Walsall disability benefit assessment centre run by Capita ‘is unaccessible to disabled people’

Valerie Vaz MP called on Capita chief to address concerns at Personal Independent Payment assessment centre on Lower Hall Lane

A disability benefit assessment centre run by Capita and aimed at helping people cope with immobility is accused of being inaccessible – to disabled people.

Valerie Vaz, MP for Walsall South, has called on the chief executive of Capita to address serious concerns over the Personal Independent Payment offices in Lower Hall Lane, Walsall.

Her constituents have claimed that doors in the office rooms and toilets were not wide enough for wheelchairs. They also allege that the ramp is too steep to comply with building regulations. And some constituents said they were forced to climb the stairs to the interview rooms.

The PIP beneift is intended to help people aged 16 to 64 with extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or a disability and started to replace Disability Living Allowance from 8 April 2013.

read the rest of this story here: http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/walsall-disability-benefit-assessment-centre-9841802

DWP Faces Legal Action Over ‘Unreasonable’ Disability Benefit Delays

Vulnerable disabled people have taken the government to court over delays to disability benefits, it has been reported today.

Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have launched a judicial review on the grounds that delays to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for disabled people, of over a year are ‘so unreasonable that they are unlawful’.

Red the rest of this story here: http://www.welfareweekly.com/dwp-face-legal-action-over-unreasonable-disability-benefit-delays/

Iain Duncan Smith: Using Disabled People as Guinea Pigs Since June 2013

By Sheila Gilmore MP on the Huffington Post

My constituent Jane suffers from Huntingdon’s Disease. In September she applied for Personal Independence Payment – the benefit the government introduced following their abolition of Disability Living Allowance – which is intended to help people with the extra costs they face as a result of living with disabilities.

She had a face-to-face assessment with one of the government’s contractors – Atos Healthcare Ltd – on 18 November. By the end of January her application was still with Atos. On 14 February she was told her application had now been returned to the Department for Work and Pensions, but it would be another six weeks before she got the decision. That will mean the process will have taken six months from start to finish.

If Jane gets an award, her payments will be backdated to September, but if her application is refused and she appeals, there could be further months of uncertainty.

Jane is a single parent with five children. Anxiety and depression is common in sufferers of Huntingdon’s, but my constituent’s state of health is worsening as a result of the delays. In her own words “I am struggling with everyday life, it’s always on my mind”.

Delays, delays and more delays
This is by no means the longest period of delay being reported by other PIP claimants, and it’s not just a problem for Atos – already notorious for their role in Employment and Support Allowance assessments – but also for the government’s other contractor Capita.

The delays are clear from the government’s own interim management figures, which show that by December 2013, 220,300 applications had been submitted (excluding claims for terminal illnesses) but only 34,200 awards had been made.

Ministers stated that their expectation before the system “went live” was that processing of claims would take 12-15 weeks. It is taking at least twice as long for most.

Pilot? What pilot?
PIP has been available to new claimants since June 2013. Most of those who are currently on DLA will not go through the reassessment process until October 2015. However those whose award runs out before that date or whose circumstances change will still be called in, potentially piling delay upon delay.

There was a pilot in some parts of the north of England, but this ran for only two months before the new benefit went live nationwide. The Work and Pensions Select Committee – of which I’m a member – raised doubts about such a short pilot in advance, but our concerns were brushed off. One oddity is the contrast with Universal Credit, where the roll out has been slowed to a snail’s pace.

Excuses, excuses
In December the disabilities minister told the Select Committee that all assessments were being internally audited by the providers before being passed back to the DWP. That suggests a lack of confidence in the training provided by contactors – something the government should have realised was an issue when Atos and Capita were tendering for this work.

Then in February the secretary of state, Iain Duncan Smith, he argued that PIP was being rolled out “carefully” and they were adjusting the process as they went along. Given the experience of people like Jane, I’m afraid this just doesn’t wash.

