Amazing! People with disabilities do not trust benefit claims assessments

Who’d have thought it? People with disabilities have a pervasive lack of trust in the method of assessing welfare benefit claims, say MPs.

Assessments produced by companies were ‘riddled with errors and omissions’, says the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee. Those companies are contractors Atos, Capita, and Maximus.

That’s just what campaigners and commentators have said, over and over again. We don’t trust them.

A stark figure considered by the committee is that, since 2013, 290,000 rejected claims for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) have been granted on appeal.

The cross-party committee noted that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has spent hundreds of millions defending decisions. Decisions which had been made on the basis of reports by private contractors.

In its report PIP and ESA Assessments, the committee said quality targets set for the companies had been ‘universally missed’. Further, it recommended that ministers should consider taking the process back in-house and not renew contracts in 2019 and 2020.

The committee says it received an ‘unprecedented’ number of responses from PIP and ESA claimants.  Nearly 4,000 people gave ‘shocking and moving, credible and consistent’ accounts of the failings of the system.

No trust in assessors

Surprise, surprise! The recurrent complaint was that they did not trust the companies’ non-specialist assessors to note evidence of their conditions accurately.

Other findings included:

·        Assessors were viewed as ‘at best lacking in competence and at worst actively deceitful’, while many claimants reported experiencing ‘a great deal of anxiety and other deleterious health impacts’.

·        One claimant was said in her assessment report to walk her dog, despite not owning one and being barely able to walk at all.

·        Another, who remained in bed throughout her interview at home, was reported to have risen from a chair ‘without any difficulty’ even though the only chair in the room was the one the assessor was sitting in.

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Frank Field MP.

Committee chairman Frank Field said system shortcomings cause “untenable human costs to claimants and financial costs to the public purse”.

He said: “No-one should have any doubt the process needs urgent change.”

The report says face-to-face assessments should be recorded, and a copy sent to the claimant along with the assessor’s report. Claimants should not just receive notification of the DWP’s decision which they currently receive.

Mr Field said it “beggars belief” that assessments are not already routinely recorded. It was “bewildering” that the DWP had resisted this step.

He added: “The current contracts have not made the system fairer, have not made it more transparent and have not made it more efficient. The existing contractors have consistently failed to meet basic performance standards. The Government should be prepared to take assessments in-house.”

Whether a more fundamental overhaul of welfare support for disabled people is required “remains open”, the committee said.

Respect and dignity

A DWP spokesman said: “As the Work and Pensions Select Committee highlights, assessments work for the majority of people.

“However, our aim has to be that every person feels they are treated fairly, with respect and dignity.”

The spokesman said DWP had already accepted more than 100 recommendations from five independent reviews of the Work Capability Assessment and commissioned two independent reviews of PIP assessments.

All three assessment companies agreed to comment.

A Capita spokesman said: “We remain firmly committed to delivering a high-quality service for people applying for PIP, and fully recognise the importance and sensitivity of our role in providing assessments. All of our qualified healthcare professionals are fully trained and are dedicated to delivering professional and empathetic assessments for all claimants.”

A spokesman for the Maximus-operated Centre for Health and Disability Assessments said: “Since we took over the contract in March 2015, we have set out to improve the experience at every stage for those attending assessments.

“We have delivered year-on-year improvements across the service, hiring more medical professionals, halving the time people spend in the assessment process and hitting the large majority of quality targets.

“In January 2018, we achieved all of our quality standards. We take the findings of this report very seriously and remain fully committed to making further improvements.”

A spokesman for Independent Assessment Services – formerly known as Atos Healthcare – said: “We are extremely conscious of the important role we perform within the claimant process, which is why our focus has consistently been on providing a professional and compassionate assessment service.

“We have also looked at continually improving by listening to claimant feedback, which has led to a number of improvements.”

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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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.

More lies from a disability minister – this time to MPs

As soon as Esther McVey was work and pensions secretary, one of her junior minister  told lies to MPs. Not that parliamentarians call it telling lies. In their terms, disabilities minister Sarah Newton misled the house of commons.

lies

Sarah Newton MP, minister for people with disabilities.

Now, Department of Work and Pensions officials are making excuses. A DWP spokeswoman told Disability News Service the minister had not intended to discuss the proceedings in any depth, and: “The preparation for the ILF debate was carried out well before the reshuffle, and the minister had no prior knowledge of its outcome.”

The problem is, what Ms Newton told the house although McVey’s 2012 decision to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF) was challenged with a judicial review, “throughout the process the DWP won on all points.”

That’s simply not true. That’s telling lies.

Journalist John Pring wrote on Disability News Service website: “The three judges unanimously overturned an earlier ruling by the high court and found that her (McVey) decision to close the fund was unlawful, and that she had breached the Equality Act’s public sector equality duty.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

“She was heavily criticised by the judges, with one saying there was no evidence that she had “directed her mind to the need to advance equality of opportunity”.

lies

Esther McVey, work and pensions secretary.

As far as I am concerned, that means the DWP did not win on all points.

What actually happened was that, in 2012 when Esther McVey was disabilities minister, she closed the Independent Living Fund. The decision was challenged and, finally, three appeal court judges firmly rejected her decision.

Full details can be found here.

Ms McVey’s appointment to work and pensions secretary has been met with criticism.

Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, spoke out. She said: “People see this as a deliberately provocative appointment.”

She added that they feel it will lead to further abuse and denial of rights for disabled people.

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said: “We can now expect an intensification of the government’s campaign of violations against the fundamental human rights of the UK’s disabled population.”

Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, was more cautious. She said McVey had “a very full in-tray when it comes to disabled people.

“We hope she’ll work with us to come up with practical responses to some of the critical issues around disabled people’s ability to live as full and equal citizens in the UK.”

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

Government MS group says more support needed at work

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People with MS who want to work are just not getting the support they need in the workplace.  That´s the verdict of the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group for MS.

The group issued its report after conducting a year-long review into whether people with MS have the support they need to stay in, or get back into, work. It has also made recommendations about improving support that people with MS need.

Unsurprisingly, the review found that the fluctuating nature of MS is a significant obstacle to gaining, or staying at, work. Other findings were:

  • Common MS symptoms (including fatigue, mobility issues and cognitive problems) can cause significant challenges at work.
  • Those who are not in or looking for work due to their MS lose almost 20 working years on average.
  • Preventable issues result in many people with MS leaving work earlier than they would choose to. These issues include people with MS facing stigma and discrimination at work and a lack of understanding of MS in the workplace.
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All Party Parliamentary Group for MS chairman Simon Hoare MP.

Group chairman Simon Hoare said: “Small, straightforward changes by employers – such as supporting managers to feel confident in talking with employees about their health and offering reasonable adjustments – can help people with MS to stay in work for longer.

“There are areas for improvement in Government policies and employment support schemes such as the Work and Health Programme and Access to Work. And employees need to feel comfortable about discussing their immediate and ongoing needs with their employers.”

MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “With the Government’s consultation on work, health and disability now launched, this timely review sets out concrete steps that could result in more people with MS, who feel able to, remaining in work.

“We know that employment can help people with MS to remain independent and participate in society, so it’s crucial this issue is addressed. And those who can no longer work should be able to rely on welfare support without the fear of having it taken away.”

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ian profile50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/didorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.