PIP INVESTIGATION: Politicians call for action over ‘widespread dishonesty by assessors’ : DNS.

Jonathan Bartley smiling, in front of a tree

Labour, the Green party and the Liberal Democrats have called for the government to act on claims of widespread dishonesty by the medical professionals paid to compile benefits assessment reports, following a two-month investigation by Disability News Service (DNS).

The three parties spoke out after DNS shared the findings of the investigation with key opposition figures.

DNS has examined more than 20 cases in which claimants of personal independence  payment (PIP) – which is replacing working-age disability living allowance – have described how the healthcare professionals who carried out their face-to-face assessments subsequently produced dishonest reports.

The dishonesty includes assessors refusing to accept further written evidence from medical experts; wrongly claiming that detailed physical examinations had been carried out during the assessment; refusing to list all of a claimant’s medications; ignoring or misreporting key evidence told to them in the assessment; and reporting that a claimant had refused to co-operate with a physical examination, when they were instead unable to complete it because of their impairment.

Jonathan Bartley (pictured), co-leader of the Green party, called for an independent investigation.

He said: “This investigation reveals that is not sick and disabled people who are lying but those who are assessing them.

“The shocking prevalence of inaccurate assessments which are denying desperately needed support obliterates any remaining pretence that PIP assessments are fair.

“The system should be looking after those who need help and acting with their best interests at heart, not working against them and making things worse.

“Behind each of these stories and the hundreds of complaints are people who are suffering, whose lives have been disrupted, turned upside down or in some cases destroyed.

“It is clear these cases are not isolated incidents. There should be a full-scale investigation as a matter of urgency to reveal the full extent of what is going on, and that should ideally be carried out independently of the DWP, to avoid any cover-up, as we saw over the deaths of benefit claimants.”

Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said the evidence produced by DNS was “truly shocking”, and she repeated last year’s call by Labour to investigate the conduct of assessors.

She said: “We have seen from this and other investigations, including the [Channel 4] Dispatches programme in April 2016, that there are significant flaws in the PIP assessment process and with the conduct of many assessors.

“Last year, Labour called for the department to undertake an investigation into the conduct of assessors, yet ministers refused to take action.

“Unlike the work capability assessment, the government plans to continue assessing all disabled people for PIP, regardless of their condition and the fact that 65 per cent of PIP appeals are successful.

“The impact on disabled people of having to fight the DWP for support to which they are entitled cannot be underestimated; causing distress, anxiety and negatively impacting on their health.

“It is clear that the assessment process is wholly inappropriate and, in light of this investigation, ministers must take action now.”

The disabled Liberal Democrat peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas, who speaks for her party on disability, said the investigation and its findings were “timely” and called for DWP to audit all of its assessors.

She said the claims reflected the letters and emails she and other disabled peers receive about PIP assessors “who do not take proper notice of medical reports, do not listen properly to claimants and do not remember to ask about the reliability criteria which governs all descriptors”.

She said: “DWP needs to conduct a thorough audit of all assessors to make sure disabled people are not being penalised by assessors who are not up to the job.”

DWP has been handed eight cases of named claimants who have come forward to make allegations that healthcare professionals working for the outsourcing giants Capita and Atos lied in the reports they wrote after carrying out face-to-face assessments.

But DWP also turned down the opportunity to see many more cases, in which claimants have asked DNS not to reveal their personal details to the department.

Despite the findings of the investigation, DWP has refused to accept that there is any dishonesty at all among the medical professionals paid to compile assessment reports, and has refused to take any action to address the concerns.

Asked why there were so many cases of dishonesty involving assessors working for Capita and Atos, a DWP spokeswoman said: “We do not accept this is the case.”

She added: “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.”

Asked whether DWP would act on the information provided by DNS, she said: “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.”

She added: “Assessment providers have their own complaints processes in place, and if claimants are not satisfied with providers’ response they will be signposted to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE).

“Over 1.9 million PIP claims have been decided since April 2013 to September 2016 and in this time only a tiny fraction of complaints regarding providers’ service standards have been upheld by ICE.

“If ICE upholds a complaint against the provider, the provider incurs a penalty charge and is also required to pay the claimant any financial redress recommended by ICE.

