Allegations of systemic dishonesty by Atos and Capita assessors are being examined by the chair of House of Commons work and pensions select committe
Allegations of dishonesty by professionals undertaking capability assessment of disabled people have been raised with an influential committee of MPs.
Last month disabled rights campaigner John Pring revealed that hundreds of complaints had been made against nurses working for Atos and Capita, which are subcontracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to assess eligibility for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
Everyone currently receiving Disability Living Allowance is being transferred to PIP but not before they undergo a capability assessment which many say is fundamentally flawed and designed to be degrading.
Now Labour MP Frank Field, who heads up the House of Commons work and pensions select committee, is to looking into Pring's allegations, and may recommend a committee investigation.
Pring unearthed evidence as part of a freedom of information request showing that qualified nurses working on the DWP’s behalf lied repeatedly in reports they produced for the department.
Field said: “The committee has been presented with some concerning reports about the operation of the PIP assessment process.
“I’m looking at those reports, and the issues they raise, very carefully. It will then be for the committee to decide how it wants to respond.”
Claims of widespread dishonesty are being backed up by a former Atos assessor who worked for Atos for about six months in 2014 and 2015 before she left because she was not meeting her target of eight paper-based assessments a day.
I know staff would make assumptions rather than facts to get the reports done quickly
She told Pring she expected Atos staff would make assumptions rather than facts to get the reports done quickly and hope it didn’t get audited.
She added: “Some were like me very conscientious and others banged them out for the financial incentive, with little compassion or research on conditions.
“The lack of knowledge on conditions, drugs and side-effects is shocking, but in reality assessors cannot know about every possible condition but have no time… to look them up and research the condition and effects.”
She blamed “target-driven management” and assessors “making assumptions rather than using facts”, while the risk of losing their jobs if they failed to achieve targets for the number of assessments they carried out meant assessors were “not always reading all of the evidence”.
And, she said, many assessors often wanted to finish their reports quickly “so they could be paid overtime”.
Atos refused to comment on any of the allegations.
However a spokesperson for the DWP said: “Assessment providers have their own complaints processes in place, and if claimants are not satisfied with providers’ response they will be signposted to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE).
“Over 1.9 million PIP claims have been decided since April 2013 to September 2016 and in this time only a tiny fraction of complaints regarding providers’ service standards have been upheld by ICE."