The number of people seeking legal advice because they have been refused benefits in Northampton has doubled since this time last year, a local advocacy service says.
In recent weeks the Chronicle & Echo has been inundated with people disputing Capita’s decision to turn them down for the vital Personal Independent Payment (PIP), currently phasing out the Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
They have included a woman wheelchair-bound through a botched spinal operation, a woman with terminal cancer and a woman who wakes up every day thinking it is still 2014.
Most people in Northampton are assessed by the firm Capita, which has offices in Derngate.
Those offices were the subject of a Channel Four undercover filming report last month, in which one employee was caught admitting he had assessed claimants before even meeting them.
Advice services manager for Community Law Services Northampton, Sarah Hayle, said the number of people appealing PIP refusals is putting a huge strain on its services.
She said: “It has pushed us from a two week waiting period to a four week waiting period.
“Generally people do have a problem with the assessments.
“They feel as if they have not been listened to, and they feel what they say has not been accurately recorded.
“The big area is people with non-physical problems.”
CLS Northampton which offers free law advice to people has received 786 enquiries from people who have been refused PIP in the first quarter of 2016 - more than double the 347 in the same timescale last year.
Ms Hayle said that is largely because a swathe of people in Northampton moved from the DLA to PIP in the first few months of 2016 and have only recently found they have been refused.
Last week Kingsley woman Sandra Moloney felt that, despite sending in notes from her GP and hospital doctors, her refusal was largely decided by what happened during her hour long assessment by a Capita employee.
Ms Hayle says a lot of people coming to CLS feel their medical evidence is not being taken into account.
She said: “I think even when people send in the supporting documents, they are having face-to-face assessments and the outcome of that assessment is what factors in the final decision.”
However Ms Hayle said claimants should not lose heart, even if their reassessment has been unsuccessful as many have more success by taking their claim to a tribunal.
“It is certainly worth people getting advice to see if there are grounds to take their claim further.”
For more information about Community Law Services, head to: www.communitylawservice.org.uk