PIP investigation: MPs to consider assessment dishonesty claims

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An influential committee of MPs is to examine claims of widespread dishonesty by healthcare professionals who carry out face-to-face assessments of disability benefit claimants.

Last week, Disability News Service (DNS) published the results of a two-month investigation that suggested a serious, institutional problem that spreads across the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the two private sector contractors – Atos and Capita – that assess eligibility for personal independence payment (PIP) on its behalf.

DNS included evidence from more than 20 disabled people who had contacted DNS over the last year or had commented on previous DNS news stories to claim that their assessors – usually qualified nurses – lied repeatedly in reports they produced for DWP.

Since publication, DNS has collected more than 20 further reports – some through comments on last week’s stories, and others with detailed evidence shared with DNS – from disabled people who say their assessment reports were dishonest and deeply misleading.

As a result of that evidence, the chair of the Commons work and pensions select committee, the Labour MP Frank Field (pictured), said today (Thursday): “The committee has been presented with some concerning reports about the operation of the PIP assessment process.

“I’m looking at those reports, and the issues they raise, very carefully. It will then be for the committee to decide how it wants to respond.”

The team reviewing PIP on behalf of DWP has also confirmed that it will accept evidence collected during the DNS investigation. Paul Gray’s second review of PIP is due to be published in April.

DWP has continued to show no interest in the results of the investigation and to insist that there is no dishonesty at all among its benefits assessors.

Meanwhile, a former Atos assessor has told DNS why she believes there are so many examples of dishonest assessment reports.

The former nurse worked for Atos for about six months in 2014 and 2015 before she left because she was not meeting her target of eight paper-based assessments a day.

Although she left before the period covered by the latest reports – which focus on the last 12 months – she said she believes the pressure on her former colleagues to reach their targets for completing reports left them little time to research the conditions they are assessing.

She said: “I know staff would make assumptions rather than facts… to get the reports done quickly and hope it didn’t get audited.

“Some were like me very conscientious and others banged them out for the financial incentive, with little compassion or research on conditions.”

She added: “The lack of knowledge on conditions, drugs and side-effects is shocking, but in reality assessors cannot know about every possible condition but have no time… to look them up and research the condition and effects.”

She particularly highlighted the lack of knowledge about mental health conditions, which she said meant assessors were often “totally subjective rather than objective with no time to look up the condition or read up the effects of the prescribed medication and side effects”. 

She also blamed “target-driven management” and assessors “making assumptions rather than using facts”, while the risk of losing their jobs if they failed to achieve targets for the number of assessments they carried out meant assessors were “not always reading all of the evidence”.

And, she said, many assessors often wanted to finish their reports quickly “so they could be paid overtime”.

Atos has again refused to comment this week, while a DWP spokeswoman said of the former assessor’s claims: “We can’t respond on Atos’s behalf. I suggest you refer that question to them.”

In another development, one PIP claimant has provided evidence which may explain why so few complaints about assessors are upheld by DWP’s “independent” complaints body, the Independent Case Examiner (ICE), which is staffed by DWP civil servants.

He has shown DNS an email from a member of the DWP customer services team which makes it clear that he is not allowed to lodge complaints about his PIP assessor with ICE because his concerns were “regarding the decision making process so are not considered as a complaint and as such would not be signposted to ICE as a result”.

A DWP press officer responded to a question about the email just before this week’s DNS deadline to say that she could not comment because “we have not been given any details about the email or claimant you’re referring to”.

By the time she replied, it was too late to secure permission from the PIP claimant to share his email with the DWP press office.

Last week, DWP said: “Assessment providers have their own complaints processes in place, and if claimants are not satisfied with providers’ response they will be signposted to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE). 

“Over 1.9 million PIP claims have been decided since April 2013 to September 2016 and in this time only a tiny fraction of complaints regarding providers’ service standards have been upheld by ICE.”