“PIP customer satisfaction is up by more than 10 per cent since last year, and we expect these trends to continue following new improvements.

“We continue to work with disability stakeholders to ensure the PIP assessment process is working well.”

Asked if there was a serious problem with Atos and Capita assessors lying in their assessment reports, she said: “No, our providers are committed to providing a high-quality, sensitive and respectful service by conducting fair, accurate and objective assessments.

“Independent audit is in place to ensure advice provided to DWP decision makers is of suitable quality, fully explained and justified.

“Both Atos and Capita are required to ensure that the health professionals carrying out assessments have knowledge of the clinical aspects and likely functional effects of a wide range of health conditions and impairments.

“All health professionals undertaking assessments on behalf of DWP must be registered practitioners who have also met requirements around training and competence.

“They must be: an occupational therapist, level one nurse, physiotherapist, paramedic or doctor.

“They must also be fully registered and have at least two years post full-registration experience.”

She added: “All health professionals receive comprehensive training in disability analysis which includes a functional evaluation as to how medical conditions and the long-term medical treatment of those conditions affect an individual’s ability to perform day-to-day activities.

“Prior to carrying out an assessment, the health professional routinely refreshes their knowledge of any condition with which they are not fully familiar.”

She added: “We expect the highest standards from the contractors who carry out PIP assessments, and work closely with them to ensure PIP is working in the best way possible.

“We work extensively with the PIP assessment providers (Atos and Capita) and disability representative groups to make improvements to guidance, training and audit procedures in order to ensure a quality service.”

Capita refused to answer any questions about the allegations, including how many complaints it had received during 2016 about assessors not being truthful in their assessment reports; whether it believed this was a serious problem; and why it believed there were so many cases in which assessors were apparently failing to complete their assessment reports honestly.

Instead, it delivered the following statement: “We expect all of our assessors to undertake assessments as outlined by DWP and in-line with our comprehensive training.

“We expect all assessors to behave in a way that meets both our high professional standards and those of their professions.

“We are not involved in the decision making process or informed of claimants’ outcomes.”

Atos acknowledged receipt of an email from DNS detailing the investigation, but refused to respond further.

Link : DNS.

PIP INVESTIGATION: Regulator receives ‘more than 1,600 complaints about assessors’ : DNS.

A regulatory body has received more than 1,600 complaints in the last five years about nurses who have carried out benefits assessments for three private sector contractors, new figures obtained by Disability News Service (DNS) suggest.

The figures were passed to DNS by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), following a freedom of information request.

They suggest that about seven per cent of approximately 4,800 complaints a year received by the NMC over the last five years have been linked to nurses working for a benefits assessment contractor.

They were released this week as DNS published a major investigation that shows how healthcare professionals – mostly nurses – working for two of the contractors have lied, ignored written evidence and dishonestly reported the results of physical examinations in reports compiled for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The investigation has compiled evidence from more than 20 disabled people who have contacted DNS over the last year or have commented on previous DNS news stories to claim that their assessors lied repeatedly in the reports.

The evidence suggests a far-reaching, institutional problem that stretches across DWP and the two private sector contractors – Atos Healthcare and Capita – that carry out the personal independence payment (PIP) assessments on its behalf.

The alleged dishonesty includes assessors: refusing to accept further written evidence from medical experts; wrongly claiming that detailed physical examinations had been carried out during the assessment; refusing to list all of a claimant’s medications; ignoring or misreporting key information told to them during the assessment; and reporting that a claimant had refused to co-operate with a physical examination, when they were unable to complete it because of their impairment.

Atos carries out face-to-face assessments for PIP in Scotland, the north of England, London and southern England, and until 2015 also carried out work capability assessments (WCAs), which test eligibility for out-of-work disability benefits.

WCAs are now carried out by the US outsourcing giant Maximus – which took over the contract from Atos following years of complaints about its honesty, competence and ethical practices – while Capita carries out PIP assessments in Wales and central England.

Between the three companies, according to the figures, there were more than 1,600 complaints about a nurse’s conduct that were investigated by NMC’s “screen legal team”.

NMC warned this week that an accurate figure for the number of complaints against assessment nurses could be higher or lower than “over 1,600”.

