PIP INVESTIGATION: Politicians call for action over ‘widespread dishonesty by assessors’


Labour, the Green party and the Liberal Democrats have called for the government to act on claims of widespread dishonesty by the medical professionals paid to compile benefits assessment reports, following a two-month investigation by Disability News Service (DNS).

The three parties spoke out after DNS shared the findings of the investigation with key opposition figures.

DNS has examined more than 20 cases in which claimants of personal independence  payment (PIP) – which is replacing working-age disability living allowance – have described how the healthcare professionals who carried out their face-to-face assessments subsequently produced dishonest reports.

The dishonesty includes assessors refusing to accept further written evidence from medical experts; wrongly claiming that detailed physical examinations had been carried out during the assessment; refusing to list all of a claimant’s medications; ignoring or misreporting key evidence told to them in the assessment; and reporting that a claimant had refused to co-operate with a physical examination, when they were instead unable to complete it because of their impairment.

Jonathan Bartley (pictured), co-leader of the Green party, called for an independent investigation.

He said: “This investigation reveals that is not sick and disabled people who are lying but those who are assessing them. 

“The shocking prevalence of inaccurate assessments which are denying desperately needed support obliterates any remaining pretence that PIP assessments are fair.

“The system should be looking after those who need help and acting with their best interests at heart, not working against them and making things worse.

“Behind each of these stories and the hundreds of complaints are people who are suffering, whose lives have been disrupted, turned upside down or in some cases destroyed. 

“It is clear these cases are not isolated incidents. There should be a full-scale investigation as a matter of urgency to reveal the full extent of what is going on, and that should ideally be carried out independently of the DWP, to avoid any cover-up, as we saw over the deaths of benefit claimants.”

Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said the evidence produced by DNS was “truly shocking”, and she repeated last year’s call by Labour to investigate the conduct of assessors.

She said: “We have seen from this and other investigations, including the [Channel 4] Dispatches programme in April 2016, that there are significant flaws in the PIP assessment process and with the conduct of many assessors. 

“Last year, Labour called for the department to undertake an investigation into the conduct of assessors, yet ministers refused to take action. 

“Unlike the work capability assessment, the government plans to continue assessing all disabled people for PIP, regardless of their condition and the fact that 65 per cent of PIP appeals are successful. 

“The impact on disabled people of having to fight the DWP for support to which they are entitled cannot be underestimated; causing distress, anxiety and negatively impacting on their health. 

“It is clear that the assessment process is wholly inappropriate and, in light of this investigation, ministers must take action now.”

The disabled Liberal Democrat peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas, who speaks for her party on disability, said the investigation and its findings were “timely” and called for DWP to audit all of its assessors.

She said the claims reflected the letters and emails she and other disabled peers receive about PIP assessors “who do not take proper notice of medical reports, do not listen properly to claimants and do not remember to ask about the reliability criteria which governs all descriptors”.

She said: “DWP needs to conduct a thorough audit of all assessors to make sure disabled people are not being penalised by assessors who are not up to the job.”

DWP has been handed eight cases of named claimants who have come forward to make allegations that healthcare professionals working for the outsourcing giants Capita and Atos lied in the reports they wrote after carrying out face-to-face assessments.

But DWP also turned down the opportunity to see many more cases, in which claimants have asked DNS not to reveal their personal details to the department.

Despite the findings of the investigation, DWP has refused to accept that there is any dishonesty at all among the medical professionals paid to compile assessment reports, and has refused to take any action to address the concerns.

Asked why there were so many cases of dishonesty involving assessors working for Capita and Atos, a DWP spokeswoman said: “We do not accept this is the case.”

She added: “We expect the highest standards from the contractors who carry out PIP assessments.

“We do not accept it to be the case that there is dishonesty amongst them.”

Asked whether DWP would act on the information provided by DNS, she said: “We are committed to making sure the PIP assessment process works fairly and effectively, which is why we welcome independent reviews such as the ones led by Paul Gray, the second of which is expected in April 2017.”

She added: “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.

“If ICE upholds a complaint against the provider, the provider incurs a penalty charge and is also required to pay the claimant any financial redress recommended by ICE.

“PIP customer satisfaction is up by more than 10 per cent since last year, and we expect these trends to continue following new improvements.

“We continue to work with disability stakeholders to ensure the PIP assessment process is working well.”

