PIP investigation: Regulator refuses to act over Capita assessment report ‘lies’

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A healthcare regulator has decided that a notorious benefits assessor will not face any disciplinary action over allegations of dishonesty, even though his former employer admitted that he lied in an assessment report.

Paramedic Alan Barham still faces being struck off for comments he made to an undercover reporter while working for the government contractor Capita, which were aired in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary last April.

But the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which is investigating Barham’s actions, has decided that separate allegations that he lied in a report he wrote after assessing a disabled woman’s eligibility for personal independence payment (PIP) will not be dealt with by a disciplinary hearing.

The conclusions reached by the council will add to concerns that regulators are failing to act when they receive complaints from disabled people that healthcare professionals have written dishonest reports after carrying out face-to-face PIP assessments.

Following a two-month investigation, Disability News Service (DNS) has collected scores of cases of disabled people who claim that PIP assessors like Barham lied repeatedly in reports produced for the Department for Work and Pensions.

Undercover footage from the Dispatches programme (pictured) showed Barham admitting that he sometimes completed his PIP assessment reports before even meeting the claimants.

He also told an undercover reporter that he could usually “completely dismiss” what he was told by PIP claimants, and made offensive comments about an overweight claimant who was unable to carry out her own personal care.

After watching the programme, two disabled people who had been assessed by Barham lodged complaints about his behaviour, based both on the documentary and on reports that he had written following face-to-face assessments of their entitlement to PIP.

An HCPC investigating committee has now concluded that the comments Barham made in the documentary are serious enough for him to be found guilty of “misconduct and/or lack of competence” if a disciplinary panel finds them proven.

But the committee has also decided that allegations about the two PIP assessments carried out by Barham – which were not part of the documentary – are not serious enough to merit findings of misconduct and/or lack of competence, even though Capita has already concluded that Barham lied in one of the assessment reports.

The committee concluded that the allegations concerning lying and other failings in assessments “could be considered to fall short of the expected standards of a Paramedic” but “do not, in the Panel’s view, constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence”.

David Nicholls, from Northampton, the husband of one of the PIP claimants, has told DNS of his anger and frustration at the way HCPC has dealt with the case.

DNS has seen Capita’s response to his complaint about the assessment report Barham wrote following an assessment of his wife, Jacqueline, in March last year, a month before the Dispatches documentary was screened.

As a result of the assessment, she was found ineligible for PIP.

It was only after the documentary was aired and DWP agreed to allow her to be reassessed that she was granted the enhanced rate for both the daily living and mobility components of PIP.

In the response to the Nicholls complaint about Barham, a Capita senior complaint handler wrote: “You stated that you disagree with the content of your assessment report and that you believe [Barham] had made inaccurate assumptions and had lied in his report…

“Based on the outcome of my investigation, I uphold this element of your complaint.”

In his report, Barham repeatedly stated that what he was told by Jacqueline Nicholls was not backed up by the tests he carried out during the assessment.

But David Nicholls said Barham had ignored the impact of his wife’s brain injury on both her physical and mental functioning, including her seizures, her confusion when asked too many questions, the lack of feeling in parts of her body, her memory problems, and her tendency to get lost when on her own.

Barham reported instead that she could plan and follow routes, understand complex written information without any help, and make her own budgeting decisions.

Nicholls said: “He has misled people with the findings in his report in the worst possible way.

“His assessment gave no consideration to brain injury at all. Jacquie could not take it in.”

He said that the effect of dishonest assessors like Barham on disabled people was “devastating”.

He said he was “very upset” by the HCPC decision, which he said showed that it was “letting down any person who feels they have been badly treated or assessed.

“It sends out the message that no matter what your assessor does or says, they will get away with it. They will be protected and never seen to be at fault.”

An HCPC spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that complaints against Alan Barham are currently being investigated through our fitness to practice process and an allegation pertaining to these matters has been referred to the conduct and competence committee.

“However, due to the ongoing nature of the investigation and our duty of confidentiality to all parties involved it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further at this stage.

“Once the matter is listed for final hearing the full details of the public allegation will be published on our website four weeks prior to the hearing date.”

