Assessors working on behalf of the UK government, to evaluate claims for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) continue to be the cause of endless complaints for their unacceptable behaviour. PIP is the welfare benefit paid to people with multiple sclerosis and other disabilities, and the behaviour of some assessors is well below the professional standards we have a right to expect.
A benefits assessor working for the outsourcing company Capita repeatedly “lied” in her report, after carrying out a face-to-face assessment of a disabled nurse which was observed by her husband, a retired GP – according to an article posted on the Disability News Service website.
The disabled woman and her husband have asked not to be named – so their claims have not been put to Capita or the Department for Work and Pensions – but they have provided proof to Disability News Service (DNS) that they are both on their respective professional registers.
They believe the behaviour of the Capita assessor, herself a registered nurse, makes her unfit to remain in her profession.
Although DNS has received a string of credible reports from disabled people who say their benefits assessors lied in reports written after face-to-face medical assessments, this account is particularly credible because the behaviour was witnessed by both a nurse and a doctor.
The woman, Mrs A, lodged a complaint with Capita even before she knew the result of the test because she and her husband were so appalled that last month’s assessment at their home in south Wales was so rushed, impersonal and poorly carried out, and ignored key questions.
Mrs A, who has significant support needs due to a series of medical conditions, had already had to fight to have her disability living allowance (DLA) restored after it was stopped by DWP when her PIP claim form was lost in the post, while “rude and confrontational” staff then refused to provide her with a replacement form.
The couple say the assessor made almost no eye contact during the PIP assessment, but spent most of the time typing on her laptop, while she continually interrupted Mrs A as she tried to explain the impact of her impairments on her daily life.
Worst fears confirmed
Mrs A said that when she and her husband saw the report the assessor had written, their “worst fears were confirmed”.
As a result of the report, Mrs A’s previous entitlement to the higher rates of both the mobility and care components of DLA were downgraded under PIP to the standard daily living rate and no entitlement at all to the mobility element.
She has now put in a second written complaint, this time about the content of the report and what they say are the assessor’s lies.
Both Mrs A and Dr A say they have a duty as healthcare professionals to expose the assessor’s actions.
Among their many concerns is that the report stated that there was no evidence that Mrs A was wearing hearing aids, when the briefest of checks would have shown they were in place behind her ears.
The report failed to mention her painfully swollen leg, and said that Mrs A refused to stand, when in fact the assessor had recognised she was in too much pain to stand and so did not ask her to do so.
Among many other concerns, the report failed to point out that Mrs A was clearly “distressed, in pain and anxious”, and failed to note the forgetfulness and slowness of thought she showed during the assessment.
Dr A said the report was “an absolute fabrication”.
He said: “The actual examination was laughable. It took a few moments.
“My wife couldn’t even stand up… yet somehow she was able to infer that she could walk more than 50 metres but less than 200.
“How do you infer that from someone who wasn’t even able to get up out of the chair?
“She said she couldn’t see the hearing aids. She didn’t even look to see if the hearing aids were in place. How difficult is it to move a couple of hairs?”
He added: “It was appalling. Every single sentence in that report can be torn apart.”
Mrs A, who is not able to do clinical nursing work because of her impairment, said she believed the assessor “had an agenda”.
She said: “I feel hurt that a nurse, who is also a colleague in a way, would behave in this manner.
“Nurses are supposed to act with integrity in all that we do. We know how important recording of information – truthfully – is.”
She added: “We feel the nurse is acting dishonestly.
“I cannot understand how if you are a nurse you wouldn’t act impartially. I don’t understand how you can be both a nurse and a PIP assessor.
“The public rely on the integrity, honesty and openness of nurses. As a nurse myself, this kind of behaviour has to stop.”