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  • Alison

    The nurse who did my last PIP assessment lied on her report to DWP about how far I could walk. I did a data subject access request and got her report, the DWP assessors report then pulled both apart at the mandatory reconsideration stage which made the DWP reconsider and award the correct number of points. The whole assessment is ridiculous because it is so tick box oriented and takes no account of how a disability actually affects day to day life. I also find it alarming that DWP has nothing in place to record PIP assessments which would definitely help with the assessors lying about what was said. The restrictions they have in place to allow the claimant to record the assessment are beyond ridiculous and unfair and need to be revised. I hope the committee takes steps to ensure the DWP is made to provide recording equipment for PIP assessments

    • Margaret manning

      Yes and why shud the claimants pay for two recording machines at cost £50 just becos. The panel of assessors are lying about everything. I had two WCAs deemed by top experts guys London unfit to work severe kidneypain atos not only left out their statements but completely over ruled top kidney surgeon and professor head pain team over 60 yrs experience between them and scored no points. Esa50 questions are stupid and have no bearing on severe renal pain 24/7 after 18yrs Tory government suddenly placed me WRAG without any warning. I’m on two sort morphine p,us 20 tabs a day and have 5 other more conditions now. So I’m far worse it’s disgusting we’re been punished for being ill wen none my condition have been bought on by lifestyle all run in family I shud never have bern out in WRAG. Dwp were even pestering me ring me wen I in hospital collapsed passing kidney stone I said can’t talk he carried on I had put phone down as vomitting no respect at all we are not all benefit “scrounges” as they put it Majority are like myself very ill ???

      • Diana Peek

        It’s not just PIP, unfortunately the same people are pulling the same ugly fraudulent behaviour inESA assessments too- I went through one assessment where the report took out all the qualifiers of what I could do, all the statements as to what I could do on a bad day and an average day and presented the best case seneraio as my normal. Ignoring everything I said to the contrary. It was the most appalling set of lies.

        • Lynne Ryan

          My husband had DLA for life but has still had to go for assessments where it was agreed he has limited mobility and he kept the award which meant his car. A few weeks ago he was assessed for PIP and he got no points at all for Mobility and was given lowest care amount. He sent in a request for Mandatory reconsideration pointing out that the assessor had seen him walking into the assessment with a walking stick but not leaning on it. He didn’t leave the house even, the assessor came here. He stood up and was told he could sit down as he was very unsteady but she had concluded that he could walk between 50 and 200 metres. On reconsideration the DWP still didn’t award him mobility points and also took away all the daily living points. So that’s his lifeline gone. He doesn’t get ESA, not pension age yet so he doesn’t have a penny.

          • Bettina Farley

            How long ago was this his MR sent back? He should appeal. The majority of MR come back exactly the same. From your description he should have got some points. Good luck. If it’s a little bit late they will probably still look at a tribunal. If its way too late, apply again. Get plenty of evidence and see if some sort of agency will help with the form. Look at the points system on the Internet. That will help.

    • Margaret Smith

      I agree Alison. I recorded my PIP assessment, or rather my husband did, and I am convinced it helped me get my award, enhanced on both. You have to have two recording machines that are the same. Tape or CD will do. But to be on the safe side we also took batteries and an extension lead just so there could be no excuse about sorry we don’t have the facility to do that. And you have to remember to inform them in advance that you are going to record it or they will refuse on the day. As you say, why should we have to do all that when we have enough to worry about. I would be happy to pay for the tapes or cd if they provided the equipment.
      To be fair though, the assessor I got was not one of the bad ones. And his wife apparently suffers from one of my four conditions which I think also helped him to understand. But it doesn’t change the fact that the whole system is unfair.
      As you say it is a tick box exercise and doesn’t take much account of fluctuating debilitating illnesses like mine. It’s very hard to get across the reality of your daily life when you have bad days and worse ones (I never have good ones). Just because I can have a shower one day doesn’t mean I can do it the next. That simple act may leave me in a lot of pain and may be what puts me in bed the next day. But say yes I can do that sometimes in the assessment and it gets recorded as yes.
      A very broken, unfair and sadly corrupted system.

  • Mwxxx .

