Northampton claimants ask if PIP assessment started in the car park?

Disabled people turned down for benefits in Northampton have poured further scorn over a town assessment centre that claimed they could walk 'unaided'...despite evidence, they say, to the contrary.

Wednesday, 27th April 2016, 6:30 am
The Capita offices in Derngate, Northampton, were the subject of an undercover investigation by Channel Four. Since then several people refused fo rthe PIP disabillity payment have contacte the Chron.

Last week shocking secret camera footage filmed by Channel Four’s Dispatches showed a PIP assessor at Northampton’s Capita offices talking openly, and crudely, about the way he assessed claimants for the weekly disability payment.

On one occasion the assessor was caught on camera admitting he decided one man’s illegibility before even meeting him.

Since the footage emerged, the Chronicle & Echo has received numerous calls from people turned down for the benefit, which is phasing out the disability living allowance.

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Five out of the six people the Chron has spoken to were told they could walk 200 metres unaided - even though they personally claim they could only walk around 20 metres without having to sit down.

Jason Fraser, 41, of The Mounts, scored a zero on his recent PIP assessment, despite having bipolar disorder and manic depression since 1997.

His years of self harming have left him with excruciating nerve damage, he says, which means he struggles to move around.

He was called to Capita’s offices in Derngate for his assessment in February.

“I was in so much pain I could not open the door,” he said.

“The (assessor) even said I can see how much pain you are in.”

But as his assessor noted that he “goes out for “short walks” and walks “at a normal pace” he would be capable of walking more than 200 metres unaided and therefore not entitled to the PIP mobility component.

Former car valet specialist Mr Fraser, 41, said: “That’s just not what I said, when I look at that assessment form, that’s just not me.

“They were taking in what they wanted to hear.”

The mother of another claimant, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated her daughter was also assessed as being able to walk 200 metres unaided because she had supposedly walked into the building from the car park 300 metres away.

However the claimant’s mother said this simply was not true as they had parked in the disabled bays in Derngate - walking no more than 30 yards.

She says it raises concerns that claimants’ mobility is being judged before they even attend the hour-long assessments at Capita.

She said that on arriving at the offices there was nowhere for her daughter to sit and she was forced to stand for “between three and four minutes” before a staff member could come and see her.

Part of the PIP assessment form judges whether a claimant can stand unaided.

She also showed the Chron a set of detailed, and the mother said confusing, directions to the Capita offices in Northampton. One component of the PIP assessment asks a claimant whether they can read maps and follow complicated instructions.

Capita was asked whether a claimant’s ability to find the Capita offices in Derngate is factored into their overall assessment result.

It was also asked whether any claimants were observed entering the building by Capita employees as part of their assessment.

In response, a spokeswoman said: “Our assessment centres are designed to meet the access requirements of PIP claimants and the requirements of the DWP (the Department for Work and Pensions). “We’ve made sure that every centre has an appropriate level of seating and wheelchair accessible rooms.

“Assessments do not focus on diagnosing or treating a particular condition. The purpose of the assessments, and therefore the role of the assessor, is to consider the impact of a claimant’s health condition or impairment on their functional ability.

“All elements of our assessments are carried out in accordance to the guidance and criteria set by the DWP.

“The DWP, not Capita, make the decisions on whether to award a benefit or not and the level and length of those awards.”

Both Mr Fraser and the claimant who did not wish to be named are appealing their PIP refusals.