From Disability News Service, 07 June 2017.
A disabled teacher has told how a government contractor apologised to him for a dishonest benefit assessment, and then had to apologise again after it ordered a replacement assessment which was even worse.
He says his experience is a damning indictment of the assessment process introduced by the government for its new personal independence payment (PIP), and raises fresh concerns about one of its key social security reforms, just a day before the general election.
The teacher, David*, has accused the government of “institutional discrimination” over the way it dealt with his PIP claim.
Disability News Service (DNS) has seen both of the letters written by the discredited outsourcing giant Atos, in which the company apologises for the failings in each of the two assessments.
Despite a lengthy investigation into widespread dishonesty within the PIP assessment system, which has now produced more than 200 cases of concern, this is the first time DNS has heard of a PIP contractor apologising for its failings in both an initial face-to-face assessment and a second assessment ordered because of the flaws in the first one.
David has now finally been awarded PIP at the enhanced rate for both mobility and daily living for the next 10 years, following his eight-month struggle in the face of what he says has been institutional discrimination by both the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its contractor, Atos.
His battle began last August, when there was a significant worsening of his health (he has ME).
He was claiming the standard mobility rate of PIP at the time and asked DWP to review his award.
As a result, he and his wife attended a face-to-face assessment in November, which was carried out by a nurse.
David said: “The so-called health professional fired one leading question after another at me.
“When he did not get the response he wanted, he would repeat the question again and I would try and repeat my initial answer.
“The question would be asked again until he got a response that he wanted.”
After half an hour, David was so exhausted that he had his head in his hands, resting on the nurse’s desk, and he had to ask for a break to take medication.
He said: “The questions continued unabated. By the end of the assessment, I felt as if I’d been in a fight, and just had one desire: to go home to bed and take more painkillers.”
To read the full story behind David's battle with ATOS and the DWP click, here.
David, has called on other PIP claimants to “never give up fighting”.
He said: “No matter how many times you are turned down, no matter what lies are said about you in Atos reports, don’t let it get you down.”
He said claimants should turn their “dejection, anxiety, stress and anger” over a dishonest assessment report into action by writing a letter of complaint, and ensuring it is sent by recorded delivery.
He said: “You cannot expect to be treated with respect. You cannot expect fair treatment.
“You can expect: to be treated with disdain, to not be believed, the medical evidence you provide to be ignored.”
He added: “The benefits system is on the front lines of the class war against the disabled poor.
“We must stand together to give disabled people the help, encouragement and support necessary to fight for the benefits that they are entitled to.”
*David is not his real name.