An Northampton benefits assessor has been sacked after Channel Four documentary makers caught him on camera calling a potentially disabled woman “fat” and bragging about making £20,000 a month.
The Dispatches show screened on Monday night saw an undercover reporter head into Northampton’s Capita offices in Derngate to secretly film employees.
The half-an-hour documentary entitled “The Great Benefits Row” concentrated on the difficulty many people have had in obtaining the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), even with limiting mental and mobility issues.
The benefit payment is gradually phasing out the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), but can only be awarded to claimants after an hour-long points-based assessment, which asks whether people can make dinner, walk 200 metres, budget and carry out other daily tasks unaided among others.
But a section of the show, which showed Capita employee Alan Barham talking candidly about his job and how lucrative it could be, has shocked and disgusted others assessed by him in the town.
On camera, Mr Barham claimed to rake in £20,000 a month at Capita, which pays employees on a per-assessment basis.
“We were flying through them because of that money,” he said.
He told the undercover reporter, who went by the name of Noel, that on some occasions he assessed people before even meeting them.
On one particular occasion he talks about refusing a claimant a PIP payment who had lost a leg.
He said: “So you would think that something as significant as 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.
“I had literally done the assessment before I had even walked through the door.”
On another occasion he makes an extremely offensive remark about a person with weight issues, calling rh fat before saying: “now we’ve got to give her an award for it.”
Capita first won the £140 million contract to carry out PIP assessments in 2013. It’s recruitment video seeks “People who have an empathy with disabled people.”
Former BT engineer David Nicholls, of Murray Avenue, Kingsley, says he was appalled watching the show on Monday night.
His wife Jacqueline has a brain injury which impairs her speech, memory, cognitive functions and her ability to walk.
She was assessed by Mr Barham in March at the Derngate office, scoring only six out of 12 which meant she could not receive the PIP payment, despite the fact she had received Disability living allowance for 10 years prior to that.
On seeing the documentary Mr Nicholls said: “I was absolutely speechless.
“He (Mr Barham) seemed to think he was some sort of policeman against scam artists.”
Mr Nicholls has appealed his wife’s assessment and believes she should be re-assessed in the light of Mr Barham’s sacking.
A Capita spokesman said: “The comments and actions of Mr Barham clearly fall short of what we would expect and are totally unacceptable.
“We are obviously appalled by and sincerely apologise for this individual’s disrespectful comments and actions.
“Mr Barham will no longer work for Capita.”
Capita says it is the Department for Work and Pensions that makes the eventual decisions on whether to award the benefit or not.
“We will continue to review and refine the content and quality of our training and our work with disability organisations to ensure that we meet the needs of the DWP and people claiming this benefit appropriately.”
PIP assessments are scored on a points system, which mean you get no points if you can do a task well.
You need eight to receive the minimum amount of benefit a week. The maximum you can receive is £140.