MPs warn a ‘substantial minority’ of disability claimants are failed by system
Some of society’s most vulnerable have been failed by assessments for disability benefits which are often full of basic errors and show an ignorance of lifelong health conditions, a group of MPs have found.
The Work and Pensions select committee were heavily critical of the assessment system used for personal independence payments (PIP) and employment support allowance (ESA).
In a report, the MPs said they had heard evidence from one claimant who had been asked how they had “caught” Downe’s Syndrome by the person assessing them.
Another claimant had been asked why she had not yet killed herself while battling suicidal thoughts, and another had been deemed well enough to walk a dog, when she struggled to move and did not own a pet.
The committee had assessed 4000 personal accounts of the PIP and ESA system before producing their report.
MPs were largely supportive of the assessment process carried out by Capita and Atos on behalf of the Government, which they said worked well for most claimants.
However, they were scathing in their assessment of the system some long-term disability claimants were put through, as “sometimes things go very wrong indeed”.
The report highlighted four main areas in which the worst mistakes were made; factual errors about people’s situations, problems caused by an assessor’s lack of knowledge, issues with completing the PIP and ESA forms, and the difficulty of challenging decisions.
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said it was “disappointing that this report uses a number of anonymous claims that we are unable to investigate”.
They continued: “We’ve already commissioned five independent reviews of the work capability assessment – accepting over 100 of their recommendations – and two independent reviews of Pip assessments. Anyone needing extra support can request it, and if someone is unhappy with a decision, they can appeal.
“As the [select committee] highlights, assessments work for a majority of people, with 76% of PIP claimants and 83% of ESA claimants telling us that they’re happy with their overall experience.”