Life in the PIP queue: Claimant left chasing shadows after ‘ghost’ assessment


newslatestA disabled man waited months for the result of his assessment for the government’s new disability benefit, only to discover that the woman who had assessed him had quit her job without ever filing her report.

Stanley Kaye’s case was lost in the system for more than three months because Capita – one of the two companies being paid to assess claimants for the new personal independence payment (PIP) – failed to carry out any checks on the assessor’s cases after she quit.

Kaye, who lives near Peterborough and cares for his disabled partner, was even told that other Capita assessors had quit their jobs without filing assessment reports.

It is just the latest concern to be raised over the way Capita and Atos Healthcare have dealt with assessments for the new PIP, which was introduced last year to gradually replace working-age disability living allowance.

The two companies, and the Department for Work and Pensions, have come in for heavy criticism for a system, policies and procedures that have led  to claimants waiting as long as eight or nine months to be told whether they are eligible for the new benefit.

Kaye sent his completed PIP form to Capita in late September, and was told to expect a home assessment visit on 3 December.

The assessor was 35 minutes late for the assessment, and – he says – appeared uninterested in his answers, refusing to look at any of the paperwork relating to his medical condition, and left after 45 minutes.

When he contacted Capita, the company refused to tell him the assessor’s qualifications.

He rang the company repeatedly throughout January and February for information about the result of his assessment. But then, on 5 March, he received a letter telling him he was to receive a PIP assessment on 20 March.

He said: “I rang Capita straight away and explained to them that I had already had [an assessment]and their comment was they had no record of coming to see me.”

Another member of staff rang him the next day, and insisted that no-one from Capita had ever visited him.

Kaye then rang Capita’s head office, and was eventually told by the company’s complaints department that an assessor had indeed been to see him, but had not completed the assessment interview and had subsequently left the company.

When he queried this response with a senior Capita executive, he was told that they were “finding this happening more and more throughout the company”.

He said: “I was told that people are coming out to do reports, to do visits, but they are not completing the reports and are then leaving the company.”

Kaye finally received a proper PIP assessment last week, with the assessor taking two-and-a-half hours and examining all of his paperwork.

But he said: “Why did it take me three months to find out that my assessment had not been done?

“And how many others did that woman [assess]that she didn’t send paperwork in for? I can’t be the only one.”

He said his case showed Capita was “incompetent” and had “bitten off more than they can chew” with the PIP contract.

Dr Stephen Duckworth, Capita PIP’s chief executive, said: “We are sorry for the delay and distress Mr Kaye has experienced and are taking action to ensure that this does not happen again.

“Our disability assessors are all experienced health professionals. Each and every one is trained to a new and high standard and then approved by the DWP. This takes time but helps deliver quality.

“PIP is an entirely new assessment that asks health professionals to work in a very different way.

“There is an unprecedented amount of scrutiny of them and we recognise the challenges that they have in delivering this new role.

“Our priority has been to ensure that Mr Kaye was given a fair, evidence-based and high-quality report and we can confirm that this has been sent to [DWP] for it to make its decision.”

Capita has refused to say how many other cases there have been of assessors quitting without filing their assessment reports.

27 March 2014