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Saturday, February 10, 2018

The shocking stories from PIP and ESA assessments by Capita, Atos and Maximus

When I was a Welsh Assembly Member my office dealt with a number of people who had been wrongly assessed for Personal Independence Payment or Employment and Support Allowance. In many cases they had gone in to assessments without understanding how the system works and had given an optimistic account of their capabilities, in others the assessor had got the wrong end of the stick or had outright lied about what s/he had been told.

For those reasons my office had a 100% success rate on appeals. And it is little wonder that since 2013 there have been 170,000 PIP appeals taken to the Tribunal in which claimants won in 108,000 or 63% of cases. In the same time, there have been 53,000 ESA appeals. Claimants won in 32,000 or 60% of those cases.

The House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee is looking into this and received nearly 4,000 submissions, the most by a select committee inquiry, after calling for evidence on the assessments for personal independence payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

They have now released stories from claimants ahead of the publication of their final report on PIP and ESA assessments next week, which very much backs up the experience of my staff and me. These stories show that relevant information was often omitted from, and fundamental errors included in, the medical assessment reports.

The Daily Mirror has published some of those stories. Here is a sample of some of the most shocking:

1) When did you catch Down’s syndrome?

"Some of the assessors, both ESA and PIP, need more insight and training with regard to people with learning difficulties.

"Below are questions that parents have been asked at the assessments; How long have they had Down’s syndrome for? When did they catch Down’s syndrome? When were you diagnosed with Down’s syndrome? Down’s syndrome is a widely recognised learning disability.

"If an assessor is being asked to assess someone with a condition that they do not know about, common sense and courtesy should tell them to research the condition before starting the assessment.

"We therefore believe that more training is required in some cases." - Down’s Syndrome Association

2) Why haven't you killed yourself yet?

"The assessor also asked my mother if she were suicidal. As I recall, that went like this:

Assessor: “Are you suicidal?”
K: Yes
Assessor: How often are you suicidal?
K: Every day
Assessor: Have you tried?
K: Yes Assessor: And why didn’t you succeed? Why did you fail?
K: My family would miss me.

Each of K’s answers was slow and ashamed. "She had not yet told me these things, but she had been trying to bring them up at therapy to work through these feelings safely.

"For her to be forced to admit this and for there to be no after care, but the continuation of an exam, shattered her.

"I genuinely believe that without my constant assurances after the event that K would have made another suicide attempt that week." - Name withheld.

3) Not listening properly

"I was attacked with a deadly weapon only a short time before my assessment.

"The man threatened my life, on a walk with my dog.

"So the assessor wrote that I like to talk to people on my walk." - Katherine

7) Disputing a patient's OCD because they hadn't washed

"We reached a point where we were discussing my personal care and I pointed out that I hadn’t taken a shower in months.

"The nurse reacted strongly to this and said, 'So how does your OCD affect you then?'.

"She gave me a look as if to suggest I had been caught out lying, claiming to have OCD while making statements to the contrary.

"The Community Mental Health Team support worker and I exchanged glances, both thinking that this nurse didn’t know very much about OCD. " - Name withheld

8) Mystery dog

“Apparently I walk my dog daily, which was baffling because I can barely walk and I do not have a dog!” - Nikki

9) Mystery glasses  

"She wrote I arose from the chair without any difficulty. "I was in bed the whole time (she let herself in) and I only have the one chair in the room and she was sitting in it.

"She said that I had no difficulty reading with my glasses yet I do not wear glasses to read." - Mary

If this committee report does not lead the government to reform the system then I despair as to what will.
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