The reality is that disabled people are being used as guinea pigs because of the government’s total failure to properly pilot the PIP application process and ensure its contractors were up to the job. IDS and his ministers should be ashamed.


17th Feb 2014.  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sheila-gilmore/iain-duncan-smith_b_4801611.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

Personal Independence Payments: a failing system is trapping disabled people without benefits

Since the new Personal Independence Payments began to replace Disability Living Allowance, fewer than one in six people who applied have had their claims decided. While assessments drag out over months, bills still have to be paid and food still has to be bought.

Paul Richardson* has just got off the phone with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It was another phone call trying to check on the progress of his daughter Jennifer’s application for the new disability benefit, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), but it was another conversation that got them nowhere.

Jennifer has borderline personality disorder and has made two suicide attempts since she left school. She’s now 22 and this year moved back to live with her parents. She finds it difficult to talk to strangers and her mum and dad have been dealing with the PIP process as much as they can on her behalf. The process has been difficult from the offset when they had their first meeting at home in November.    

“The DWP person arrived and explained the form to us but didn’t have a blank copy of the form with her so we had to wait for a form to be sent,” Paul tells me. “By this time it was just before Christmas and we were told that nothing would be done with the form over the Christmas holiday period.”

When Paul called the DWP to try and update them on Jennifer’s meetings with mental health specialists, he was told they would hear nothing about their application for up to a year.

“She told us…we’d have to wait 10 months at least for any kind of decision or even for a first assessment meeting,” Paul says. “When asked why it was taking so long I was told that as this is a new benefit there have been a lot of applications. When asked if the government had made sure that there were enough people to deal with the assessments I was told ‘presumably no’.” 

The Richardsons are not alone in their experience. Fewer than one in six people who apply for Personal Independence Payment have had their claim decided, DWP figures revealed this month (pdf). They are the first figures to be released since the PIP’s rollout began to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the outgoing benefit to help people with mobility or care problems, and present an initial picture of widespread delays, backlogs and rejections.

Jennifer has no income of her own. Like many people with a disability or long-term health problem, extra costs continue to mount up. The family has to spend more on something as seemingly insignificant as heating.

“I have to bath a number of times each day and the bath needs to be full,” Jennifer explains. “When I’m having a bad spell I lie in bed, get up and bath, lie in bed for a few hour, another bath, back to bed and will repeat this cycle continuously.”

Paul has had to give up his job as a teacher and taken work as a lorry driver so that he can drive Jennifer to her medical appointments in the week or college when she feels well enough.

“This is all just a waiting list before an assessment,” he says. “It may take even longer for a decision to be made.”  

Almost two out of three people who apply for PIP are receiving nothing at all unless they are terminally ill, the first figures show. Out of the 15.4 per cent of new claims that have received a decision, only 37 per cent were awarded some rate of PIP. This means that only 12, 654 people, out of the 220,300 who have made a new claim since its initial introduction in April 2013 have been awarded the benefit.

By Frances Ryan in the New Statesman, 17th Feb 2014. Read the rest of this article here: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/02/personal-independence-payments-failing-system-trapping-disabled-people-without-bene

New fears of PIP ‘chaos

A quick glance at the search terms people use to reach ‘Benefit tales‘ shows a significant number of people every week searching about delays in their Personal Independent Paymment (PIP) claims. It is currently the most frequent topic being searched for. Here’s an article from John Pring at the disability news service examining this in more depth.

New evidence has emerged of serious delays with the roll-out of the government’s new personal independence payment (PIP), after the parents of a disabled teenager told how he had been left for months without his disability benefits.

They have been waiting nearly three months without any communication from Atos Healthcare, the company carrying out the PIP assessments in London and the south of England.

The parents of Kai Rollinson, who live with their son on the outskirts of London, submitted his PIP form in early September, but have had no written communication from Atos since then.

continue reading this article here

A selection of search terms 1.

