A new report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee has exposed that supposedly medically trained DWP disability assessors, employed by private government contractors ATOS and Capita, have asked people with Down’s Syndrome, a congenital condition, when they “caught it” during assessments for the main disability benefits.
Other shocking failures highlighted on the new damning report include one claimant, Nikki, whose assessor reported that she ‘walked a dog daily’, despite the fact that she can barely walk, and, astonishingly, does not even own a dog.
Another assessor allegedly asked a claimant who reported frequent suicidal thoughts why she had not killed herself yet.
The new report highlights numerous ways in which long-term claimants of the main disability allowances are being failed by the private companies employed to carry out disability assessments on behalf of the Tory-led Department for Work and Pensions.
The report includes numerous submissions from people who had claimed the statement produced by the private assessment companies, ATOS or Capita, after their assessments ‘bore little or no relation to their circumstances or what had occurred during the assessment’.
One claimant, a woman simply referred to as Mary, wrote:
She wrote [the assessor] I arose from the chair without any difficulty. I was in bed the whole time (she let herself in) and I only have the one chair in the room and she was sitting in it. She said that I had no difficulty reading with my glasses yet I do not wear glasses to read.
Katherine wrote of her experience:
I was attacked with a deadly weapon only a short time before my assessment. The man threatened my life, on a walk with my dog. So the assessor wrote that I like to talk to people on my walk.
Other claimants reported that ‘important information from their assessment had been left out of their report’, with one anonymous claimant writing:
The report was full of inaccuracies. For example, I self-harmed before the assessment due to the mental distress of being assessed and was given diazepam from my GP. I told the assessor this. This was not noted in the report. It was reported that I made eye contact, was articulate, was well dressed and not distressed. In fact I had cried during the assessment and was visibly distraught as well as poorly dressed.
Other responses included claimants who said ‘the results of physical examinations which had not taken place were included in their assessment report’, with Sarah writing:
The assessor claimed in the report to have completed an extensive examination of me during the assessment. She listed a breakdown of her observations regarding the movement of all my limbs and joints. In reality though my assessment was only fifteen minutes long and the assessor didn’t examine me at all.
And perhaps most shockingly of all, many respondents with physical impairments and genetic conditions ‘reported their assessors displayed little knowledge of basic facts about their conditions or their functional impact’.
The Down’s Syndrome Association told the committee that numerous claimants with the congenital condition had been asked ridiculously ill-informed questions such as:
How long have they had Down’s syndrome for? When did they catch Down’s syndrome? When were you diagnosed with Down’s syndrome?
Down’s syndrome is a widely recognised learning disability. If an assessor is being asked to assess someone with a condition that they do not know about, common sense and courtesy should tell them to research the condition before starting the assessment. We therefore believe that more training is required in some cases.
Ministers are set to publish the full findings of the 39-page report next week, which includes more than 4,000 personal submissions from disabled people or their carers.
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