Disability benefit assessors failing to meet Government’s quality standards

All three private firms contracted to assess people for disability benefits are failing to meet the Government’ s own quality standards, leading to decisions being made based on inaccurate or incomplete assessments, new research shows.

A report by the Work and Pensions Committee found failings in the assessment process have contributed to a “pervasive lack of trust” in the system and an “untenable human costs” to claimants, as well as financial costs to the public purse. They concluded that the process was in need of “urgent change”.

In one case flagged up by MPs, a person with Down’s syndrome was asked when they “caught” it, while in another, a woman reporting frequent suicidal thoughts was asked why she had not yet killed herself. In a third case, a claimant’s assessment stated that she walked a dog daily, when she could barely walk and didn’t own a dog.

Of the 170,000 appeals for personal independence payments (PIP) claims that have been taken to the Tribunal in the past five years, since 2013, claimants won in 63 per cent of cases. In the same period, there have been 53,000 employment support allowance (ESA) appeals, of which claimants won in 60 per cent of cases.

Both Atos and Capita – the companies contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)‘ to carry out the bulk of the assessments – saw a rise in the proportion of reports graded “unacceptable” last year.

Eight per cent of assessments by Capita failed to meet the quality standards in the three months to November 2017, more than double the target of 3 per cent, while in 2015, as many as 56 per cent of their reports received this grading.

The grading is part of an independent audit process used by the DWP to ensure reports are of sufficient quality to enable accurate decision-making. Reports are generally considered “unacceptable” if they would either cause a decision maker to be unable to make a…

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