Calls for company to review PIP claims after Northampton assessor was caught bragging on camera

People who were denied disability benefits in Northampton by a man who was later caught on camera admitting he judged claimants before he had even 'walked through the door' want their original assessments thrown out.

Tuesday, 19th April 2016, 4:01 am
Jacqui Nicholls and husband David Nicholls at their home in Kingsley. Jacqui was refused PIP payments despite a brain injury. NNL-160415-165756009

Last week Channel Four’s Dispatches programme sent an undercover reporter into the Northampton offices of Capita - a firm contracted to carry out disability assessments on behalf of the Government.

The shocking footage showed one assessor, Alan Barham, talking openly about making £20,000 a month, branding one claimant “fat” and admitting that he refused a man the Personal Independence Payment before even meeting with him.

Now some of those who were also turned down for PIP by former paramedic Mr Barham - who has now been sacked - believe their assessments should be voided.

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Jacqueline Nicholls, of Murray Avenue, Kingsley, was turned down for the payment, even though she had been claiming the Disability Living Allowance for 10 years.

A brain tumour she had when she was 11 years old has left her with severe mobility and communication problems.

After seeing the documentary, her husband of 24 years, David, has written to the Welfare secretary Stephen Crabb MP, asking that all those assessed by Mr Barham get the chance for a re-assessment.

He said: “All I wanted was a fair assessment because I know that I need to be with Jacqui all the time.

“She needs me to be safe.”

Mr Barham found that Jacqui could plan and follow routes, understand complex written information unaided and make budgeting decisions.

Former BT engineer Mr Nicholls says Jacqui has limited memory and struggles to even turn the television on.

When he and Jacqui went for the assessment at Capita’s Derngate offices on March 11, he brought with him medical records showing Jacqui suffered from complex seizures.

But now the couple will have to make do with £300 less a month.

“When we found out it was just horror,” Mr Nicholls said.

“Can she work? Of course not. How is she going to get there? She cannot communicate on the phone, she has problems with her mobility and understanding people.

“Overall I don’t know what she can do.”

Former pub manager Nikki Johnston, has retrograde amnesia after she hit her head on a metal pole in October 2014.

It means the Wellingborough mum-of-one she wakes up every day thinking she is still in 2014 and 27 years old.

But she was refused PIP after being assessed by Mr Barham last year, even though her short-term memory means she would effectively need to be re-trained every day were she to hold down a job.

Her appeal was lodged in May 2015 and a tribunal to is expected to resume later this year. All the while the family are having to live on £400 less a month.

Her husband Chris has backed Mr Nicholls call to throw out the assessments by Mr Barham.

He said: “I totally agree, how can anything that he deemed to have failed, be accurate?

“Nikki cannot work, she does not know what year it is. Her assessment said she could do complex budgeting - but she doesn’t even know about the 5p bag tax.

“How can she budget for anything?

A spokesperson for Capita, said: “Capita is engaged by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) to deliver only one part of the PIP claims process in certain areas in the UK.

“Assessments are taken into consideration by the DWP alongside all other evidence submitted by a claimant.

“The DWP, not Capita, makes the decisions on whether to award a benefit or not and the level and length of those awards. If any claimant is unhappy with the DWPs decision they can they can appeal against it.”