This is because the case information it searched for on its database might not mention Atos, Capita or Maximus, even if a nurse had been working for one of the companies, while in other cases, the companies might be mentioned in a case even if the nurse against which an allegation had been made was not one of their employees.

NMC has so far declined to split the figures of more than 1,600 complaints among the three contractors – Atos, Capita and Maximus – or by individual years, but has only provided the overall figure for the number of investigations between 1 April 2011 and 31 Mar 2016.

And it has declined to say whether it was concerned by the figures, because it said it “would not speculate on cases without knowing more about them”.

But an NMC spokesman said in a statement: “We investigate any concerns raised with us regarding an individual’s fitness to practise and will take the appropriate action in every case to ensure the public are protected.”

The spokesman said that anyone with specific concerns about a nurse or midwife should contact NMC to make a referral.

Despite the question-mark over the accuracy of the figures, they are likely to raise concerns about the seriousness with which NMC treats complaints against nurses carrying out benefits assessments.

In spite of the significant number of complaints, only a tiny number of cases have ever emerged in which nurses have been struck off over allegations about their work as disability benefits assessors.

Two of those cases were reported by DNS last August, following a search of NMC’s public database: one in which an Atos nurse was struck off after pretending she had assessed people in their own homes, when she had actually carried out the assessments by telephone; and another in which an Atos nurse was struck off after carrying out assessments while drunk.

DNS has now submitted a fresh freedom of information request to seek more detailed information for 2016 only, which NMC has agreed to provide.

When DWP was asked to comment on the figures and to say whether they were a cause for concern, a spokeswoman dismissed their importance.

She said: “The department cleared 1.9 million  PIP claims between 1 December 2013 and 30 September 2016, and in that time only a very tiny proportion of complaints regarding Atos and Capita’s delivery of PIP were accepted for investigation from the Independent Case Examiner [which deals with appeals that follow complaints rejected by the assessment companies, rather than those submitted through the NMC].

“Our providers are committed to providing a high-quality, sensitive and respectful service by conducting fair, accurate and objective assessments.

“We have independent audit in place to ensure advice provided to DWP decision makers is of suitable quality, fully explained and justified.”

Capita declined to comment on the figures, although a Capita spokesman said: “We are unable to comment on the NMC complaints figure presented as it is a combined figure that applies to multiple providers and, as the NMC states, the figure shared has not been examined to ensure its accuracy.

“Furthermore, complaints received by NMC are from a range of sources, and we do not have sight of these.

“We will fully cooperate with the NMC in cases where they bring complaints to our attention.

“Our assessors are expected to work in accordance to the DWP guidelines.”

Atos has refused to comment, as has Maximus.

Link : DNS.

NATIONAL SHAME: 800 disabled Brits’ benefits slashed after assessment by French data firm : Express.

BEDRIDDEN, disabled and vulnerable Britons are having their benefits slashed by the Government on the word of “unqualified” staff working for a “target-setting” French data company.

Express.co.uk has obtained new figures showing every week more than 800 Britons are being stripped of disability benefits or having them cut in half, often leaving them too sick to work, too poor to support themselves and too frightened to fight the decisions.

The assessment process carried out by Atos Healthcare, an arm of French data company Atos, has been described as “disgusting” and “shocking” by those who have been put through the “brutal” tests and MPs across political parties.

And while our own elderly and infirm face a barrage of humiliating tests and frightening challenges to their honesty, Theresa May’s Government bends over backwards to supply foreign aid to nations led by cruel dictators and considers tests to the honesty of so-called ‘child migrants’ coming to Britain to be inhumane.

Campaigners and experts have claimed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) now led by Damian Green MP is “pushing” the narrative those on benefits are scroungers – when in reality the level of fraudulent cases is tiny.

Figures obtained from the Motability charity, which allows disabled people to pay for cars, which can be specially adapted, through their benefits, shows 3000 people per month are having cars, scooters and even motorised wheelchairs taken from them.

Disabled Britons in tears after PIP cuts

Government contract for PIP assessments must be scrapped by Damian Green, campaigners say.

Atos branded

Disabled Britons have protested against Atos for a number of years.

The charity told Express.co.uk for the last three months they have seen 800 claimants removed from the scheme EVERY WEEK after brutal Atos re-assessments.