Asked if there was a serious problem with Atos and Capita assessors lying in their assessment reports, she said: “No, our providers are committed to providing a high-quality, sensitive and respectful service by conducting fair, accurate and objective assessments.

“Independent audit is in place to ensure advice provided to DWP decision makers is of suitable quality, fully explained and justified.

“Both Atos and Capita are required to ensure that the health professionals carrying out assessments have knowledge of the clinical aspects and likely functional effects of a wide range of health conditions and impairments.

“All health professionals undertaking assessments on behalf of DWP must be registered practitioners who have also met requirements around training and competence.

“They must be: an occupational therapist, level one nurse, physiotherapist, paramedic or doctor.

“They must also be fully registered and have at least two years post full-registration experience.”

She added: “All health professionals receive comprehensive training in disability analysis which includes a functional evaluation as to how medical conditions and the long-term medical treatment of those conditions affect an individual’s ability to perform day-to-day activities.

“Prior to carrying out an assessment, the health professional routinely refreshes their knowledge of any condition with which they are not fully familiar.”

She added: “We expect the highest standards from the contractors who carry out PIP assessments, and work closely with them to ensure PIP is working in the best way possible.

“We work extensively with the PIP assessment providers (Atos and Capita) and disability representative groups to make improvements to guidance, training and audit procedures in order to ensure a quality service.”

Capita refused to answer any questions about the allegations, including how many complaints it had received during 2016 about assessors not being truthful in their assessment reports; whether it believed this was a serious problem; and why it believed there were so many cases in which assessors were apparently failing to complete their assessment reports honestly.

Instead, it delivered the following statement: “We expect all of our assessors to undertake assessments as outlined by DWP and in-line with our comprehensive training.

“We expect all assessors to behave in a way that meets both our high professional standards and those of their professions.

“We are not involved in the decision making process or informed of claimants’ outcomes.”

Atos acknowledged receipt of an email from DNS detailing the investigation, but refused to respond further.

Picture by Pete Lopeman

  • User Ratings (55 Votes)
  • Penny Brodie

    I was told at my esa medical that the lady was putting I had various veinsdown on computer as she said the people who assess the medical are not medically trained so if I put what I’d explained (that my consultant at hospital had told me) they wouldn’t have a clue what was the problem. I said but that was a lie and wanted it changed but she refused. I am not well I have my mum come daily to make sure I eat get me to appointments an have many other some complex health problems. I’m on warfarin for life. I got no points at all. My mum was with me and we’re basically made to feel like we were lying when id only told them what my consultants at hospital had said. I emailed my local mp as could not get any answers from atos
    Since then I have really struggled tried takin my own life as I have to be on jsa to live but am not really capable for work but not ill enough to get esa. I’m 50 in august and this has made me feel like killing mysen as noone listens and we just have had to get on with it in the past. I went no lies only truth and got a big fat no as I said not even one point. Disgusting

    • Jay

      I passed my PIP assessment but only because I came the day after an operation (they wouldn’t change the date of the assessment) I was in plaster as I constantly break
      bones and had 2 new joints and was drugged on morphine. I next had a Medical
      for ESA and was refused, they said I could work normally though a last attempt at
      work caused me to break 2 bones. I appealed especially as the Medical was full
      of mistakes in my medication, my main 2 health problems of Osteo Arthitus and
      Fibromyalgia were reported wrongly etc etc. I wrote to the ESA and they upheld their
      decision and a 2nd time and completely ignored everything I said. At that time I was
      on £9.99 a week ESA!! They told me I needed to go to Court, I couldn’t cope with
      that though I put down that I would try. I was also on heavy Anti-Depressants as
      most people would be on £9.99! I was 62 and used up all my Retirement Savings
      as I was on £9.99 for 8 months because the ESA ignored all my correspondance
      on that too and only an M.P. finally got this altered. I spent about £50 on duplicate
      copies plus my copies for the Court case and for Recorded letters, phone calls, photographs of my twisted bones and joint repairs etc. I couldn’t cope with the
      Court case but asked them to take all the evidence I had sent into consideration.
      I won the Court case and was given the points not given for flexibility at the
      Medical (I can’t grasp or use my fingers (I only have 2 that bend even after the
      Operations). For 8 months I should have received approximately £135 a week not
      £9.99, this was only resolved after an M.P. intervened, again a costly and stressful
      situation (various people e.g Benefits Officer and Citizens Advice were ignored for months). When I finally got about £40 per week they omitted to give me an extra 2
      payments that brought it to the correct amount of £135 for another few months, 2 different people from the Employment Office pushed for that. Im sorry this is so long winded but so was my case, they ignored everything that was told to them. I fear that many people never get their correct Benefit because they will not go to Court or find
      the help required and therefore do not find out what extra Benefit they are entitled to!
      I was offered £100 if I didn’t complain but refused and wrote to the M.P. for Work &
      Pensions 3 months ago, guess what ‘No Reply’!
      M.P. Guess what that was nearly 3 months ago

