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Block on remote assessments stopping PI claimants getting help

By John Hyde  >>

The government’s refusal to accept remote assessment for certain benefits is leaving some personal injury claimants destitute during lockdown, personal injury lawyers have reported.

Claimants who have brought a case against their employer are being denied access to industrial injuries disablement benefit (IIDB) because Covid restrictions do not allow for the required face-to-face assessment.

Lawyers and case managers say they have offered to furnish the Department for Work and Pensions with necessary paperwork and clients’ medical record to show the extent of their injuries, but the government continues to insist on an in-person assessment. This has left applications for IIDB stalled until 2021 and means that claimants are stuck in a precarious financial position.

Joshua Hughes, a partner at claimant firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, said clients have found themselves in an unmanageable situation through no fault of their own without the assistance they need to meet existing financial commitments.

Hughes said: ‘It surely cannot be the case that a claimant injured during the course of his employment, who clearly meets the relevant criteria for IIDB, is simply told to ‘make-do’ because of unnecessary bureaucracy or maladministration at worst within the government and/or DWP.

‘If other welfare benefit applications can progress during the pandemic, it is perverse that IIDB cannot. This is particularly so at a time when courts and parties to personal injury litigation have shown themselves to be ready and willing to adapt their practice to allow for meetings and even medical assessments to take place virtually.’

Case managers say they have been told that IIDB is not a ‘mainstream’ social security benefit and that other benefits are available. The DWP has advised that payments will be backdated to the initial application date, but this does not solve the immediate problems for injured claimants.

A DWP spokesperson said the department continues to accept new claims for IIDB and is prioritising claims for people with terminal illnesses so they can get the support they are entitled to.

He added: ‘We are looking closely at increasing both the volume and type of IIDB claims we assess on paper and will continue to work at pace to test new ways to carry out IIDB assessments. Face-to-face assessments will restart when it is safe for both the public and our staff to do so.’

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)