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Claimants on disability benefits, including Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), will no longer be required to attend face-to-face assessments, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed.

The change also covers health checks for Universal Credit and recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

All face-to-face assessments for disability benefits will be suspended for the next three months, with the temporary move being effective from the 17th of March 2020. However, the DWP has ensured that those entitled to disability benefits will continue to receive support and new claimants will be able to access the safety net.

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This move is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to Coronavirus as the country’s response ramps up in the ‘delay’ phase.

The UK Government has introduced a number of new measures in order to keep vulnerable people as safe as possible from the risk of Coronavirus as well as give businesses support amid the global pandemic.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock recently suggested that over-70s will be asked to stay at home for up to four months in the coming weeks in order to prevent them from contracting the virus.

In the 2020 Budget announcement, Rishi Sunak MP also revealed a number of measures to help support businesses amid the pandemic, including granting statutory sick pay for everyone who has been advised to self-isolate as a result of Coronavirus and businesses with less than 250 employees will be refunded for sick pay payments for up to 14 days by the Government.

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.”

Anyone who has a face-to-face assessment appointment scheduled from the 17th of March onwards does not need to attend and will be contacted to discuss next steps and alternative arrangements, which could involve either telephone or paper-based assessments, the DWP has advised.

Although this new measure will be in effect for the next three months, the Government has said it will review this timescale regularly in accordance with Public Health advice.

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