Attending a face-to-face health assessment safely during COVID-19
As part of your claim for some benefits, or a review of an existing claim, you may need to have a face-to-face health assessment. This page has the information you need if you have to go to an assessment during Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.
This information is for Northern Ireland only, if you live in England, Scotland or Wales visit GOV.UK
When a face-to-face assessment may be needed
Benefits that may need you to go to a face-to-face assessment as part of your claim include:
- Attendance Allowance (AA)
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Personal Independence Payment
- Universal Credit
The Department for Communities and its assessment providers have put a range of measures in place so that any assessments can take place safely, following the latest COVID-19 restrictions and guidance.
You might find it helpful to read this page before you go to your assessment.
Before your assessment
Your appointment letter will include extra information about coming to your assessment. Read this letter before your assessment.
Before travelling, so you can plan your journey, read the latest guidance available at the following link:
If you are or have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, you should also read the guidance to help you in taking extra precautions:
Help protect you and staff and cut the risk of anyone spreading or getting Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Do not come to your assessment if any of the following reasons apply:
- you or anyone coming with you has symptoms of COVID-19
- you or anyone coming with you is following guidance to self-isolate for any reason, including after entering Northern Ireland from abroad
- you or anyone coming with you has been contacted and advised to stay at home, including anyone identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive
If any of these reasons apply to you, contact the assessment provider straight away using the contact details in your appointment letter. They will rearrange your assessment for you.
For more information on COVID-19, the symptoms and when to self-isolate, read these pages:
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): overview and advice
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): self-isolating
- Symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
Who you can bring with you to your assessment
To help maintain social distancing and to cut any risk, come to your assessment alone wherever possible.
If you need to have someone with you to support you, you can bring one adult from your household or household bubble.
If you need to bring someone who is not from your household or household bubble, or you also need support from an interpreter or support worker, contact the assessment provider to talk about this. The assessment provider will need to know so that they can make sure there is enough space to socially distance during your assessment.
Do not bring any children with you to your assessment. If you have a child or children and cannot make childcare arrangements, contact the assessment provider straight away using the contact details in your appointment letter so they can talk about the best way to carry out your assessment.
The Department for Communities and its assessment providers need face coverings to be worn in its buildings.
You, and anyone who comes with you to your assessment, must wear a suitable face covering when you come to your appointment unless you have a reason for not wearing one in line with government guidance:
If you do not already have a face covering when you come to your assessment, a disposable one can be given when you arrive at the assessment centre.
If you, or anyone coming with you, is exempt from wearing a face covering, contact the assessment provider straight away using the contact details in your appointment letter. This is to make sure the right safety measures are in place to keep you and staff safe during your assessment.
The assessment centre
The assessment centres have been adapted for COVID-19 to offer a safe environment for you and the staff working there.
When you come to your assessment, follow any signs or markings both outside and inside the assessment centre. Remember to socially distance, keeping two metres apart from anyone outside your household or household bubble, including anyone coming with you. You should also wear a face covering before you enter the assessment centre, and keep it on while you are inside.
There will be staff at the assessment centre entrance to let you know when you can enter. To cut the amount of time you will have to wait and to help with social distancing, do not arrive more than 10 minutes before your appointment start time.
Hand sanitiser will be available throughout the assessment centre for you to use and any reception areas and signing-in desks will have clear screens in place to help keep everyone safe.
If you need to hand in any documents, for example identity documents, or medical information, give these to the receptionist.
If you need to wait before you can go into your assessment, the assessment centre staff will tell you where you can wait. Any waiting areas will be set-up to allow for social distancing.
Follow any signs and instructions displayed at the assessment centre. There may be one way systems in place, and the number of people allowed to use any lifts will be limited to allow social distancing.
Where possible the assessment provider will make sure a supply of fresh air in the assessment room. For example, they may open windows or doors but will always make sure your privacy and safety is maintained.
Toilet facilities will be available at the assessment centre. Follow the instructions on site or ask a member of staff.
During your assessment
All assessment rooms allow for two metres social distancing between you and anyone you bring with you who is in your household and the healthcare assessor. If you need to bring someone who is not from your household or household bubble, or you need support from an interpreter or support worker, contact the assessment provider to talk about this.
You and anyone you bring with you, should keep your face covering on during the assessment. The healthcare professional will also keep their face covering on.
During your assessment, the healthcare professional will observe you at a distance of two metres while you show any movements. They will not come into physical contact with you.
For Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) assessments, the healthcare professional may need to physically examine you but they will wear extra personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a face shield, an apron and gloves.
If the healthcare professional suspects you, or anyone with you, may have COVID-19 symptoms, they may stop the assessment. You will be asked to go straight home, maintaining social distancing and minimising contact with others. You should follow the Government guidance to self-isolate with your household and arrange for a COVID-19 test as soon as possible.
After each assessment, the room used will be cleaned, especially areas such as door handles, chair arms, desks and other places that are touched most. Every room will be cleaned, ready for the next appointment.
Leaving the assessment centre
Your assessor will make sure the corridor is clear before you leave the room.
You will be asked to leave the building as soon as possible, to cut the number of people in the assessment centre at any one time.
About contact tracing
To support COVID-19 contact tracing services, the assessment provider will ask you to give contact details for you and anyone with you. This will only be used if needed, to identify and notify people who may have been exposed to the virus.
If your information has been collected solely for the purpose of contact tracing, it will only be kept for 21 days. You do not have to give your information, but it could help stop the spread of COVID-19 if you do.
Also, the ‘StopCOVID NI’ mobile app has been designed to anonymously contact other app users who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.