French data firm Atos has banked more than £500m in tax payer cash through the DWP contracts.

Disability Living Allowance was scrapped in favour of personal Independence Payment (PIP) in 2013.

The Conservative Government awarded the contract for PIP assessments to Atos for people aged between 16 and 64.

At the same time the Department for Work and Pensions demanded a review of cases -which has led to people, who are genuinely disabled, being cut from the scheme.

A Motability spokesman said: “We have seen around 38,000 existing Scheme customers lose eligibility to the upper level of mobility support as they are reassessed from DLA to PIP, and have therefore returned their vehicles.”

The term vehicles covers scooters and wheelchairs which can be taken back from people, despite doctors and social services assessors ruling them incapable of travelling without them.

The figures given are a drop in the ocean since only one third of those who receive the Higher Rate Mobility Component of PIP use the Motability scheme.

Hundreds or thousands more may be being axed every month.

Pensioners who have worked and paid into Britain’s National Insurance scheme for decades, hoping for protection and support should they become infirm, told Express.co.uk they have been left feeling like fraudsters and are being treated like “liars”.

Many fear for their future.

Put simply the Government of the day has moved the goalposts and changed the rules making eligibility for high rate PIP close to impossible.

Debbie Abrahams MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said: “Recent statistics show an increase in assessment decisions overturned, which is a damning indictment of this Government’s cruel social security reforms and six wasted years of austerity.

“These flawed PIP assessments cause substantial distress to disabled people who are repeatedly subject to them and only create further waste and expense, as thousands upon thousands are overturned in the courts.”

Atos hated by disabled community

The Department for Work and Pensions makes benefits payments on the word of Atos assessors.

Linda, 68, is crippled with arthritis and other health issues, including a large hernia, while trying her hardest to care for her bedridden husband.

She is one of tens of thousands judged ineligible for higher rate disability payments, despite previously being given a lifetime award by the DWP under DLA.

The cut will mean her income halves from £600 to less than £300 per month.

She said: “I feel like I am fighting every day to have a life – I don’t have the energy to fight them.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how I am going to survive.”

Linda was assessed by a nurse who carried out a home visit – but  Linda says the ultimate report was wildly different from what happened on the day.

She said: “I couldn’t even get up and get to the door – I was on the sofa.

“The nurse came in and she said she wouldn’t do the tests because she could see how much pain I was in.

“When I got the letter I was so shocked. It said I was touching my neck and my back and could reach the floor with my feet – I didn’t even get up.

“When I called they said her word is the final word.

“I thought she must have got me confused with someone else – or she’s lying.”

Department of Work and Pensions cuts

Elderly PIP claimants are having their benefits slashed as they worry how they will live.

Steve, 46, was left horrified when his wife was denied higher mobility PIP and made to give back her disability car.

He said: “She has a degenerative spinal condition – it’s in the title really – she isn’t getting better.

“She tried to keep her dignity and put on nice clothes and do what they asked her at the test centre – she couldn’t do it all but she tried – and they crucified her for it.

“Most days she can’t get further than the living room. They are monsters.”

He branded the assessors ‘bizarre’ for hammering the people who tried to overcome disability and complete test exercises.

Campaigners, politicians and the disabled have accused of the Government of offering incentives to those who turn down PIP requests and cancel those already in place.

Assessors have also been accused of underhand tactics including hiding and watching people walk into test centres then crossing the walking test off their list – failing to ask whether the claimant was in any discomfort or could do such a task daily.

Nurses

Atos test assessors have come under fire over “tricks” and “lies”

Tactics employed by the Atos staff have been described as “disgusting” with some suggesting they “confuse” claimants and mark them down for dressing in clean clothes and trying hard to complete the tasks.

Assessors have also come under fire from health professionals who claim they are not qualified to make such huge judgements – for example some assessors are physiotherapists who lack mental health training.

A senior social worker told Express.co.uk he has been shocked by the assessments, which differ greatly from the opinions of other experts. The decisions are usually being overturned in court.

He said: “These people are not qualified. If they are a mental health nurse they do not have GP-level understanding of complicated diseases and how the hell can a physiotherapist begin to understand mental health?

“The NHS has the notes, written by the GPs, yet we are putting these people through more hell.

