Disabilities: Official papers reveal failings of assessment contractors

Devastating papers, reluctantly released by the government under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), reveal frightful failures of a key disability benefit. In particular, the papers show the shortcomings of outsourcing contractors hired to carry out assessments of applications.

That means that critics of personal independence payment (PIP), and the way it has been introduced, have been fully vindicated. And, in those critics I include myself-

The papers, popularly dubbed the ‘PIP files’, lift the lid on what has been going on. This includes:

  • up to 180 PIP assessors employed by Capita and Atos were the subject of at least four complaints each in three-month periods in 2016;
  • 161 assessors working for Atos had more than three complaints made against them in a three-month period;

Neither Atos nor Capita, or the DWP, will say what action (if any) was taken against these assessors. Similarly, they refuse to say whether those involved are still carrying out face-to-face assessments of disabled PIP claimants.

  • that Atos and Capita contacted health and social care professionals to ask for information far less often than the government estimated would be needed.

In fact, both outsourcing companies have failed to request vital evidence from GPs and social workers. Such evidence could help disabled people secure the benefits they are entitled to receive.

Further evidence

According documents prepared in May 2012, the DWP had expected contractors would need to ask for further evidence in about 50% of cases. But the latest papers show:

  • In June and July 2016, Capita was seeking further information from GPs, consultants or social workers in fewer than one in every 50 PIP claims. That’s less than 2% of cases;
  • In June 2016, Capita sought further evidence for just 380 of the 21,554 PIP assessments it dealt with. Incredibly, just a little more than 1.75%.

The figures are contained in official reports, prepared by contractors Capita and Atos, for the UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The PIP files were released under FOI to Drew Hendry of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP). He has been MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey since the 2015 general election.

disability employmentAdditionally, a report by Disability News Service says:

Nearly one in three of the disability benefit assessment reports completed by a private sector contractor were significantly flawed, confidential Department for Work and Pensions documents suggest.

Unacceptable assessment reports

The figures were revealed through a government audit of personal independence payment (PIP) assessment reports that had been written by staff working for under-fire outsourcing giant Capita in 2016.

The audit, which examined more than 4,000 of the 190,000 assessment reports completed by Capita from April to December 2016, found that about 7.5% of them were so poor as to be deemed “unacceptable”.

But with another 14% of assessments, DWP concluded that the report was so flawed that there was “learning required” by the healthcare professional who wrote it, although the report was of an “acceptable” standard.

And in a further 12% of cases, the report needed to be amended because of even more serious flaws in the assessor’s report, although again the report was still said to be of an “acceptable” standard.

In all, nearly 33% of the Capita reports audited during 2016 were found to be of an unacceptable standard, to need changes, or demonstrated that the assessor had failed to carry out their role properly.

Shocking, right? Of course, but it is nothing that disability campaigners haven’t been saying about PIP assessments for a long time,


Disability News Service: The PIP Files: DWP documents show ‘absolutely shocking’ failure on further evidence

Disability News Service: The PIP Files: Data shows multiple complaints made against scores of Atos assessors

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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 intended for your general knowledge only and 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 and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.






Secret reports, that ministers said did not exist, say they WERE warned that vulnerable being hit hardest












Iain Duncan Smith, former Work and Pensions Secretary, headed team of ministers who did nothing to protect vulnerable, says report.

Writer’s Declaration of interest: I have multiple sclerosis and receive both ESA (in the support group) and Disabled Living Allowance (both care and mobility components at the highest rates).

‘No matter what they tell you, No matter what they do, No matter what they teach us, What we believe is true’1

How true those words have become with the long-awaited reports of secret internal inquiries into deaths of people claiming disability benefits being finally released on Friday.

The very existence of the reports was for a long time denied by UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) ministers – headed by then secretary of state Iain Duncan Smith.

Although heavily redacted2, or censored, the reports do still show that government ministers stood by and did nothing despite being warned that the Work Capability Assessment back-to-work tests were hitting vulnerable disabled people the hardest.

This has got to be the 21st century’s most tragic equivalent of the biblical story of Pontius Pilate’s hand washing. But this time, the ‘it is not my fault’ argument just won’t wash.

However, unbelievably, the DWP is continuing to deny responsibility. A spokesman said: “Any suicide is a tragedy and the reasons for them are complex, however it would be inaccurate and misleading to link it solely to a person’s benefit claim.”

There were 49 inquiries up to August 2014. They were mostly undertaken after claimant suicides and though, after numerous redactions, they fail to make a direct link between benefit cuts and claimant deaths, they do highlight widespread flaws that lead to vulnerable claimants experiencing trauma.

Ministers initially denied that they held any records on people whose deaths may have been linked to benefits system. This was untrue, they were just being hidden as the release of the reports, in response to Freedom of Information (FOI) demands, clearly shows.

Apparently, another nine cases have been investigated since August 2014 and are already subject to further FOI requests.


1No matter what (recorded by Boyzone) Songwriters LLOYD WEBBER, ANDREW / STEINMAN, JIM Published by Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

2Officials have removed from the reports any references to the specific events that triggered an investigation, as well as dates, names of claimants or staff and locations. Several of the inquiry reports have been stripped of almost all data.     In two instances, investigators reported that it was difficult to carry out a proper inquiry because DWP records had been purged, or not kept properly.



Suicides of benefit claimants reveal DWP flaws, says inquiry – The Guardian newspaper

Secret papers show that DWP knew that benefit cuts would hit vulnerable hardest – Third Force News