Disabled activists have responded to the government’s continuing failure to deal with the dishonesty and inaccuracy of the disability benefit assessment process by launching schemes to ensure that claimants can record their own assessments.
Grassroots groups of disabled activists launched two separate campaigns this week that aim to help disabled people preparing for a face-to-face assessment for personal independence payment (PIP).
The campaign will allow disabled people from Sheffield to borrow the specialised equipment needed to record their PIP assessment*.
John (pictured, left), the first person to use the new equipment, says in a video released to publicise the new scheme, which was funded by a JustGiving fundraising campaign: “I am much happier knowing that there will be an accurate record of what has been said in the meeting, knowing that it cannot be changed in any way.
“I feel so much safer having the recording kit with me. I encourage anybody going for an assessment in Sheffield to get in touch with DPAC Sheffield to loan a recording kit.”
Disability News Service (DNS) spent months investigating allegations of dishonesty by PIP assessors in late 2016 and throughout 2017, hearing eventually from more than 250 disabled people in less than a year about how they had been unfairly deprived of their benefits.
And last month, DNS revealed that PIP claimants are now almost twice as likely to win their tribunal appeal than claimants of disability living allowance – which is being replaced by PIP for working-age claimants – were almost a decade ago.
Jennifer Jones, of DPAC Sheffield, said she and her colleagues hoped the scheme would save time and money and the stress of having to undergo the Department for Work and Pensions’ mandatory reconsideration process and tribunal appeals after unfair assessments, and that it would protect claimants from assessors “who deny people medical attention during assessments or from those who bully, browbeat, or threaten claimants”.
DPAC Sheffield is now fundraising to buy more recording kits, and hopes eventually to roll out the scheme nationally if ministers refuse to introduce recording of PIP assessments as standard practice.
The grassroots groups Recovery In The Bin and national DPAC have also combined to provide advice to people who want to record their PIP assessment, which briefs them on the equipment they need and how to use it.
They are also offering details of grassroots groups that will loan the equipment without charge, although there are currently only a small number of such kits.
They are building a map of locations where equipment is available, including the kit being loaned out by DPAC Sheffield. As well as Sheffield, there are currently kits in Cardiff, London and Manchester.
A spokesperson for RITB said: “We are doing this because there is overwhelming evidence that when assessments are not recorded and there are no witnesses, the assessment reports are persistently and fraudulently inaccurate, and are then used to deny people the support they need.
“Recording the assessment is a solid step in ensuring more transparency in assessments and they also give you good grounds should you need to appeal a decision, although by recording, you reduce the likelihood of getting a bad decision in the first place.”
*To borrow one of the two recording kits at no charge, email [email protected]
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