“It’s a national disgrace.”

Baroness Thomas of Winchester has been campaigning against the assessments, which she suggests have tricked and confused disabled people.

Lady Celia Thomas of Winchester

Lady Celia Thomas of Winchester has been campaigning against cuts.

The Lib Dem peer and champion for disability rights believes accusations around assessors watching people enter tests centres and striking off questions on that basis are correct.

Lady Thomas said the tests no way reflect how a person can live their life.

She said: “I urge the Government to take action to halt this cruel and heartless PIP mobility test before any more disabled people lose their Motability cars.

“The assessments are so variable round the country that fairness has gone out of the window.”

Lady Thomas questioned how the word of an assessor can be taken over GP notes.

She said: “They are overriding decisions made by the NHS and that is not right.”

Disabled people turned down for higher payments

Wheelchair user Star Anderton is fighting her own battle with Atos over her assessment.

UKIP National Disability Spokeswoman Cllr Star Anderson had her own higher rate mobility cut, despite having adaptations in her home and needing a carer.

The campaigner who fights for others, as well as herself, said the Tories are making cuts in the most dishonest way.

She said: “It just shows that the £12bn in cuts are going ahead because they’ve moved the goalposts.

“It’s not about helping people live with their disabilities it’s about cutting numbers claiming PIP.

“Far too many disabled people are committing suicide because of the anxiety caused when they have to change from DLA to PIP.

“There are a growing number of people who are being told they are no longer eligible for any assistance and this group are being hit hardest.

“We all understand why there has to be a rigorous system to ensure those who need extra help get it.

“There are a very small percentage of people who obtain disability benefits fraudulently. We know there will always be cheats but it does feel like those who know how to cheat the system are still getting away with it.”

People suffering from ME, arthritis, organ failure, heart disease, spinal injuries and sever psychiatric illness have had their benefits taken from them.

Dr Simon Duffy from the Centre for Welfare Reform said it is his belief the Government is trying to turn the national view on disability.

He said: “The DWP appears to be pushing this narrative that disabled people are scroungers and there are millions of false claims.

“It is simply not true.

“There are severely disabled people being put through these tests and having to fight in the courts. It’s unbelievable.”

Atos assessors described as cruel

Some disabled people who cannot walk have been told they are not unwell enough for benefits.
Figures to September 2016 show 61% of 90,000 claimants who appealed against a PIP decision at a tribunal won their case, showing what has been called “proof” the assessment process is deeply flawed.

The appeals are held in criminal courts and decided upon by judges, something campaigners have called “cruel” and “frightening”.

Before the court stage the DWP will carry out a mandatory reconsideration.

Earlier this year around 40% of considerations ended in the disabled person having the decision reversed upon assessment.

However, only around 22% were successful between June and October 2016.

Of 526,000 DLA claimants reassessed for PIP up to October 2016, 21% were rejected altogether and 23% ended up worse off.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Decisions for PIP are made after considering evidence from the claimant and their GP.

“Anyone who disagrees with a decision can appeal and in most cases anyone leaving the Motability scheme is eligible for a one-off payment of £2,000 to help meet their needs.”

Who is Atos?

ATOS Healthcare covers assessments in all areas except the Midlands and Wales where Capita won the bid.

The companies are employed to carry out face-to-face assessments of all new claimants, and reassessments.

The idea behind the overhaul is to get rid of self-assessment and gain “a more accurate” understanding of every situation.

Atos has been accused of “preying on the vulnerable to make Government cuts”

It has showed extreme incompetence and bowed out early from the contract under which it was tasked by the Government to carry out the Work Capability Assessment.

Last year after it was revealed 2,380 people had died between 2011 – 2014 soon after being found fit for work through disability benefit assessments.

Unbelievably, the Government still employs Atos for £3bn worth of contracts across the country – one of which is the assessment of Personal Independence Payment applications.

An Atos Healthcare spokesperson said: “All of the Atos assessment teams are fully qualified health professionals who must have the qualifications and experience specified by the DWP and be accredited directly by them.

“Each assessment is carried out under the guidelines delivered by the DWP.”

Link : Daily Express.

NATIONAL SHAME: 800 disabled Brits’ benefits slashed after assessment by French data firm : Express.