She later added: “I can confirm to you that [the Dispatches claims]are the only allegations going forward to the final hearing, they are now the only two allegations in the public domain.  

“Essentially, this means [the allegations concerning the two PIP assessments]will not be further considered.

“However as this is a private document stemming from an independent panel decision we cannot provide any further comment on the reasoning behind this.”

DNS has approached Barham for a comment, but he had not replied by noon today (Thursday).

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  • Mwxxx .

    Fraud Act,
    Misconduct in Public Office (up to life in prison),
    Vulnerable Adult Abuse,
    Assisting An Offender,
    Perverting The Course Of Justice (up to life in prison).

    Not one single mention of “The Police” anywhere in this… ahem ‘story’.
    .

  • Guy Stewart

    As a wheelchair musician busking Bath I have been assaulted twice faced physical and verbal abuse threatening behaviour and language. There has been police attendances and yet the police have taken absolutely no action against anybody.
    On the last occasion the perpetrator was on the street with me when the police arrived they refused to even interview him lest there be any bad publicity for Bath, makes you feel so valued.
    I have now received counselling and help including counselling from victim support have suffered mental and emotional damage because of the assaults verbal and physical but I will soon have to return to Bath because I need to work.
    The only time there was any relief was when the story appeared in the Press thanks to John Pring of the disability news service.
    On one occasion one of the store owners came out and complained and told me to move along as she didn’t want disabled musicians hanging around but she was happy for abled body musicians to play there.
    So I can offer evidence that supports this DNS story that no matter how much crime is committed physical and verbal to disabled people the police will often do absolutely nothing.
    This also means that further abuse in Bath probably will follow as the perpetrators know they can absolutely get away with anything as the police won’t touch them.
    So for me to work in Bath I now have to carry a body cam specialist app that records everything and alerts friends and family to my exact position when I am assaulted of course it took the police one hour to travel a quarter of a mile last time I was assaulted so it will be quicker for friends and family to travel from Bristol to Bath in the event of an attack then it will be for the police to walk up the High Street.
    This may yet turn into a spectator Sport with disabled people getting beaten up in the street in Bath while the police and store owners stand around laughing.

    • Mwxxx .

      That’s terrible Guy,

      Glad that you’re using a camera now.

      A good tip would be to have something else recording too, as a backup and setup a blog, youtube account or whatever now so that it’s there if you need it.

      Don’t forget that as well as any criminal nonce thugs and abusers keep recording to get evidence of the police’s behavior.

      Don’t let any online fake trolls try to tell you that you can’t use a camera to protect yourself from crime, record evidence of crime, or publish your video as journalism.
      (all those uses are ‘Exempt’ from the data protection act)

      Maybe checkout my little blog… there’s video of crime against me on my last post –
      phobosanddeimos DOT net

      but as it’s committed by the criminal vulnerable adult abusing nonces at Labour Party run Vale of Glamorgan Council that is something that John Pring won’t report, as he’s getting paid by the Labour Party run Atos Welsh Government.

  • Tempura

    HCPC is quite bluntly a waste of space. I referred two Capita assessors to them at the beginning of 2014. After several months messing around they not only dismissed all my complaints (which included evidence that one HCPC registrant had obtained fees from Capita by fraud) but then refused to release any details of their so-called investigation to prevent me from challenging their findings.

    The worst bit about it is that the assessor against whom the most serious charges were directed was fired by Capita about a month after my complaints were filed but this apparently wasn’t taken into account by HCPC. How I discovered they’d sacked her was in April 2015 she filed a CV on an internet job site stating she was available immediately. Interestingly, she’d left out any mention of her time with Capita and also deleted all reference to it from her Linkedin profile – guess she didn’t expect to get a favourable reference from them? Interestingly, failing to disclose relevant details of previous employment is potentially a criminal offence, which gives a pretty good picture of the woman’s mentality.

    And in response to Mwxxx below –

    Anyone who is having problems with assessors lying should read up on the Fraud Act 2006. The CPS have a very good webpage – http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/d_to_g/fraud_act/ – it is all worth looking but the relevant part of the Act is Section 2 (false representation) and that reads –

    The defendant:
    Made a false representation:
    Dishonestly:
    Knowing that the representation was or might be untrue or misleading:
    With intent to make a gain for himself or another, to cause loss to another or to expose another to risk of loss.