      correct people

      2 broken bones

  • Jan Cassar

    My husband just had his pip assessment needless to say he only got 10 points out of the possible 12 to get the enhanced rate after being told his pain increases with walking more than 20 metres. But as he can walk up our garden on a good day (still with pain) they came to the conclusion he can walk more than 20 metres but no more than 50! Our garden is less than 9 metres so there & back 18 metres. Also the assessment chap told him he will still get the full rate as he has so much wrong with him. I am at a loss as to how they came to this conclusion & what gave the assessor the right to presume he wouldn’t lose out??????

  • Sandra Forrester

    Last year some of the assessors left saying that the problem is not necessarily with the assessors but with the guidelines both official & unofficial ie they re told to turn down a minimum of (I will stand corrected) but I think it was 10% of claimants. My suggestion would be that anyone going for one of these assessments should have an observer to document what is said and written & if necessary record it although you could do the latter for yourself

    • Irene Allen

      I understood they turn everyone down. And only 75% will appeal so they have saved the 25% the government require.

      • Margaret Pritchard

        That is true also they so much for each one they decline. I am still fighting, and I am in a wheelchair plus also retired (OAP). My husband is my appointed carer

  • Irene Allen

    My son has had DLA since he was 3, he is profoundly deaf with little speech and little understanding of the written word. He was born with severe emotional and behaviour problems, and has struggled all his life. He is now 42 and had his DLA money stopped in Dec. I filled the PIP claim form in, he had his assessment, and got turned down as he only got 4 points. I wrote on his behalf to ask them to look at forms again and they said nothing is different.
    The Nurse said he can understand complex and written language, she didn’t even look at him as the BSL interpreter was signing to him. No he can’t, he has Sciatica and very bad COPD to, So now I have appealed on his behalf, the appeal people want to know who is representing him, CAB don’t have the funding so NO for them, I rang Welfare Rights who say I have to wait for them to ring me for an appt. it could be weeks as everyone gets turned Down for PIP so there is a long wait, meanwhile my son gets another letter from PIP asking the name of the person who is representing him, they can’t go ahead till I let them know…. so CATCH 22 …meanwhile my son has no money and I am stressed out trying to sort it…

  • Christine Hathaway-Coley

    I was on high rate care and high rate mobility of DLA for M.E. a fluctuating condition that means I am mostly housebound and frequently bedbound. The assessor reported that I could walk “reliably and repeatedly” 200 yards based on watching me walk – slowly and in pain – from my bed to the bedroom door!
    She also reported that I read the label of my medication without my glasses – I have astigmatism in both eyes and cannot read print at any distance without glasses. There were plenty of other blatant lies reported. It was also reported that I can cook with aids despite the fact my husband has had to do all the cooking, etc, since I became disabled in 2006 because I become too fatigued and do not have the strength to even peel vegetables.
    I was awarded standard rate care PIPS – about a third of what I had been receiving in DLA. I asked for a mandatory reconsideration but got the response that basically the assessor was trained and wouldn’t lie. I was then told not to risk appealing at tribunal and losing what I had got by CAB as my award is for 6 years. She didn’t even look at my reasons for wanting to appeal… The system is a complete farce and they DO lie.
    It is nothing about making sure the person gets the help they need and everything about reducing the welfare bill.

  • SGT Clubba

    Nurses can earn more lying for the DWP in a month than they can earn in 6 months and in some cases a year when working in a hospital. DWP bosses and staff, Ministers and the CEOs of the contracted companies are fully aware whats going on and they don’t give a monkeys as long as the figures look good and the money keeps rolling in.
    The sooner we can get this wretched Govt out of office the better.