I can see some of the search terms that have led people to this site but unfortunately I cannot see who has posted them. Unfortunate, because many of these people need immediate help.

Here’s a selection from the last 7 days. The site recorded 106 known search terms including:
    * Just had back surgery and have to attend WRAG group

    * how can you live when benefits are taken away due to a sanction

    * i’m at my wits end

    * why am I waiting so long to get my personal independence payment
    * atos stopped me working but 5 years later say Im fit to work, can i sue them for loss of earnings

    * doctor from ATOS said that I could do things that i couldnt

    * what happens if atos healthcare cancel the appointment

    * greater manchester starving

    * decision delays dwp

    * my disability benefits have been cut off how can I appeal

    * PIP delays

        * how long to wait for a PIP decision

    * victimised by employer for being put into the WRAG group

    * WRAG advisor ignoring my sick note

    * no money left job center

    * son missed JSA appointment how long do they stop the money for

    * depression and the DWP

    * made claim for PIP 23 weeks ago

Argotina1, 26th November 2016

Atos move leaves DLA decision-makers guessing

Disability benefit decision-makers have been left without expert medical advice to call on for most of their cases, after the outsourcing giant Atos Healthcare withdrew from large parts of a key contract.

Doctors employed by Atos used to advise Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision-makers on the more difficult claims for disability living allowance (DLA) and attendance allowance (AA). Atos has also been providing doctors to visit claimants in their own homes to carry out full medical reports, again under a medical services contract.

But Disability News Service (DNS) has learned that the long-term contract to carry out this work ran out three months ago, and since then Atos has been providing the service on a month-by-month basis. Now the company has pulled out altogether from most of the work, leaving decision-makers – the civil servants who decide whether or not a disabled person will receive the benefit – without any expert medical advice to call on.

An internal bulletin to staff says that Atos Healthcare has been providing medical services for DLA and AA claims for “many years” but that this support would now be on “a revised basis”. The move is thought certain to lead to an increase in appeals from people whose DLA and AA claims have been turned down, with decision-makers forced to rely more on guesswork as they make decisions “on the balance of probability based on available evidence at the time”.

DWP guidance is being rewritten, with Atos doctors only available for claims from people with terminal illness, and for those claims from disabled children being dealt with at just one regional benefits centre.

Although personal independence payment (PIP) has now replaced DLA for new working-age claims, under-16s still have to claim DLA, and over-65s must claim AA to cover their care needs. And due to delays in the PIP rollout process, existing DLA claimants across London and the south of England, the north of England, and Scotland, are still being assessed for DLA rather than PIP if they report a change in their care or mobility needs, if their fixed-term award is about to expire, or if they reach the age of 16,

A DWP spokesman said: “It’s a revised service. Guidance has been provided to decision makers and decisions made will be informed decisions based on information provided.” He said that the withdrawal of the Atos doctors would not damage the quality of decisions because decision-makers could use information “from a variety of sources”, including the claim form, care plans, and reports from GPs and consultants.

The internal memo is just the latest evidence that problems for Atos – which has numerous government contracts – are continuing to mount.

Despite DNS having seen the bulletin, and DWP admitting that it was genuine, Atos has so far refused to confirm that there have been any changes to its medical services contract.

Campaigners already believe that Atos has contributed to or even caused the deaths of thousands of disabled people, because of the way its assessors have carried out the much-criticised work capability assessment (WCA) on behalf of the government. But last month, DNS learned that meetings between Atos and DWP civil servants were taking place across the country because a recruitment crisis had left the company with a severe shortage of doctors.

The public spending watchdog is also investigating concerns about the award to Atos of at least one of the contracts to assess those claiming PIP – following a DNS investigation – as part of a major “value for money” study into the new benefit and its implementation. And in July, the government announced that it was bringing in new companies to join Atos in carrying out WCAs.

by John Pring, on the Disability News Service, 15th Nov 2013: http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/11/atos-move-leaves-dla-decision-makers-guessing/