MPs and campaigners are calling for an urgent investigation into the Government’s benefit tests after an assessor was filmed dismissing a claimant’s “disability known as fat”.
The man, who conducts Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments for Capita, was filmed by an undercover reporter claiming employees could earn £20,000 a month “most months” by rushing through claims.
Channel 4’s Dispatches programme sent a psychiatric nurse through Capita’s 20-year disability assessment training, where a senior staff member urged him to do “as many assessments a day as you can possibly manage”.
After being sent to Northampton to learn the ropes, a disability assessor called Alan was filmed claiming he could get paid £20,000 a month by “flying through” interviews, sometimes even completing forms before meeting claimants.
The same staff member was seen dismissing a claimant’s “disability known as being fat”, adding: “She asks for help to wipe her arse because she’s too f***ing fat to do it herself.”
The footage has generated outrage as controversy continues over the Government’s changes to disability benefits and how they are awarded.
Mencap condemned the “derogatory and offensive attitudes” on show, saying it showed policy was failing to support claimants.
Dan Scorer, the charity’s head of policy, called for an urgent independent review into how PIP assessments are carried out.
“We already know that disability benefit assessments are flawed, with wrong decisions made every day causing thousands of people to suffer emotionally and financially,” he said.
Owen Smith, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary also called for a probe into the “extremely troubling” report.
“But this Dispatches report shows a flagrant disregard for the claimants and is extremely troubling.”
The PIP, which replaces Disability Living Allowance, awards between £33 and £140 a week to adults living with long-term health problems or disabilities.
Claimants must fill out a 35-page questionnaire before meeting assessors who use a point system to judge their ability to carry out daily tasks and conduct a “Mental State Examination” if required.
The Department for Work and Pensions refuted claims it pressurises contractors to speed up assessments.
“The assessment process for Personal Independence Payments has been extensively reviewed to ensure it is robust, the claims process is as straightforward as possible, and decisions are made based on the evidence provided,” a spokesperson said.
“We expect the highest standards from the contractors who carry out PIP assessments and work closely with them to continuously improve and ensure PIP is working in the best way possible.”
A spokesperson for Capita told The Independent the firm did not recognise the claims over £20,000 monthly pay, which did not correlate to annual earnings.
“The comments and actions of this individual assessor clearly fall short of what we expect and are totally unacceptable,” she added.
“We are obviously appalled by and sincerely apologise for this individual’s disrespectful comments and actions.
“If any employee does not meet our expectations we will always take appropriate action. This particular assessor, who was a contractor, no longer works for Capita.”
The company said it focuses on high-quality and professional assessments, which are completed according to Government requirements.
The full documentary of Channel 4’s Dispatches: The Great Benefits Row aired on Monday and is available on demand.
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