    • Sandra Forrester

      That is very inflammatory statement “lying for the DWP” You will find that the nurses are on a contract and the reason they earn a little more than NHS nurses is because it covers holidays etc if they are not working they are not paid . They are given very strict guidelines both official and unofficial if they do not adhere to these the contract is terminated. As it is I know a lot of nurses who told them they were not doing this any more and walked away but not everyone is in the position of being able to do that if you have bills to pay, a family to feed & no other job to go to you do what you need to do. So by all means attack the gov for the restrictions but while you are at it tell us all how you would pay for the unrestricted welfare because there are only so many times you can up the tax on the wealthy &better off before they walk away and you are left with even less money to help people How do I know? that is what they did in the 60s & 70s & that is what happened. There are no easy answers I wish there were.

      • duke_of_anke

        i have had both an ESA exam and a PIP, the ESA i had to go on my own and it was horrendous, I told the nurse everything and she said my doctors should this and this so i could go back to work. I relayed this to my doctors and they said she didn’t know waht she was talking about as they know my case. I was put on work group, teh lady i go to doesn’t see the point due to my illness which she has seen. The PIP assesment i went to with a friend who is a nurse and knows my medical history went ok and was carried out by a paramedic beacuse i had someone on side. Yes, everyone needs a job, that does not mean that you lie. Many assesors that lied, been caught lying on appeal. So why do you think it is ok for those who can go to another, (there are lots nursing jobs) to lie. So just beacuse it was a nurse that lied beacuse they have to meet some unoffical contratual oblligation you think it ok. I WILL always stick up from NHS staff, but not for liars who make it harder for sick people.

        • Sandra Forrester

          It is never ok to lie and I would not do the job because I do not agree with the guidelines, but why aren’t the people you mentioned ie your GP taking them to task for their assessment. If someone contradicted my assessment of a patient to that extent I would create merry havoc. However you miss the point I was trying to make which was that the assessors are doing what they have been told to do and if they don’t they are out of a job & fyi it only looks as if there are a lot of nursing jobs around, when you go for them they have mysteriously been “withdrawn”
          Recession over? I don’t think so as anyone else in ANY job will tell you. Get on to your MP complain about the assessment procedure.

      • Pam Burton

        Well the one I had has definitely lied

      • Pam Burton

        What about the people who lose their pip or ESA what do you think their living on? These assessors should be ashamed of themselves

      • SGT Clubba

        The comment is truthful no matter how you look at it.
        It’s apparent a lot of the assessment reports are completed before even seeing the “customer”, they contain lie after lie and bare no relation to the actual assesment. I had a WCA and the Nurses report contained no fewer than 60 falsehoods. There is no defence against ANY Nurse that lies for money, their first priority is duty of care to the vulnerable adult and not how much money they can make by doing the govt’s bidding. How much money will they make when they get struck off for leaving critical medication and medical conditions out of their report?

  • Elle J Morgan

    I’m sick of it all tbh, I was put into the WRAG in 2009 for ESA, got low care DLA refused me support group or anything else at tribunal.
    Developed fibromyalgia as well as other problems put on 140mcg buprenorphine which is a mammoth amount..Refused pip had to take it to tribunal which took 72 weeks! Was awarded standard care for 2 years but had to apply a few months later as they take off the massive waiting time…

    Applied again last July, health still same as it was in 2013 when diagnosed with fibro, still on same meds, nothing different and had pip awarded within 8 weeks that includes from when I first made the claim and was awarded enhanced care and standard mobility, which I was over the moon at..
    just filed for support group, not sure what’s gonna happen as the assessor said she didn’t need to write all conditions down, went off to talk to colleague and said fibro was enough for support group and not to worry…I obviously am now..

    How can I keep getting different results when nothing’s changed..it’s madness, these ‘taxpayers’ that moan about money being wasted on us need to realise where it’s being wasted..their messed up system.

    I’m even paying bedroom tax for my daughters bedroom who is autistic and held under section 3 of the mental health act..how that is legal, I don’t know…

