BY JOHN PRING
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has denied there is any dishonesty among the healthcare professionals who carry out its benefits assessments, even though Disability News Service (DNS) has now collected 100 cases where such allegations have been made.
Disabled people have continued to come forward with their personal stories since DNS published the results of a two-month investigation into claims that nurses and other healthcare professionals had lied in reports they wrote after face-to-face assessments for personal independence payment (PIP).
This week, DNS was made aware of the 100th case in which a PIP claimant has alleged that a health professional working for government contractors Capita and Atos produced a dishonest assessment report.
One PIP claimant told DNS this week: “When I received the DWP decision, I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
“For example, ‘I was observed to drink from a cup and that I had shown good grip, gripping the assessor’s fingers.’
“I never touched the man, and he never touched me.
“When I finally received the full assessor’s report, I was flabbergasted at the inaccuracies, misinformation and at worst, blatant fabrication.
“Even general information, about my home, layout of my home, aids in my home and aids that weren’t even in my home, were reported as fact. It was completely made up, even the type of clothing I wear.”
Another PIP claimant wrote on the DNS Facebook page how she had broken down and cried three times at her assessment, how her husband helped with her notes, how she was unable to answer many of the questions because she was so exhausted and distressed, how she had to wear dark glasses during the assessment because the light was too bright, and how she had only looked at the assessor once.
But she said: “She wrote in her report that I coped well, had good eye contact, didn’t appear anxious or distressed, answered all the questions unprompted and well.
“She lied about almost every single aspect of the assessment.
“Now I’ve lost my car (my independence) and will have to fight this at a tribunal, which I’m dreading.”
The wife of another PIP claimant described how the assessor twice ignored all of the medical evidence he provided, and lied about contacting her husband’s consultant and cardiac nurse.
She said the system was “a bloody nightmare”, and added: “He has a severe heart condition and heart failure, but PIP totally ignored what he told them.
“The assessor was one of the rudest people I have ever come across, told me to shut up and be quiet or he would stop the interview.
“My husband was really struggling with the situation but I wasn’t allowed to help him or say anything.”
A PIP claimant who commented on the investigation through the DNS website said: “The report detailed that I spoke with confidence and cracked jokes, when actually it was my brother who spoke.
“The report detailed a physical examination in which she claimed she examined my ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders, elbows, wrists and dexterity.
“No such examination was carried out.
“She also claimed to witness me bending down to sign out, when my brother is the one who signed us out.”
The Commons work and pensions select committee is due to make a decision in the next few weeks on whether to launch an inquiry into the allegations of dishonesty in the PIP assessment process.
And DNS has submitted anonymised evidence to the independent review of PIP being carried out by former civil servant Paul Gray on DWP’s behalf.
But asked if ministers were still insisting that there was no dishonesty among their assessors, and that they had no concerns about the issues raised by the investigation, a DWP spokeswoman said: “We expect the highest standards from the contractors who carry out PIP assessments.
“We do not accept it to be the case that there is dishonesty amongst them.
“We are committed to making sure the PIP assessment process works fairly and effectively, which is why we welcome independent reviews such as the ones led by Paul Gray, the second of which is expected in April 2017.
“Anyone not happy with their benefit decision can ask for it to be looked at again, and then appeal to an independent tribunal.
“There is also a comprehensive complaints procedure in place.”