make reasonable adjustments for disabled people with a mental impairment during health assessment determinations for the following assessments and benefits:

  • Work Capability Assessments (WCA) for:
    • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
    • Universal Credit (UC)
  • PIP Assessment for:
    • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

'Mental impairment' is the term used in the Equality Act 2010.

Health assessments are done as part of an application for the benefits listed above. A health assessment determination is the decision made by health assessors about whether a consultation or medical examination is needed as part of a person’s health assessment. If needed, this includes the format it should take such as at a health centre, at home, via video link or over the telephone.

We are also assessing the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions' compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) when developing, implementing and monitoring policy guidance relevant to health assessment determinations.

Read the Terms of Reference for the investigation and assessment

Read an Easy Read summary of why we are doing this investigation and assessment

Survey

Our call for evidence survey will open at 09.00 on 22 May 2024. It will close at 23:59 on 22 August 2024.

We are not able to consider evidence from individual members of the public. The list below gives a guide to the groups we are accepting submissions from:   

  • whistleblowers, defined for this investigation as:
    • current or former Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) employees
    • current or former employees of third-party organisations who carry out health assessments on behalf of DWP, including Atos (also known as Independent Assessment Services or IAS), Capita, Maximus (also known as Centre for Health and Disability Assessments), Serco, Ingeus
  • charities, third sector and advocacy organisations, including disabled people’s organisations
  • welfare benefits advisors
  • legal professionals
  • medical professionals
  • academics and researchers

For information about how we will process your information, read our Privacy Notice. Some data may be collected through the SmartSurvey website when you complete the survey. To find out more about this, refer to SmartSurvey's privacy policy. We will only keep information on SmartSurvey for a limited period.

Alternative routes to submitting your information

If you are not able to fill in the survey due to a disability and need reasonable adjustments, you can: 

What we will do

Our investigation will consider whether the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions may have committed unlawful acts under the Equality Act 2010.

We will examine the information submitted via our survey and consider whether we need to ask survey respondents for any further evidence. We will also consider publicly available information.

Alongside this, we will ask DWP to provide relevant information and evidence to help us. We expect them to cooperate fully with our requests.

Why we are involved

We are the regulator of the Equality Act 2010. We take enforcement action where we suspect that the law might have been broken.

For this investigation, our suspicions relate to:

  • DWP policy guidance itself
  • assessors following the DWP policy guidance
  • assessors applying a standard approach to health assessment determinations for claimants with a mental impairment
  • policy guidance causing or inducing breaches by health assessors

 Read more about our unique powers.

Support

We are not able to give individual advice about equality and human rights issues. For general equality and human rights support:

Contact the Equality and Advisory Support Service (EASS):

Phone: 0808 800 0082

Or email using the contact form on the EASS website.

The EASS is an independent advice service, not operated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

We are not able to give advice about individual benefit cases or problems. If you need help or support, the organisations below might be helpful:

Citizens Advice - For independent, free advice provided by a network of charities online, over the phone and in person on a wide variety of issues including benefits, work, debt, housing, family and immigration.

You can contact an adviser through Citizens Advice’s national phone service:

Adviceline (England): 0800 144 8848 Advicelink (Wales): 0800 702 2020 

Adviceline is available 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

StepChange - For independent, free debt advice.

We understand that reading about our investigation might raise difficult or upsetting issues for you. If you are feeling upset or anxious and need to talk to someone, contact the 24-hour Samaritans helpline on 116 123. You can also email them at jo@samaritans.org

Visit the Samaritans website

Confidential support and advice for whistleblowers:

Protect – An independent charity offering free, confidential advice about whistleblowing.

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