    No choice though, we have to keep going though don’t we…

  • Andy

    So the DWP have decided through reconsideration to not change my PIP award back to how it was and in doing so have broken their own rules regarding…. Receipt of evidence, voice evidence, relaying voice information, given out incorrect information, said calls are recorded (then said they are not when call transcripts requested), said case worker will be given recording evidence, given wrong information out regarding timeframes for action, told me i can’t do any more until case worker calls, they never did, decided prior to written evidence arriving from MP’s office via email as agreed. Based a mobility score on an incorrect assessment information having been told of the incorrect element of the report by voice and written. Have lied (recorded) as to process and content. Have quality assured the decision (voice told) but can’t tell me whom or which quality system they work to!! Have based a downgrade on “attending the meeting” even though they already have a complaint for forcing people to attend and are aware by 2014 assessment that to do so is to risk A.B.H, which it did two days later, I bit my molar out of my mouth whilst asleep, teeth grinding extreme, stress. I have a compound disability. Have sent numerous letters out without voice communication even though they confirm my file has ‘to be notified by voice prior to any changes’. The content of the assessment is a pack of lies with loose attachment to what was said. Capita have stated although their staff carried out the assessment, the content within is solely the responsibility of the DWP! The report kindly contradicts itself and kindly highlights it can’t be true. They confirmed the case manager would review previous award conversation, they now say they haven’t but have awarded no change and thus passed it to tribunal which in the hope i won’t take issue – i will, three times of letting go past illegal and deliberate actions of others is enough………

    The assessment building has been reported to Dyfed Powys Fire Service Fire Officer for breach of fire regulations in its design, operation and maintenance.

    The assessment building doesn’t meet the required standards for DDA1995(equality act 2010) for BS8300 or ADM building regulations with 10 year exemption. I went back a few weeks latter and carried out a 20 min Access Audit on the building! Which i’m qualified to do and have done for many public/government buildings.

    The meeting holder negated their duties with regard to holding a safe meeting. (no information given on escape or emergency procedure)

    The meeting arranger stated ‘a risk assessment’ for attendance had been carried out, Requested – 03 Jan not received!

    The meeting holder blamed meeting arranger, (it was recognised by meeting holder i wasn’t well (neck position/breathing) and stated i could rearrange home visit ( having already got there!) Declined i’d waited long enough and made monumental efforts to attend. After all ‘you’ve done a risk assessment?” She stated that was ‘the meeting arrangers responsibility!

    Meeting holder has made visual observations and them recorded contradictions 3hrs later in the assessment.

    Meeting holder stated i wouldn’t be able able to use my assessment paperwork in the meeting ( i.e. the criteria for agenda) as she is to change the order!, deliberate.

    The meeting holder stated in assessment ‘i held my pen and wrote for half an hour notes on my paperwork’…. I photographed my paperwork after the meeting and showed my MP’s office, it has four words on it i wrote before the previous statement. One of them is morphine!!! We had’t discussed drugs at this point, mainly her left knee sciatica and excessive tiredness at night! May have wrote morphine early due the unsuitable chair and table i was rigidly propped up on…. Pain! No alternatives available or offered – illegal.

    The meeting holder spent 5 minutes (more throughout) describing her problems, whilst stating throughout when i gave exemplars that we were running short of time. Its your’e agenda……

    THE MEETING HOLDER switched all the lights off in the massive meeting room apart from 2 wall mounted bare filament candle bulbs behind me to the left. It was DARK. If the meeting table had been the correct height then it was about 30 Lux and should be 300 Lux. she stated it was so she could use the laptop. She sat opposite left across 45 degree with a backlit gloss coated lcd laptop, she wore bi focal gloss coated spectacles, the only thing i could see in the whole room was the reflection of the computer screen content (not in detail just windows opening, the pages etc) and her upper body. By virtue of the bare bulb forty five degree behind and above my left shoulder meant every time i addressed her i got a ghosting bulb filament in my peripheral vision which then continued to be ghosted wherever i looked. However the meeting layout given the room meant i shadowed my own paperwork. I told her i can’t use glasses or read for long looking down before the ‘Darkness’ was imposed. She wrote I can ware glasses!! By virtue of the light level even looking down quickly I couldn’t / read a single word…….! As a former meeting holder , I had my notes on a3 , its the way to record against an agenda (assessment form – theirs) and still be active within a meeting.

    To conduct this meeting for 65 mins in the dark with someone ‘known” to suffer sensory deprivation (or anyone!) is illegal and in any other sphere (Police, courts, witness, health, information extraction etc etc) is interrogation or ‘TORTURE’……. wait till i add what was said to what has been written! Classic torture scenes always have a bare bulb…. 🙂 Capita stated they have been trained…….

    Its been reported to MP, AM, DWP, Police, Capita….. nothing thus far……..

    to be cont…..

    (sorry ifs not your thing, voice software to Facebook easier = public domain, i’m happy to be transparent and professional enough to tell the truth, but the voice software understands Black Country i.e. so tell it like it is……)