Mentally ill claimants complain they are being asked to justify why they are are still alive
Disabled people are being asked why they “haven’t killed themselves yet” by Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)-contracted medical assessors, it has been claimed.
A number of claimants who are being assessed for the new Personal Independent Payments (PIP) have spoken of their outrage on social media after being asked "deeply inappropriate questions" by assessors employed by Atos and Capita
Alice Kirby, who has mental health issues, posted on Twitter that an Atos assessor appeared to be questioning the validity of her illness because she was “still alive”.
Assessors are usually medical proferssionals trained to conduct the assessments but can have limited knoweldge of mental ill health.
Kirby said: “Cuts are costing disabled people their lives, but the assessments themselves can also put us at risk. They are designed to be intrusive and manipulative, and I wanted to raise awareness of that.
"When applicants are asked questions like this, we are forced to explain our reasons to stay alive. No one should be expected to do that, especially in such a toxic and unsupportive environment. Assessors do not have the time or skills to explore the answers to this question with us, and they are not able to provide the support which may be needed afterwards.
During my #pip assessment I was asked why I hadn't killed myself yet. This is standard, assessors regularly ask this question.— Alice Kirby (@Alice__Kirby) 24 February 2017
“This question was also completely irrelevant to my assessment, it had no impact on the outcome of my award and it wasn’t even referenced in the report. And so we must question the motives behind it.
“These assessments are not safe, people are terrified of going through them, and many are traumatised afterwards. Government needs to investigate the assessment process as a matter of urgency, and it needs to explain why questions like this are being asked.”
@Alice__Kirby My son was asked the same. Appeals and tribunals going on for over a year now. Chiropodist assessed him!— Jude (@faybijou) 27 February 2017
Another tweeted: “I was asked that too,” while one tweet recounted an incident where the person’s brother was asked the same question as Kirby.
An Atos healthcare spokesperson said: “We are unaware of a complaint but we will investigate if one is made. Our role is to provide a well evidenced report based upon information obtained using the criteria laid out by government.
“The professional and compassionate service we provide to claimants is our primary consideration.”
Atos says its Personal Independent Payment assessors undertake “thorough training, particularly on assessing those with mental health conditions”, and that experienced mental health professionals are available to teams to offer additional guidance and support when needed.