On Wednesday 25 May, the disability benefit assessment companies – Atos (Independent Assessment Services), Capita and Maximus (Health Assessment Advisory Service) – are called to answer questions from MPs on the all-party Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into disability benefit assessments. Disabled women and men will be watching closely.
** Watch online Wednesday at 9.15am here or anytime later on.
Debbie Abrahams MP’s questions to Capita and Atos were at 10:05:28 onwards on the video.
Report by John Pring, Disability News Service here
Our evidence to the MPs’ inquiry documented how:
· The assessment system is discredited. The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) test are designed to minimise needs and exclude people from benefit. These must be scrapped and replaced with supportive benefits enabling us to live in dignity.
· Sick and disabled people are subjected to enormous intrusion into our lives to justify why we should get benefits. We are expected to answer questions about our toilet needs. Women are expected to disclose about sexual violence and gynaecological issues, and are disbelieved about invisible conditions.
· Every day, claimants are cut off and mistreated by a brutal and automated system which is killing thousands of people. Bereaved relatives are campaigning for justice for loved ones — including Jodey Whiting, Errol Graham, Elaine Morrall and Philippa Day. Some tragically died after assurances given to the Committee in November and December 2017. The relatives are interviewed in Channel 4 Dispatches: Truth about disability benefits.
We want to know:
· Why those of us with lifelong conditions, have to undergo continual reassessments? Ms A, who has PTSD after escaping abuse, agoraphobia and serious physical health conditions, has suffered stressful reassessments and being wrongly cut off multiple times.
· Why claimants struggling with mental distress and cancer diagnosis are cut off for “failure to attend” assessments, notified by companies to the DWP?
· Why “health professionals” doing assessments find reasons to refuse much-needed benefits to severely disabled and ill claimants, or find long interviews “inconclusive”? We can only assume that they work to targets and rewards. Ms C was a teenager under Great Ormond St Hospital when she claimed PIP supported by her mother. She was scored 0 by Atos, but won full PIP on reconsideration, with our help. However, the stress of the process and impact of refusal has damaged her disabled mother’s health.
It’s four years since the MPs’ last inquiry into PIP and ESA assessments. Then, nearly 4,000 people sent in testimony. The Committee published two reports, one entirely of claimant experiences. Since then, the profiteer companies have treated claimants as harshly, or even worse during the pandemic, enabled by the DWP with contracts worth many millions of pounds.
We have been fighting for decades and women in our network have got support so they don’t have to attend the stressful and hated interviews, and do win much-needed benefits. Ms R said: “While some of the benefits staff were kind, most couldn’t care less. I was close to a complete breakdown, and if it weren’t for [WinVisible’s] help, I don’t know how I would have survived.”
Ms X survived the Rwandan genocide and came to the UK for safety. Maximus (CHDA) dismissed as insufficient medical evidence: letters from the clinical physiotherapist referring her to the Pain Clinic and verifying shrapnel in her body from surviving a bomb blast; and a report on her trauma from the PTSD lead doctor at hospital We kept going and were able to secure exemption from interview for her. The doctor complained to Maximus that she is called as an expert witness in court cases and her professional opinion had never been dismissed before.
Contact WinVisible firstname.lastname@example.org