Healthwatch Kirklees received written confirmation from the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) that the Huddersfield Assessment Centre for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Work Capability Assessments (WCA) was expected to close in June/July 2018.
We have now been told that the Huddersfield Assessment Centre has been closed from 10th September 2018.
We have been informed by DWP that a decision has been made to merge the Huddersfield assessment centre with the Halifax assessment centre.
The assessments are currently completed by a private company called Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA), who we have discovered is a company owned by MAXIMUS which is a global private corporation.
Why did we cover this issue?
After listening to the concerns of partners, community groups and local ESA claimants we are concerned that the decision to close the Huddersfield Assessment Centre will negatively impact approximately 18,000 ESA claimants residing in Kirklees.
What did we want to achieve?
We would have liked the DWP to ensure that the Huddersfield Assessment Centre to remained open in Huddersfield.
What did we do?
We asked everyone who is affected by this closure to write to the Secretary of State.
We wrote a letter to Esther McVey who is the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to bring to her attention the unfair decision of closing the Huddersfield Assessment Centre and how this would affect the ESA claimants in Kirklees. To view our letter click the download button on the right.
We encouraged other organisations and individuals to get involved and share their experiences/stories by using our template letter (this can be downloaded below).
Healthwatch Kirklees has done a very similar campaign before, with success!
2 years ago Healthwatch Kirklees carried out a similar campaign for an Atos PIP Assessment Centre in Huddersfield, thanks to the joint efforts of MPs, Councillors and local community organisation the campaign was a success and Atos opened an assessment centre in the centre of Huddersfield.
In February 2018 we attended a mental health group meeting in Huddersfield where we heard from a service user that there were rumours of the Huddersfield assessment centre closing down. The service user expressed their concerns about how this would affect over 17,000 (Kirklees Metropolitan Council Electoral Services) Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants.
UPDATE: Contacting the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA) and Department for Work and Pensions
On the 20th of February 2018, we emailed the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) asking them to confirm if there were any plans to close the Huddersfield assessment centre.
Click the download button on the right to see the response from the DWP.
22nd of February 2018
We received the following email from the CHDA:
“The DWP are responsible for all our assessment centres and as such, I have forwarded your enquiry to the DWP Health Services Directorate who will be in contact with you in due course.”
20th of March 2018
We received a response from the DWP confirming that the Huddersfield assessment centre will close in June/July 2018.
UPDATE: DWP Confirm Closure of the Huddersfield Assessment Centre in June/July 2018
20th March 2018:
We emailed the DWP requesting a discussion regarding the impact of the closure of the Huddersfield assessment centre on ESA claimants residing in Kirklees.
29th March 2018:
We received a response from the DWP advising that it would not be possible to discuss the closure of the Huddersfield assessment centre and that there is no potential for another assessment centre to be opened in Huddersfield.
Click the download button on the right to see the response from the DWP.
UPDATE: Feedback from local partners
We spoke to other local organisations to understand this issue better and to understand the impact on vulnerable people in our community.
We spoke to the Kirklees Welfare Benefits Service at Kirklees Citizens Advice Bureau, Connect Housing and local community groups in Huddersfield to understand better the impact of this on their users, especially those with long term conditions.
The organisations described the impact on people with a variety of disabilities across our whole community.
Click on the download button on the right to see the feedback from them.
UPDATE: Feedback from local ESA claimants
We spoke to local ESA claimants to understand what their concerns were regarding the closure of the Huddersfield assessment centre.
Click on the download button on the right to see the feedback we received.
UPDATE: Lack of consultation with local people
We had a conversation on the 4th of April 2018 with the DWP to ask them who they had spoken to in the community about the closure.
Through the discussion it was confirmed that no consultation had taken place with local disability groups, advice agencies or claimants in the affected area.
LETTER: Our letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
We have now written a letter to Esther McVey MP who is the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions ,to bring to her attention the unfair decision of closing the Huddersfield Assessment Centre and how this would affect over 17,000 ESA claimants in Kirklees.
We would encourage other organisations and individuals to get involved and share their experiences/stories by using our template letter.
Please click the download button on the right to view the letter template.
UPDATE: April 2018
We were contacted by Maximus on 17th April 2018 who wanted us to make it clear that the decision to close the Huddersfield ESA assessment centre had been made by the government and the DWP not by Maximus/CHDA.
We have amended our template letter accordingly.
LETTER: DWP response April 2018
The Department of Work and Pensions have provided Healthwatch Kirklees with a response to our concerns over the closure of the Huddersfield ESA assessment centre.
To read the letter, click the download button.
REPORT: Equality Impact Assessment June 2017
In addition to the letter above the DWP provided us with a copy of their Equality Impact Assessment.
An Equality Impact Assessment is a process designed to ensure that the plans do not discriminate against any disadvantaged or vulnerable people within the local area.
To view this document click the download button.
LETTER: Correspondence with MPs
The DWP have informed us that they wrote to MPs in July 2017 regarding the closure of the assessment centre. We are checking with the MPs about this.
To view a copy of the letter sent to Kirklees MPs click the download button.
LETTER: Correspondence with DWP
We have received another update regarding the closure of the ESA assessment centre in Huddersfield.
To find out more click the download button
LETTER: Our Letter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission
We have now written a letter to the EHRC.
Click on the download button to see the copy of our letter.
UPDATE: The Huddersfield Assessment Centre has closed
From 10th September 2018, the Huddersfield Assessment Centre provided by the Centre for Health and Disability Assessment (CHDA) has closed.
We thank everyone who joined us in writing to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and we are keen to hear how this decision has affected people with health issues and disabilities. Please get in touch if you want to share your story.
We also want people to know that they have a right to request a home visit for their ESA assessment if their health issues mean they can’t leave their home. They can also claim travel expenses. There’s more information about this at this link, provided by Citizens Advice