Questions are being asked about the behaviour of private sector assessors, following an allegation of intimidation. The suggestion is that a claimant was scared into giving positive feedback after a face-to-face assessment. And, if there was one, how likely is it that there are more?
This casts doubt on the honesty of statistics presented to the House of Commons Select Committee on work and pensions. The committee was conducting an inquiry into Personal Independent Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) assessments.
These statistics were presented by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). They purport to show that Atos, Capita and Maximus “consistently exceed” their customer satisfaction targets of 90% for PIP and 91% for ESA.
MPs on the committee have been very scathing of PIP and ESA assessments but believe the system functions ‘satisfactorily for the majority of claimants’. This belief is based on those statistics.
Appeal for evidence
Now, though, the member-based campaigning organization Benefits and Work is set to investigate the situation.
On its website, benefitsandwork.co.uk, it highlighted the issue. It said:
One member contacted us to describe how they had been asked to complete a feedback form by the face-to-face assessor in a way that we can only describe as intimidatory:
“She leaned over the front of my buggy so that she could see what I was writing and my signature. She hadn’t yet processed my report so I was a very good girl and gave the nice lady the top score!”
Benefits and Work would very much like to know whether you were asked for feedback after your PIP or ESA assessment – we suspect most people aren’t.
And, if you were, was it done in such a way that you were fearful that your assessor might exact revenge if you wrote anything critical?
In its report, the select committee had stated:
People tend only to make representations about their experiences to MPs or select committees when they are in difficulty or have had a poor experience with a public service. It is therefore unsurprising that the vast majority of submissions we received were critical of the assessment process. We did, however, receive a few positive responses:
- I was very pleased with the service I received. The process was a lot quicker than I thought it would be, which pleasantly surprised me. I was more than happy with the assessor, she was to the point but did what she needed to do. I don’t have any complaints. Beckey
- I thought my PIP assessment was carried out sensitively, with proper appreciation of my circumstances. I was happy with the result. Everyone I dealt with, both by telephone and at the assessment centre, was aware of how frightening the process could be and did all they could to counter that. I was very happy with the way I was treated and thought the process was properly fair and objective. Nick
- I was rather nervous when I had to apply for PIP. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the assessment would take place at my house. My assessor had worked in neurological healthcare and understood my condition. He was very easy to talk to and spent four hours interviewing me. When I received the result, I was very pleased to see that I would be able to retain my Motability car. Until I saw the letter I hadn’t realised how worried I’d been – I felt an enormous weight lift from my shoulders, and burst into tears of relief. Name withheld
Explanation needed – if allegation true
I await the outcome pf the Benefits and Work investigation with considerable interest. If a large number of claimants report being intimidated into giving positive feedback, the assessment companies must explain.
Clearly, such intimidation is just not good enough. We deserve better.
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.
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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.