A traumatised child abuse victim has branded the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “shameful” for trying to force him to attend a benefits reassessment, when he is waiting to give evidence at an institutional abuse trial.
David* has severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), caused by the horrific child abuse he suffered as a child, and which has led to several suicide attempts.
He is a key witness in a trial that he hopes will bring the perpetrators of that abuse to justice, but he says that the “abhorrent” actions of DWP and its contractor Atos are putting that at risk.
He has been told that he cannot discuss the abuse with anyone or allow DWP or Atos access to his medical records because the court proceedings are now live and the case is sub judice.
And he fears that if he attended the personal independence payment (PIP) assessment, he would be breaking the law and putting the trial at risk.
Even though the toll of the criminal investigation on David’s mental health has been harrowing, resulting in a series of self-harm episodes, DWP has continued its attempts to force him to submit to a PIP reassessment, even though it has been told repeatedly that the case is sub judice.
DWP civil servants have approached the police force investigating the allegations to ask about his evidence, and – he claims – even told a police officer investigating the case that they believed his claims were not genuine and that he was “trying it on”.
Disability News Service (DNS) has seen an email from one of the force’s police officers which proves that a colleague had to tell DWP at least twice that its actions were causing David “considerable stress and distress”, and had to remind the department that he was a witness in their investigation.
David said DWP have made “multiple” contacts with the police force, and with his mental health consultant.
A DWP spokeswoman said the department had “no record of any contact with the police”.
David said his consultant wrote to DWP on several occasions warning of his “severe PTSD”, the impact of the criminal case on his mental health, that removing his benefits would be devastating and life-threatening, and that none of the health professionals could discuss his case any further until the legal process was over.
David said the DWP harassment had caused his PTSD to worsen.
He said that losing his benefits could result in the court case collapsing, because he would “not be in any fit mind to give evidence”.
He told DNS: “It’s as if human life, human dignity and justice mean nothing to the DWP.
“Their crude bullying is inept and invasive. This is a truly horrendous ordeal. They are humiliating me and their irrational behaviour is causing me real mental anguish.
“I see them as no different to those who harmed me as a child.”
David currently receives PIP and employment and support allowance, and was originally told that he would not be reassessed until the end of the trial.
But he has now been told by DWP that he will lose his PIP for being “non-compliant” if he does not attend the reassessment. Atos sent him a letter on Friday (20 May) telling him that he had to attend an assessment on 1 June.
He said: “Being told I will be non-compliant and will be punished is just the same as when I was a child, refusing sexual advances and being humiliated and punished.”
He added: “My case is before the courts, and nothing must be done to interfere or hinder that.
“Everything must be done to support me, not what they are currently doing with no regard for the consequences.”
Other victims in the case have already taken their own lives, and he fears he will not be in a psychological state to give evidence if his benefits are ripped away by the government.
He said: “I am at a loss what to do. It is causing me undue alarm and distress when I am going through a very, very stressful process.
“It is destroying what dignity I have left. The treatment is humiliating and degrading.”
He has now asked for a meeting with work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb.
The DWP spokeswoman made it clear that if David wanted to continue to receive PIP he would need to be reassessed.
She said: “We are sorry for any distress our contact may have caused the claimant.
“PIP reviews ensure that people are receiving the right levels of support and where possible assessments are carried out in a way that is most convenient for the claimant.”
She said it was important that David had a PIP reassessment because he had also been awarded points for a physical injury, so he needed to be reassessed to see if he still required the same level of support.
And she said that he had been told that DWP did not need to discuss his court case or the history surrounding it, but only how his impairment affected his ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
*He cannot be named for legal reasons