    “DNS included evidence from more than 20 disabled people…”

    If DNS have “evidence” of Fraud, Misconduct in Public Office, Vulnerable Adult Abuse and all the rest…
    Then why has DNS and all of those MP’s not reported it all to the Police and Social Services?

    Just yet more hot air blowing and another cover up.

    Frank Field MP’s Labour party owns 17 Police forces (run by their Police and Crime Commissioners) and a *load* of Councils Social Services (I haven’t bothered counting them all).

    So why doesn’t Frank Field MP and his mates just get their bent cops and social service nonces to start doing their f*****g jobs?

    Google – Perverting The Course Of Justice

    • Probably because there is just one of me, and I worked about 80 hours in the last week as it is. If I started compiling dossiers of information for police forces on every PIP case, WCA outrage and piece of social care malfeasance I write about, I would never get any reporting done, and these stories would never see the light of day. Hopefully other people will take the kind of action you suggest. I think there is a lot of merit in it. Thanks for your input. Believe me, I understand your anger, even if I don’t agree with everything you say.

      • Sharon Jayne Hicks

        personaly i think the system needs to change once you got indefinite with DLA it should be an automatic change over to PIP…
        Some one i know never even had face to face just and automatic change over from DLA to PIP< and she got her money doubled..

      • Mwxxx .

        >”Hopefully other people will take the kind of action you suggest.”
        Fine. So where is this “evidence”? All I see is hearsay, again.

        Oh fyi – I don’t think that “Too Busy” would count as acceptable mitigation. That’s why other journalists do what you say you won’t do… forward evidence of crime to the Police and evidence of criminal abuse to Social Services.

        If you did that just once, and followed it up, then maybe we wouldn’t have another decade of criminal abuser politicians doing nothing but blowing Course Of Justice Perverting hot air. How many more murders and manslaughters?
        .

        • You know very well what the evidence is as it’s in the story. It’s currently a very vague and confused FoI response which NMC is supposed to be clarifying as we speak. You may not like my ‘mitigation’ but there it is. I’m not going to push myself over the edge just because of your bullying. I think I’m doing my best. You disagree. That’s fine.

          • Mwxxx .

            Well I’m sorry.

            Do you really think that I am trying to bully you when I ask you to report the evidence of crime that you say that you have to the police?

            The ‘evidence’ would be the documents. The assessment reports signed by the criminal quacks. etc.
            You got copies of those from the people you interviewed, right?

            It’s not at all about me liking your ‘mitigation’. Journalists report the evidence they have to the police so that they don’t get accused or perverting the course of justice.

            Ang Waters:

            www dot phobosanddeimos dot net

            And it now needs another update with yet more criminal intimidation from the local gang of vulnerable adult abusing nonces (labour).
            contact my MP? roflmao.

        • Ang Waters

          Why have a go at the reporter?? This is happening all over the country… I went from receiving moderate care PIP to nothing… I now can’t afford carers or a cleaner to help with my chronic illnesses… I am struggling financially living on ESA and the only upside is that I don’t have to pay for my many medications… I need to appeal my mandatory decision (0 points) but I don’t have the energy… don’t shoot the messenger… share the article and maybe contact your local MP YOURSELF…

      • Bettina Farley

        A lot of people don’t complain about the assessors because they wait for the appeal to see how they get on. I run a disability charity and we do many appeals for people who have got 0 points and go on to get enhanced on both daily living and mobility. After one of the local medical assessors lied on a few assessments I sat in on, I put a complaint in and would not let clients go to her. She was removed. That particular gentleman had 0 points and ended up with enhanced on both after tribunal. You just need to look at the pass rate on tribunals. We have a 95% record in our office. We’ve made around £200,000 in back pay for clients. I must add though. Not all assessors are bad. They are rushed. They are assessing people who are very anxious and confused. Terrified of not being believed and try and get everything across or don’t talk at all. Hope this helps.

        • Mwxxx .

          >A lot of people don’t complain about the assessors
          >because they wait for the appeal
          DWP tribunals are criminal Witness Intimidation. – Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 – Section 51

          Did you report that quacks crimes to the police? and social services?

