Northampton benefits assessor caught calling claimant "fat" faces tribunal

A disability benefits assessor from Northampton told an undercover reporter a claimant was "too fat" to wipe her bum, a tribunal heard.

Tuesday, 19th September 2017, 10:31 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th September 2017, 10:57 am
Barham was recorded by an undercover reporter at the Northampton offices of Capita.

Alan Barham was caught making the remarks about a disability benefit applicant on Channel 4's 'Dispatches: The Great Benefits Row', broadcast in April 2016.

The former paramedic also bragged about making £20,000 a month and said he filled in applicants' forms before even assessing them.

Barham now faces being barred from working as a paramedic if the panel finds that his practice is impaired by misconduct.

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He admitted using the insulting language and taking a photograph of an assessment belonging to an unknown service user on his phone.

The recordings were made by an undercover reporter posing as a trainee assessor at the Northampton offices of Capita.

Barham was also recorded saying the applicant had a 'disability known as being fat'.

In another incident, he told the undercover reported that he had denied a claim to a one-legged man.

Barham said: "So you would think that something as significant as a leg missing would be 'oh god there's the money'.

"But when you get to the nuts and bolts of it he does everything really."

A spokeswoman for the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service said Barham's comments were "disparaging and offensive".

Barham claims he is being "scapegoated" by the outsourcing company and that filling in PIP forms before assessment, known as "pre-population", is standard practice.

He insists he was only following instructions and guidelines laid down by Capita.

In the Dispatches documentary played to the HCPTS, Barham stressed the importance of subtly observing applicants, without letting them know.

He said: "Most of its informal [observations] you catch them out on.

"They're informal, that's why you don't have to say anything.

"They'll tell you everything that they want to tell you, is wrong, you can completely dismiss it more often than not.

"You'll get your whole assessment done with watching what they do."

The hearing continues.