A disabled woman left to sit in her own urine for two hours by a physiotherapist who was assessing her benefit claim has had her benefits slashed, after the assessor wrote a report she believes is full of “lies”.
Disabled people were outraged last week after Maria Lane described the “inhuman” experience she endured during her personal independence payment (PIP) assessment earlier this month.
She told – and showed – the assessor just 10 minutes into the assessment that she had had an accident and had emptied her bladder into her incontinence pad, and that urine was leaking into her trousers.
But she said the female assessor – who works for the government contractor Atos – “looked for a second at the pad” and then continued typing for the rest of the two-hour assessment.
Despite Atos launching an investigation and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) describing her claims as “very concerning”, Lane has now been told that her benefits will be cut.
Maria Lane is just the latest PIP claimant to come forward – following the launch of a DNS investigation earlier this year – to describe how healthcare professionals employed by Atos and fellow government contractor Capita have been guilty of widespread dishonesty in the reports they compile after carrying out face-to-face PIP assessments.
The 59-year-old has a number of long-term health conditions, including diabetes, osteoarthritis – which affects all of her joints and has spread into her spine – sciatica, a slipped disc, high blood pressure, and depression.
She is waiting for a major operation on her bladder, because of severe incontinence which means she has to wear pads permanently.
Lane has now seen the report written by the Atos assessor, and she said she was “gobsmacked” when she read it.
She said the report states that she showed the physiotherapist her pad, but fails to point out that she also told her that she had emptied her bladder 10 minutes into the assessment.
The report also claims that she was asked to spell various words – which she said did not happen – while there were other “lies”, including accounts of tests that did not take place, she said.
Lane has also provided further details of her ordeal at the assessment centre in Enfield, north London, describing how the assessor forced her to walk up a long corridor before the assessment began.
When she had to keep stopping because of the discomfort she was in, the assessor – who was walking behind her – told her to keep walking.
She said: “I was walking and kept stopping and she kept making me go and go. She was getting annoyed with me.
“She made me walk from one end of the building to another. I can’t remember how many times I stopped. I said, ‘I can’t walk anymore.’”
As a result, the assessor wrote in her report that she could walk 50 metres, a finding which has been used by DWP to justify reducing her entitlement from the enhanced to the standard rate of the PIP mobility component.
She was previously receiving the enhanced rate of PIP for both the daily living and mobility components, but has been told that both will be reduced to the standard rate, which means a drop from £141 to £78 a week.
She currently has to spend up to £55 a week on incontinence pads, which is paid for with some of her PIP.
She had also been concerned that she would have to hand back her Motability vehicle, which she needs for her hospital appointments.
But because she has been a Motability* customer for 10 years, she will not have to return the vehicle for at least six months, thanks to a support package introduced by the charity for those who lose their entitlement to the enhanced rate of mobility support through the government’s PIP reassessment programme.
Motability’s chief executive, Declan O’Mahony, has also promised that no move to reclaim her vehicle will be made at least until the Atos and DWP investigations into her complaint have been completed.
She hopes this will be long enough for her to win her appeal against having her benefits cut.
Although she is appealing against the DWP decision, with the help of Citizen’s Advice, she has been left terrified by what the cut in payments will mean.
She said: “What am I going to do? I am worried sick. I keep telling them that it is not food or clothes I have to buy – these things are for my condition.
“I am so upset. It is embarrassing for me to beg them to give me money to buy them.”
One of her daughters is lodging a complaint about the assessor with the regulator, the Health Care Professions Council.
A DWP spokeswoman said: “We expect the highest standards from our assessment providers, and work with them continuously to ensure that PIP is working in the best way possible.
“All claimants deserve an objective, accurate and high quality service and we are working with Atos to look into the issues Ms Lane has raised.
“Claimants who disagree with a PIP decision can request a mandatory reconsideration (MR) in the first instance, and appeal to an independent tribunal if they still disagree after the MR.
“Due to recently announced changes to the Motability’s transitional support package, those losing eligibility to the Motability scheme following DLA-PIP reassessment have the option to keep their car for up to six months after an initial PIP decision is made.”
*Motability is a DNS subscriber