          >Not all assessors are bad.
          The whole wca is Fraud based Vulnerable Adult Abusing Criminal Quackery.
          Read the quacks codes of ‘professional’ conduct.
          Read the Medical Act 1983 – Section 49 and 49A (pretending to be a medical doctor).
          Then read The Fraud Act and Misconduct in Public Office (up to life in prison for that).

          Ignorance of the law is no defense. And neither are “Too Busy” or “The dog ate my homework”… and neither are any ‘boilerplate’ “just advice” disclaimers. Google – Perverting The Course Of Justice.

          So how much crime has your charity not reported to the police? How much criminal Vulnerable Adult Abuse has your charity not reported to social services?

          >We’ve made around £200,000 in back pay for clients.
          Two or three of your wca criminal quacks can make that much in a year.
          How many years have you spent not reading the Fraud Act?

  • Sharon Jayne Hicks

    Well i think this PIP is crap once you got DLA indefinite it should that bloody way, not take away peoples mobility cars, what are they playing at..
    this needs looking into also because i agree the assessors do tell lies and a lot as well..

    • asserrs are paid to fail sick

      If you are heroine addict or alcoholic registered with fulcrum centre charity and help from probation officers and mental health workers, they get top rates pip, with no hassle.

  • jamie gaskell

    My self when when in to my Pip assessment i knew something was off so i asked for a copy of my assessment report from Atos. Even if received Pip high rate the assessors comments were underlining trying to lie or place false hoods on the assessment over all.

    Why is the government supporting practices like this?. Vulnerable people who are disabled like myself should not be made to feel during any assessment like we are second rate citizens because of are disabilities. Let alone have someone who knows little about are issues lie on reports to stop us getting the help and support we need. It’s ridiculous we need a better way to assess people than this

    • Sharon Jayne Hicks

      bloody people its because they are on big fat bonuses

  • Richard Green

    My p i p assessment got sent back and it was a complete contradiction just by what the advisor was saying and the medical person lied completely throughout as he told me to go and we would have to rebook an appointment as I get extremely anxious behind locked doors or in crowds yet told the PIP I seem to be fine, he said I talked in a calm friendly manner even though I talk loud, fast and constantly swear, he failed to mention the fact I do not leave my house without my dog, and according to the pip advisor on the mandatory reconsideration who refused to talk to me then said i communicate quite fine my cognitive function is fine.

    • Sharon Jayne Hicks

      They make me sick

      • Sharon Jayne Hicks

        All they do is lie so then they get people off these benefits then they get bloody good bonuses for doing it too..

  • Nina Mary Jackson

    Theyre now telling people they cant have copy of assessors report before decision is made. Ive suffered myself and had to threaten atos with legal action. I had a paramedic for parkinsons disease. She lied, ommited and made up information

  • Clive Firth

    IDS Should brought to book as well…. What, about those that, lost, or took their lives after the lying decision/assessments were accepted?? Smith is to blame, he ordered. His DWP troops also employed Atos and Capita… The Americans kicked both firms into touch, because they were using difficult and inaccurate formula..

    Some cases amount to nothing less than, Corporate Homicide..

  • Tracy cotgreave

    I had my assessment in October 2016, the “nurse”, stopped the assessment half way through, as she said to me she didnt want to cause me any pain or discomfort, she never ever asked was i in pain. When i received her report through the dwp, she lied through her teeth from beginning to end, she said that I stopped the assessment. I got 0 points! Now bearing in mind I have Osteoarthritis, and have had 1 hip replaced, I have Osteoporosis in my lower back, i have severe bladder problems, and need a pad on 24/7, i also told her that i have a growth on my liver, but she failed to mention this at all. I had a witness accompanying me, so the so called assessor has a lot of questions to answer. I will be asking them at my appeal.

