Seeking claimants to take legal cases over PIP dishonesty

Disability News Service has been investigating claims of dishonesty in the PIP assessment process for 18 months.

A leading discrimination lawyer has now said he may be able to take legal cases on behalf of PIP claimants who believe that the HCPs who carried out their assessments did not honestly report the results.

Cases would be taken under the Equality Act, but crucially the assessment must have happened in the last 6 months, for legal reasons.

If GMWRAG members know of any PIP claimants who have had an assessment in the last few months and want to consider legal action, please contact DNS – with some brief details of the dishonesty and when it took place – either by phone or email*.

Here’s some background to the DNS investigation…

In November 2016, DNS began an investigation into claims that healthcare professionals who carry out face-to-face assessments of benefit claimants had lied, ignored written evidence and dishonestly reported the results of physical examinations.

The claims involved HCPs working for both Capita and Atos.

The alleged dishonesty included HCPs: refusing to accept further written evidence from medical experts; wrongly claiming that physical examinations had been carried out; refusing to list all medications; ignoring or misreporting key information detailed during the assessment; and reporting a refusal to co-operate with a physical examination, when they were unable to complete it because of their impairment.

The first story was published in January 2017 and since then, DNS has compiled claims of dishonesty made by about 300 PIP claimants.

Over 18 months, evidence of institutional dishonesty has continued to build, and many of the stories published by DNS have been shocking.

DNS also reported how secret recordings revealed how a nurse failed to mention a disabled woman’s near-fatal asthma attacks, accidental overdoses and repeated blackouts in yet another dishonest benefits assessment report.

The DWP, Capita and Atos continued to insist that there is no dishonesty in the process as the evidence continued to mount.

Since the investigation began, many claimants have expressed a wish to take legal action against assessment companies because of harm caused to them and the discrimination they believe they faced.

There was some hope when a court ruled last year that a disabled woman should be awarded £5,000 compensation by Atos, after a dishonest report by one of its assessors led to her being awarded the wrong level of benefits, but Atos had failed to offer a defence to her claim for damages and is now challenging the court’s ruling.

And there was hope when solicitor Daniel Donaldson announced earlier this month that he was taking a case against DWP in the Scottish courts for allegedly discriminating against him in the way it dealt with his PIP claim.

DNS has now been in touch with a leading London-based lawyer, who has offered to consider cases of PIP claimants who allege dishonesty by their assessors, to see if there is a way to take legal action against Atos or Capita under the Equality Act.

*If you’re interested in potentially taking a legal case, contact DNS editor John Pring by phone (weekdays only, please: 01635 228907) or email: john@disabilitynewsservice.com

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Tom Messere would like your help!

What do you mean you don’t know who Tom Messere is? Tom is a NAWRA committee member and author of the Big Book of Benefits as well as a well known member of Maggies Online Centre.

He would be very interested in hearing about poor practice among PIP assessors of the kind shown in a recent Dispatches programme.

The particular assessor concerned appeared to demonstrate a crass, prejudiced, medicalised and suspicious view of claimants, but seemed to evidence some rather corrupt practises to maximise his piece rate earnings. Such an example may confirm our occasional suspicions of rogue assessors from time to time, going back to DLA rogue EMPs. Nothing new there, then.

But for Tom the bigger concern was the fact that:

  • this bad practise was clearly known about and seemingly condoned by the Assessment Centre where he worked
  • furthermore, he was seen as an exemplar for mentoring a new trainee, and his manager seemed to be quite happy to condone his possibly exaggerated bragging as she removed awkward notices about the right to record interviews.
  • and the much vaunted audit process that we were assured maintained quality even if it contributed to early PIP delays did not seem to have picked up on what must have been a rather high rate of negative recommendations.

It happened to be a Capita assessor, but I am sure these are also issues for Atos too, even if I am sure the majority of assessors are not so jaded, corrupt as appeared. There is good practice and feedback from claimants out there too. . .

The Wales Capita stakeholder forum is having a short meeting with Capita’s director of communications on Wednesday the 8th of June 2016. Tom is attending on behalf of Welfare Rights Advisers Cymru, but is happy to pop a NAWRA hat on too.

He anticipates a defense based on this being a one off rotten apple swiftly cast out of the barrel etc. So at this stage it would be useful to raise initial concerns that suggest that this may not have been a one-off.

In the short term, if you work in a Capita area and get a moment between now and Wednesday, please send Tom a summary of any similar issues as raised by the Dispatches example. to tom@nawra.org.uk  

It’s a short meeting not a hearing/investigation, so no great detail of the case is needed – just a short anonymised thumbnail summary of key issues and concerns.

If you don’t work in a Capita area – or don’t have time before Wednesday –  please send me any examples anyway.

Tom be happy to collate these and raise with Capita and Atos to encourage some serious changes to education, culture and auditing to as far as possible root this out. Advisers and clients should not have to put up with this sort of nonsense.

Tel: 01348 874505  Mobile: 07729 775581