Pre-assessment

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  • #20899
    Anonymous
    Guest

    At the moment we are considering introducing a pre-assessment function, as part of a mini restructure. I’ve personally got mixed feelings about this and am especially concerned about the underlying assumption, which many possess, that this a less skilled role than, (and indeed detachable from), that of a HB/CTB assessor.

    Anyway, we envisage the pre-assessment staff’s primary role to be one of intercepting claims as they emerge from our intake/scanning function and despatching the initial round of further evidence letters. The general idea is that when the assessors get the folders they will be left with only the more ‘expert’ tasks to perform.

    Thinking back to when I was an assessor, I seem to remember that working out what evidence I needed to request was often one of the more complex parts of claims processing.

    I’d be really interested to receive (and appreciative for) comments from anyone with experience or views of pre-assessment. Does it work? What functions do they perform? What skill level is required in reality? etc….

    #3871
    mclaren
    Participant

    Are you referring to verification staff?

    We have tier of staff (between the mailroom/scanning staff and benefit assessors) who carry out the verifiction of HB/CTB claims as per the requirements of the Verification Framework.

    When the benefit assessors get the claims all the evidence is there and they just ❗ have to process the claim. The benefit assessor is the decision maker, so it’s up to them to reject the validation if further, usually out of the ordinary, evidence/info is required. The benefit assessors also have the function of calculating the rate of income/capital/rent etc to be used in the claim. The verification staff just request the appropriate evidence and ensure it meets VF requirments.

    This process works well for us!

    #3872
    Simo
    Participant

    there is a thought which i can go along with that gathering evidence is more complex than actually processing the claim. I do think this would depend on whether the gatherer is making the decision that info is acceptable and the person processing the claim accepts that.

    This is probably the most important thing if you go down this route – deciding on roles and who does what, who decides whether claim is complete?

    #3873
    Simo
    Participant

    there is a thought which i can go along with that gathering evidence is more complex than actually processing the claim. I do think this would depend on whether the gatherer is making the decision that info is acceptable and the person processing the claim accepts that.

    This is probably the most important thing if you go down this route – deciding on roles and who does what, who decides whether claim is complete?

    #3874
    Anonymous
    Guest

    I have mixed feelings about pre-assessment work…

    I understand the reasons behind the decision to create a pre-assessment level – to allow the assessor to concentrate on assessment, not clerical functions… a great idea in theory…

    However, in practice… it can be more difficult… esp. in PT claims, and self-employed, students… basically anyone not a GPC CTB only case… The problems I have experienced are to do with the level of evidence needed… for instance… in absence of a ‘proper’ written tenancy between landlord and tenant, what level of ‘written’ proof is acceptable? What is a ‘full profit and loss account’? What happens when the person tick’s the ‘arrived in the UK recently’ box for themselves or partner? When is a new R/O decision needed?

    These are decisions that in the main, only an assessor can accurately determine… The same applies to bank statements etc… so you have a claimant that is paid by BACs or Chq, but the claimant states they have no bank account, and that is accepted by the pre-assessor… the assessor can not however assess…

    Basically, I have found that the quality of the pre-assessment derives from the level of skill and experience (and training, but knowledge of regs and experience is worth more), of the pre-assessor… so you either have to have scale 5 or 6 pre-assessors to get the info you need, or continue to pay clerical grades, and tolerate a given ‘acceptable’ percentage of pre-assessments that will never be complete…

    Obviously, none of these problems is insurmountable… Many assessment staff will never agree on acceptable levels of proof, but I have found that pre-assessment can create more problems than it is worth, unless the pre-assessors are given ‘high’ levels of training and supervision, (which defeats the object?), and can in fact frustrate assessors when they receive ‘complete’ cases to assess, which then turn out to be anything but…

    #3875
    Anonymous
    Guest

    I worked fro LB Lewisham in 1993 when they had pre-assessors, it was abandoned because it only delayed putting the claim into payment.

    Having clerical staff do pre assesment work results in more unnecessary further evidence letters being sent out as quite often a good assessor would otherwise be able to cross reference evidence obtained from a number of sources and put the claim into payment.

    A very good example of poor pre- assessment is where a claimant produced 4 non consecutive payslips covering weeks 2 to 6. Most if not all pre- assesors (and a lot of assesors) would send out for more payslips, and insist on 5 consecutive ones. This is one of the most unnecessary tasks I can think of becuse the average pay can be deduced from the cumulative totals. Other examples are insisting on evidence of child benefit where the claimant is getting a passporting benefit, inisting on evidence of non dependants income where the claiamnt gets DLA care, and inisting on seeing a new tenancy agreement where a previous assured shorthold has expired, but no new assured shorthold tenancy has been issued.

    All of the above examples are very common and to demand such evidence has no legal basis

    I was opposed to LB Lewisham’s piloting VF when it first started as it was and remains bureaucratic and prescritive. VF changed the culture in Lewisham from one of maximising entitlement whilst at the same time taking a common sense line on fraud prevention and detection, to one of almost seeing every claimant as a potential if not actual fraudster.

    It is hardly surprising that benefit is under claimed

    I dont think VF did anything to prevent more than the more petty frauds I still hold that view several years down the line.

    #3876
    karent
    Participant

    Stainsby I couldn’t agree with you more.
    We met with the Department of Work and Pensions Housing Benefit Security Division in January. To cut a long story short we have bowed to them so they can get a tick in their box and have agreed to do the Verification Framework (VF) for Review claims only. The bizarre thing is that the VF Security Manual, which is the ‘bible’ for VF, states that the minimum requirement to review a claim is to obtain details of only those circumstances that the claimant has told us have changed……….so if the claimant says their earnings remain as they were before, VF guidance says we don’t have to ask for proof of this.
    Unbelievable, and I told the DWP guy so when we met. We also asked him how, by doing VF, this improves our efficiency. Needless to say he couldn’t comment.

    @ January we were one of only 23 Local Authorities who hadn’t signed up for compliance in any of the 3 modules. I did another study based on the current requirements for Reviews & have concluded that as we are doing MORE than VF requires, and will continue to do so by confirming all the facts of a claim rather than those the claimant elects to tell us have changed, it won’t be onerous for us to give them their tick in the box for this module.

    However, we are not going to bow to their pressure for the other 2 modules, which will require extra staff & give us absolutely no improvements in our systems at all.

    I have asked them on several occasions for proof & statistics of how VF
    reduces fraud and error. Not surprisingly, they simply cannot answer this
    because there IS no proof.

    So, we have ‘rolled over’ in my view, but have only done so to stop them
    harassing us. It’s ridiculous that money is being thrown at us to take on
    a system that has never been proved successful in reducing fraud and error, and that elongates the claim process with its red tape. And all because some civil servant had an ‘idea’ 8 years ago that this was the solution to reduce fraud. I hope some other civil servant has the bravery to admit they got it wrong, one day. Sorry I’ll get off my soapbox now…..

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