  • Paula Greer

    I had my assessment in August 2016 and my money stopped in September with no notification. The assessor said I had moved freely and had no problems getting items out of my bag on 3 occasions but I had to sit on the examination bed as I was in so much discomfort and never moved throughout the appointment…The assessor lied about me walking as I have a real problem due to an operation on my foot…. I have hip problems and have difficulty with my personal hygiene due to having two frozen shoulders. I couldn’t believe the report I cried for two or three days… It is bad enough when you are ill having worked all your life then to be made out to be a lier because someone has to reach their targets! I have recieved my appeal papers to find that intermingled with my own records I have a ladies records of breast cancer and much more. A real disgrace at the atos offices me thinks!!!

  • gavin brierley

    I had mine stopped in August, I do continue to work but I’ve lost a lot of money and put myself and my family thought stress as I struggle to pay the bills, the shocking thing is I’m injured ex Royal Navy who almost lost their life on deployment, I’ve been fighting the MOD for proper discharge for 4 years and things are finally starting to look like it will get sorted but at the same time I’m fighting the DWP with clear injuries like deaf in one ear, I have a screw sticking out of my scull how can you argue with that?!?!? The rest I’ve proved but they say I don’t have issues even tho I CAN prove it

  • Jac Wigham

    I had my assessment in July, my payments reduced in September. The nurse who done my assessment has falsely reported my answers to her questions, some were blatent lies. When it came to the physical assessment she said it was fine if I was unable to do it, but then stated on my report that I wouldn’t do it. I am still waiting for a date for a tribunal hearing. My illness is affected by stress, my health has deteriorated because of the stress this has brought on for me and my family, and all because somebody can’t do their job properly. They make the mistake and so far nearly 7 months on and still no resolution.

  • OperationTempura

    Bluntly I have little or no faith in Paul Gray’s ability to produce an impartial or fair report on PIP. His December 2014 report was little more than a whitewash and when the PAC (Public Accounts Committee) looked at PIP at the beginning of last year they discovered that the recommendations he’d made had largely been ignored. If anything they found that things had got a lot worse since his so-called investigation. In any case his latest call for evidence closed on 16 Sept 2016 so why is it taking over six months to publish the findings?

    I’m in contact with the PAC, who are currently reviewing progress on their 2016 PIP report – https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmpubacc/727/727.pdf

    The PAC plan to go back to this problem in the Spring. In the meantime they are still willing to accept evidence from organisations and individuals. Their contact info is at –
    http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/contact-us/ – and the video link you find there is particularly informative.

    I’ve already copied my report to them along with concerns that Capita are cutting corners and saving costs by not sending out requests for medical evidence to GPs and other health specialists – that happened with both my applications and the blank document even turned when Capita responded to an SAR. When challenged Capita claimed it was an error but couldn’t (or more likely wouldn’t) explain what had happened.

    Right now I’m seeking evidence to submit to the PAC that Capita assessments are scripted and written to a stock format. I’ve already posted a comment on DNS about this. In fact I suspect that Capita are using a transcription service and the assessors aren’t even writing the final reports themselves. As part of this process I’ve just filed a request with the HMCTS SSCS Appeals Centre for an order forcing the assessor who conducted my PIP review to attend my appeal as a witness. You can do that under the Tribunal rules and also under the provisions of ECHR Article 6 3(d), which is embodied in the Human Rights Act 1998. This request has a sting in the tail because Capita have already stated in writing that, “The DA is unable to recall specific details of your assessment,” and that rather effectively rules out revisiting the assessment. In fact my plan is to go back to the report, which is in the evidence and bears her name, then simply ask her to explain how the 19 spelling mistakes, along with the numerous grammatical errors and contradictions, in the report slipped through her final checks before it went to DWP.

  • Nina Mary Jackson

    You do know that atos was paid in full upfront according to my MPs secretary. She thought Atos had already gone.

  • Janet Maddox

    I would never have believed how corrupt this system is until I had an assessment for PIP. The report was so full of lies that I thought my report must’ve been mixed up with someone elses. The medical assessment described just did not happen, to read it you would think I entered the room doing backflips and finished with a finale of riding a unicycle while juggling as that’s as close to the truth as this phony assessment.

  • Samantha Susan Jane Traynor

    My husband has falling victim of their malicious lies I was disgusted at what they wrote and it was clearly throwing together because the spelling mistakes were outrageous