10 May 2017
What: DWP releases its new guidance for Maximus assessors, drawn up following the Mental Health Resistance Network court case [see 22 May 2013 and 12 March 2015]. Previous guidelines for Maximus assessment staff stated that further medical evidence must be obtained if, for example, there was evidence of a previous suicide attempt, suicidal ideation or self-harm. DWP’s new guidance states that further medical evidence can now also be requested at the “filework” stage – the stage before any face-to-face assessment is carried out – if it is felt that “further information would be helpful”. But it also says that if the Maximus healthcare professional decides there is no need to seek this further medical evidence, they will not need to justify that decision. This shows that DWP disregarded a recommendation made more than four years ago by Professor Malcolm Harrington in his third review of the WCA, which said that any decision not to seek further evidence “must be justified”. There are also concerns that DWP never carried out the large-scale pilot, as it said it would, but only a feasibility study involving less than 250 people. Rakesh Singh, a Public Law Project solicitor, says: the DWP is failing “to learn lessons from the tragic suicides of those who had been subjected to the WCA and follow the recommendations of the independent bodies who had investigated their deaths”.
Why significant: This shows DWP again resisting the need to seek further medical evidence, and the advice of its own independent reviewer.