BEDRIDDEN, disabled and vulnerable Britons are having their benefits slashed by the Government on the word of “unqualified” staff working for a “target-setting” French data company.

Express.co.uk has obtained new figures showing every week more than 800 Britons are being stripped of disability benefits or having them cut in half, often leaving them too sick to work, too poor to support themselves and too frightened to fight the decisions.

The assessment process carried out by Atos Healthcare, an arm of French data company Atos, has been described as “disgusting” and “shocking” by those who have been put through the “brutal” tests and MPs across political parties.

And while our own elderly and infirm face a barrage of humiliating tests and frightening challenges to their honesty, Theresa May’s Government bends over backwards to supply foreign aid to nations led by cruel dictators and considers tests to the honesty of so-called ‘child migrants’ coming to Britain to be inhumane.

Campaigners and experts have claimed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) now led by Damian Green MP is “pushing” the narrative those on benefits are scroungers – when in reality the level of fraudulent cases is tiny.

Figures obtained from the Motability charity, which allows disabled people to pay for cars, which can be specially adapted, through their benefits, shows 3000 people per month are having cars, scooters and even motorised wheelchairs taken from them.

Disabled Britons in tears after PIP cuts

Government contract for PIP assessments must be scrapped by Damian Green, campaigners say.

Atos branded

Disabled Britons have protested against Atos for a number of years

The charity told Express.co.uk for the last three months they have seen 800 claimants removed from the scheme EVERY WEEK after brutal Atos re-assessments.

French data firm Atos has banked more than £500m in tax payer cash through the DWP contracts.

Disability Living Allowance was scrapped in favour of personal Independence Payment (PIP) in 2013.

The Conservative Government awarded the contract for PIP assessments to Atos for people aged between 16 and 64.

At the same time the Department for Work and Pensions demanded a review of cases -which has led to people, who are genuinely disabled, being cut from the scheme.

A Motability spokesman said: “We have seen around 38,000 existing Scheme customers lose eligibility to the upper level of mobility support as they are reassessed from DLA to PIP, and have therefore returned their vehicles.”

The term vehicles covers scooters and wheelchairs which can be taken back from people, despite doctors and social services assessors ruling them incapable of travelling without them.

The figures given are a drop in the ocean since only one third of those who receive the Higher Rate Mobility Component of PIP use the Motability scheme.

Hundreds or thousands more may be being axed every month.

Pensioners who have worked and paid into Britain’s National Insurance scheme for decades, hoping for protection and support should they become infirm, told Express.co.uk they have been left feeling like fraudsters and are being treated like “liars”.

Many fear for their future.

Put simply the Government of the day has moved the goalposts and changed the rules making eligibility for high rate PIP close to impossible.

Debbie Abrahams MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said: “Recent statistics show an increase in assessment decisions overturned, which is a damning indictment of this Government’s cruel social security reforms and six wasted years of austerity.

“These flawed PIP assessments cause substantial distress to disabled people who are repeatedly subject to them and only create further waste and expense, as thousands upon thousands are overturned in the courts.”

Atos hated by disabled community

The Department for Work and Pensions makes benefits payments on the word of Atos assessors
Linda, 68, is crippled with arthritis and other health issues, including a large hernia, while trying her hardest to care for her bedridden husband.

She is one of tens of thousands judged ineligible for higher rate disability payments, despite previously being given a lifetime award by the DWP under DLA.

The cut will mean her income halves from £600 to less than £300 per month.

She said: “I feel like I am fighting every day to have a life – I don’t have the energy to fight them.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how I am going to survive.”

Linda was assessed by a nurse who carried out a home visit – but  Linda says the ultimate report was wildly different from what happened on the day.

She said: “I couldn’t even get up and get to the door – I was on the sofa.

“The nurse came in and she said she wouldn’t do the tests because she could see how much pain I was in.

“When I got the letter I was so shocked. It said I was touching my neck and my back and could reach the floor with my feet – I didn’t even get up.

“When I called they said her word is the final word.

“I thought she must have got me confused with someone else – or she’s lying.”

Read More : Daily Express.

Taxpayers’ cash should go to the needy. Here’s where it actually ends up : Guardian.

