The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been forced into an humiliating U-turn on its disability benefit assessment policy following a successful campaign by a group of welfare activists.
The department were first forced to give benefit claimants the right to a sound recording of their face-to-face assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) a few years ago.
But the onus for providing recording equipment was placed on claimants instead of the assessment centres, meaning that many people who wanted to have their assessments for PIP and/or ESA recorced were unable to.
The change followed concern over the accuracy and fairness of assessments due to high levels of successful appeals at social security tribunals, with more than 60% of DWP decisions being over-turned in favour of claimants.
The DWP has now agreed that the responsibility for providing recording equipment for those who want their assessment recorced should lay with assessment centres themselves, and not benefit claimants.
Sound artist Hannah Kemp-Welch developed the Right to Record initiative after reviewing documents from claimants and noticing that they used cassette record players in their reviews.
Along with five disabled people from Barking and Dagenham, while also citing the Equality Act, they used sound recordings to pressurise the government into keeping their original promise that anyone who wants a recording of their assessment should get one.
Speaking to the local press, Hannah said: “I’m delighted we now have a written commitment from the government to uphold the Equality Act.
“It has been a privilege to work with Barking and Dagenham residents who also believe that art can be used for positive social change.
“They have bravely shared their testimonies to fight against injustice – all power to them.”
Liza Vallance, from Studio 3 Arts, who worked with Hannah in creating the recordings, said the outcome showed how art can be used to enact change.
“I’m so proud Studio 3 Arts has played a part in making this happen”, she said.
“As someone with a chronic condition and my own experience of navigating the system, I am personally honoured to be able to stand alongside Hannah and our group and say – we made this happen.”