    If that doesn’t exactly sum up what an assessor does when they lie on a report I don’t know what does. The best bit is that the offence covers not just the person who wrote the report but anyone who tries to cover up the misrepresentation. I’m not convinced that this is anything your local cop shop will jump on but if you (as I will be doing shortly) refer it directly to the Chief Constable with a copy to the Police and Crime Commissioner it’ll have to work it’s way back down the line until it hits the desk of someone in CID who will then be under orders to talk to you. If that sounds like I’ve done before – I have but not with a benefits issue.

    It’s also worth bearing in mind that the SFO (Serious Fraud Office) exists to tackle systemic fraud throughout the country (but not Scotland) and I believe this is something they need to start looking at because it is causing significant economic harm, which is one of their criteria.

    What I actually think is going to happen, and also the reason the HCPC, NMC, GMC, ICE and other regulatory bodies don’t want to get involved, is that companies like Capita and Atos aren’t in this for the long-term. In business terms they’re operating a ‘smash and grab’ operation to make as much money out of DWP as they can before the whole thing folds up around them. Do you think share holders and directors give a toss about PIP claimants? No, all they want is a good return as quickly as possible. Do you think their employees give a toss about us? No, the assessors are making more money in a day than they could make in a week as a nurse plus they don’t have to work shifts or empty bed pans. At the end of day that’s the problem with farming work like this out to the private sector.

    • Mwxxx .

      Thanks Tempura –
      Checkout the actual law too. Google “Fraud Act 2006” and click on the link to the – legislation DOT gov DOT uk

      They commit all three main type of Fraud –
      Section 2 – Lies
      Section 3 – Not Disclosing Information.
      e.g ahem…. “Health Care Professionals”… Not saying that they are NOT medical doctors to you, and in their BS ‘assessment’ reports, breaks Medical Act 1983 – Sections 49 and 49A
      Section 4 – Dishonesty and Ommissions

      Worth looking at the actual law – note the phrase “risk of loss”… attempting Fraud IS Fraud.

      also checkout –
      The Criminal Attempts Act
      Conspiracy To Defraud
      Misconduct in Public Office (WCA criminal quacks count, and it’s up to life in prison)

      >I’m not convinced that this is anything your local cop shop will jump on
      er – Police have a ‘public duty’ to do their f****** job (getting criminals stuffed in prison)
      “Willful Neglect of a Public Duty” is – Misconduct in Public Office
      also checkout –
      Perverting The Course Of Justice
      Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 – Corrupt or other improper exercise of police powers and privileges – Section 26

      The HCPC ‘regulates’ total pseudoscience quacks like chiropractors and clinical psychologists. Fraud is their job. Sounds like Perverting The Course Of Justice is also their job.

      >companies like Capita and Atos aren’t in this for the long-term
      Google stuff like –
      “Atos Scottish Government”
      “Atos Welsh Government”
      “Atos London Mayor”
      “Atos Metropolitan Police”
      “Atos South Wales Police” (my local bent Course Of Justice Perverts)

      I haven’t even mentioned Social Service nonces not doing their jobs –
      checkout –
      Care Act 2014 – Safeguarding adults at risk of abuse or neglect – section 42

      and –
      Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 – Ill-treatment or wilful neglect: care worker offence – section 20
      and – Ill-treatment or wilful neglect: care provider offence – section 21

      >At the end of day that’s the problem with farming
      >work like this out to the private sector.
      The vile little criminal sickos in my local nhs make dwp/atos/maximus criminals look like pussycats.

  • Skintboy

    Get the evidence.
    1. Request, in advance, that the interview is recorded, (the assessor will give you the tape at the end of the interview).
    2. Request a printed copy of the report, (from the DWP) a few days after the decision, (They’ll send it to you).

    Everyone should do this.