More than £500m has been spent on PIP assessments for the disabled – where’s the sense in that?

Protest by disabled people

‘Companies get a fat cheque, courtesy of HM Taxpayer, disabled people get treated appallingly, and all for what?’ Photograph: Alamy

 

Let me raise a glass to your festive generosity. You, the taxpayer, have showered your charity on the needy and deserving: otherwise known as Atos and Capita, two private companies that have been given more than £500m of your money since 2013.

Your munificence is boundless: you don’t expect returns from your donations, given to these companies to provide effective personal independence payment assessments (PIP) for disabled people. No: despite years of being solemnly told that there simply isn’t enough money to properly fund services and the welfare state, you have made it your mission to look after the hard-done-by shareholders of state-dependent companies.

I realise it’s Christmas and anger should be reserved for burning the sprouts or arguing over the TV remote, but seriously, you should be teed off. Companies such as Atos and Capita are paid to carry out what are, frankly, pretty degrading government tests on sick and disabled people to see if they really do deserve benefits.

Many claimants fail these tests, forcing them to endure a long period of anxiety and worry, and then go through a stressful appeal process. According to figures obtained by the Daily Mirror, six out of 10 of the 90,000 claimants who appealed over PIP decisions won at tribunal. So the companies get a fat cheque, courtesy of HM Taxpayer, disabled people get treated appallingly, and all for what?

This is, in the grand scheme of things, a rich country. One of the richest countries that has ever existed, in fact. The problem is how we decide to allocate the nation’s huge wealth, much of it concentrated in all too few hands. Hundreds of millions are doled out to companies like Atos and Capita, while our government does all it can to prise paltry sums of money from the hands of disabled people.

Link : The Guardian.

Private firms rake in half a BILLION pounds for cruel disability benefit assessments : Daily Mirror.

Atos and Capita earn the fees assessing people for PIP despite thousands having their cases overturned on appeal.

Atos and Capita make millions in fees under the scheme overseen by Tory Iain Duncan Smith (Photo: Getty)

Fit-to-work firms Atos and Capita have earned more than £500m of taxpayer cash running a hated Tory scheme to assess people for disability benefits.

Analysis of Government data by the Mirror shows the two firms were paid £211m for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments in the first 11 months of 2016.

That was up from £198m in 2015, £91m in 2014 and £7m in 2013, the year PIP launched.

PIP is designed to help disabled people live independently and is replacing the old Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Yet despite the assessments’ £507m price tag, thousands of decisions based on them are being overturned on appeal.

Figures to September 2016 show 61% of 90,000 claimants who appealed against a PIP decision at a tribunal won their case.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “This adds to the suspicion that these companies are just driven by a profit motive, and the incentive is to get the assessments done, but not necessarily to get the assessments right.

Job Centre

Millions of assessments for disability benefit have been outsourced by the DWP (Photo: PA)

“They are the ugly face of business.”

Labour shadow welfare minister Alex Cunningham said: “It is clear that the assessment process continues to fail.

“Instead of holding their contractors to account for incorrect assessments, which cause huge distress to the most vulnerable, the Government are paying them even more taxpayers’ money.”

Monthly government data to the end of November 2016, totalled by the Mirror, shows £382m of payments to Atos under the PIP assessments scheme with another £125m to Capita.

The money covered three categories – face-to-face interviews, paper assessments and fees for GPs’ reports.

The system has been accused of leaving thousands of sick and disabled people high and dry.

Of 526,000 DLA claimants reassessed for PIP up to October 2016, 21% were rejected altogether and 23% ended up worse off, including people with Parkinson’s and AIDS.

Atos defended its work, saying the final decision on whether to give someone benefits was down to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

An Atos Healthcare spokesman said: “The Atos team undertake PIP assessments on behalf of the DWP and do not take a decision on a person’s eligibility for PIP – that decision can only be taken by the DWP.

“Each assessment is carried out under the guidelines delivered by the DWP.”

However, thousands of cases are also being overturned by the DWP itself.

Before going to an independent tribunal, PIP claimants must first ask for a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ by the DWP.

Figures to October 2016 show people have done that 428,000 times with 17% winning a change to their award – including 32,000 who were transferring from DLA.