  • Diane Illingworth

    We all know that being fair and honest does not come into this. The assessors have a target to meet so how can it be just. They to me can not meet a target in anyway if they do not not medical facts on each and every disabled claimant so therefore to meet a target without means is unjust. Now getting over £500.0000 payment for doing this wow what an incentive and they have not finished yet. How many more suffering disabled have to go through this most distressing assessment, their lives have already been changed so drastically through injuries or medical illness. If you ask a disabled person what they can not do then you would be most surprised they would say what they can do even if it’s very painful or may take hours to achieve but without their goals and struggles what is left for them. The people who degrade the disabled surely the government can rake money back by more humane measures. Just look at the hospitals, makes me wonder where is the gt Britain that our generations of families have fought so hard for

  • David Willis

    I had an assessment with ATOS , obviously the ”expletive” lied i made a complaint , due to being
    awarded points ( thanks to a tribunal) , but when i told ATOS about changes ( my health got worse since the last assessment ), i was stripped of all the points i had scored before

    Atos said in their reply to my complaint that ”we can’t say anything because we were not at your assessment” , to which i replied ”WTF are you doing dealing with and replying to my complaint ”

    i told them to ask the ”expletive” who ”assessed” me to explain why he lied on his report , as he was there and as you wasn’t , that would be the logical thing to do ,

    i think they were just trying to brush me off , but due to being awarded points and then being stripped of them , as though magically all my medical conditions which are progressive and cannot be cured , had all of a sudden disappeared

    this is war , i’m not going to take this lying down , especially because of the lies that were told , i’d say to anyone reading this , don’t take Atos’s BS , especially when you know the facts

    complain to your MP or anyone who’ll take notice regardless of whether it works or not
    as the more you complain , when it comes to the crunch , the more explaining Atos or whoever
    will have to do

  • Ruth Johnson

    I had a review of my PIP claim (10 months before the end date) in Sept/October 16. Instead of a review, it ended up being a full assessment and I subsequently discovered the assessor lied, made assumptions and errors. Since January I have tried umpteen times to make a formal complaint regarding the assessor’s misconduct. Capita replied saying they only deal with behavioural issues and I should direct my complaint to the DWP dispute process (err… the non-existent process perhaps?). I replied to Capita saying that lying is behavioural and heard nothing back. Meanwhile DWP complaints team instead of ringing me, decided to write back to me completely missing the point (why did both they and Capita assume I wanted the assessors report changing despite my assurances this was not the case?). X amount of calls later, DWP advised they could not deal (makes sense) and would liaise with Capita for them to deal. Don’t get me wrong, if the assessor has lied, then fundamentally the decision of the DWP is flawed but this will get flagged at my tribunal hearing. Meantime, I want to address the wrong for not only myself, but everyone else too. My assessor came to see me, not having seen sight of my review form (and maybe not even my original application) but also with the intention of reaching a ‘prescribed result’ in both my own and my independent observer’s view (a neighbour who incidentally retired from DWP last year).

    Capita are now meant to be ringing me on Friday (17th Feb 17) but I must admit to being frustrated that I am coming across similar stories, but see no way of adding my voice/experience.

    • Wendy Wilford

      Don’t rely on the tribunal to agree with you, I had the same thing with my PIP, the assessor lied and said I completed the physical exam with no problems (I couldn’t do everything she asked me to do!) she also said I told her I could do things I couldn’t and wrote down things I supposedly said but I hadn’t actually said them and also failed to make note of things I did say. The assessor also had no clue about a couple of my conditions and didn’t even have a copy of my application form!! The tribunal ignored all of that and upheld the DWP decision not to to award PIP!!

      • Ruth Johnson

        I’m so sorry to hear that Wendy. Did you not decide to take it to the UTT? I, obviously have no idea how it will pan out for me….. Capita failed to ring me on Friday, but I happened to receive a somewhat confusing letter from DWP the same day stating (regarding the content and hence their decision) is within their remit and that I now have to take it to an independent hearing or something or other…. I guess that means the tribunal but will check with my ‘advocate’ this coming Friday. However, I’ve fired off another email to Capita as I still want to lodge a formal complaint re: their DA’s lying etc. Coming from the corporate world, I cannot believe how difficult it is to lodge a complaint about an assessor and whilst I may struggle with all things personal, where there is a ‘point of principle’ I will fight tooth and nail….time will tell I guess. I hope that you’re doing ok though Wendy and I’m gutted for you.