MPs criticised the rise of outsourced disability assessments in a report by the powerful Public Accounts Committee in March.

They warned the system could present “a real risk to value for money” and questioned why the cost of one type of assessment had risen from £115 to £190.

A DWP spokesman declined to say whether the cost of each PIP assessment had risen too.

The DWP spokesman said: “Payments to our providers reflect the amount of work they do for us.

“We introduced PIP to replace the outdated DLA system, and as we invite more people to claim PIP, claims have been steadily increasing quarter on quarter since summer 2015.”

Capita did not return a request for comment before our deadline today.

Atos and Capita bosses previously apologised for flaws in the assessments system generally when MPs grilled them.

Capita’s divisional managing director Chris Stroud said in February: “Let me apologise and acknowledge that our quality has not been acceptable, and there’s no shying away from that.”

Link : Daily Mirror.

I assess if you are fit for work. I hate having to score your life this way : Guardian.

As the person who hurriedly judges your medical condition for the DWP, I have to decide if you qualify for disability benefits.

ESA is a contentious type of benefit and the people who I assess are often anxious, angry, scared or pessimistic

ESA is a contentious type of benefit and the people who I assess are often anxious, angry, scared or pessimistic Photograph: Keith Morris/Alamy

I’m the person who assesses whether or not your medical condition is stopping you from being able to work – and I have never felt so dejected by a job.

It’s my job to carry out work capability assessments to see if people qualify for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). For 18 months, I’ve been working for a private company to which the the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) outsources this task.

I’m a healthcare professional who joined after being disillusioned with working in the NHS. I will be honest: for me, as for many of my colleagues, the salary, which is far higher than NHS pay, was a big draw. But like all healthcare professionals, we want to do a good job. We go into caring professions because we care.

But in this job I just don’t always have the time to be as sympathetic as I’d like to be or give people the time they need. We are under constant pressure to assess at least six claimants a day, spending 65 minutes on average with each.

If the company I work for fails to meet its assessment targets it can get fined by the DWP. So I often get a knock on the door to ask how much longer I will be and when I can pick up another case.

ESA is a contentious type of benefit and the people who walk into my assessment room are often anxious, angry, scared, pessimistic or resigned. Many have lost faith in the system and feel the government is abandoning them. We are often the sounding board for the people who come in. They confide in us about the horrific things that have happened to them.

About 80% of the people we see have mental health problems. I have assessed clients who were actively psychotic, in a manic bipolar phase, or severely depressed to the point where they couldn’t speak and a family member had to do the talking for them.

There has been a general improvement in reports since the company I work for took over the contract, but there still isn’t always the time to give full consideration to the complexity of cases. Some people have as many as 15 medical conditions and we have to document and obtain a history for every single one. When this happens, staff know it will take longer. It can lead to us rushing and missing things because we are so concerned about not seeing enough people during the day. It is relentless.

Most people I assess understand we are just there to do a job. But some people are very volatile and some do resort to verbal abuse, intimidation, and occasionally, physical violence. They’re angry at the system – and I can understand why.

As the face of that system, I am the one who bears the brunt of their ire. We all try to placate and soothe the people who come in as best as we can. But sometimes we just can’t. I have had to abandon cases and there have been countless times where the emergency services have been called. Sometimes I feel genuinely scared.

As we don’t make the ultimate decision, we never find out what happens in the end. When someone asks how they have done, it can be very difficult. I’m not allowed to tell them anything, but I know that if I have scored them little or no points, they will most likely lose their benefit and be expected to hunt for a job. It makes me feel so dishonest and I imagine their face when they’re hit with that letter or phone call, delivering the bad news.

It is most difficult with the ones who are trying their best to get by but just aren’t deemed bad enough to qualify for any support. Many claimants are older and underskilled, which makes it much harder for them to find work. I have cried on two occasions after an assessment because I felt so awful that I couldn’t help.

The job is incredibly demoralising and psychologically draining – by the end of the day I’m exhausted. I honestly don’t know how much longer I will last.

Link : The Guardian.

This series aims to give a voice to the staff behind the public services that are hit by mounting cuts and rising demand, and so often denigrated by the press, politicians and public. If you would like to write an article for the series, contact kirstie.brewer@theguardian.com