Being an ex Civil Service employee and decision maker in the benefits system myself, I can empathise to some extent with the majority of staff that are now running the PIP (ATOS and DWP) benefit because many are woefully ill equipped to make decisions on such a serious and complicated benefit. You cannot be thrown into making serious decisions about people’s lives without comprehensive training and knowledge.
A private company have taken over the job of the medical assessments (ATOS) because it is saving the government money, or so they think, or they have a misguided opinion that it is going to be a more efficient way of doing things. These people are not trained and knowledgeable enough about the benefits and people they are assessing. These assessments are carried out by a health professional employed by ATOS. They will write a report and the report is then sent onto the DWP for a decision maker to look at. AND THIS IS WHERE EVERYTHING STARTS TO GO WRONG, THESE ASSESSMENTS ARE USELESS IN A LOT OF CASES.
A report provided by The National Audit Office in January this year revealed the costly chaos that has engulfed outsourced assessments –
- Over the three years from April 2015 to March 2018, the DWP expects to spend a staggering £1.6 billion on medical assessments.
No wonder Iain Duncan Smith resigned he knew what was coming!
The health professional who came to my house to assess my son’s abilities was an ex-paramedic. I am sorry, but how can an ex-paramedic be knowledgeable enough to assess someone with an acquired brain injury. He awarded my son zero points! This is where the government are losing the most money, previously assessments were done by your own doctor/specialists. You would get reports from the doctor and any other professionals that were working with you and send them in with the application form. Thousands of pounds could be saved by doing it this way and a more accurate information base obtained from people who actually know the claimant. A disability like brain injury in the moderate to severe category can be hidden and is not always obvious, it needs qualified professionals to do an accurate assessment. My son had received DLA since he was 12, (he is now 26) he had middle rate care and lower rate mobility and through a 15 minute assessment by a paramedic he was classed as not needing help any longer. Unbelieveable! This assessment is then sent onto the DWP for their decision makers to look at.
They are called Decision Makers and because of this they should have minimum educational qualifications and extensive training. I can remember my first months working for the Benefits Agency as a trainee Benefits Officer (Decision Maker). There were six trainees in total and we sat at a big table at the top of the office and were not trusted as yet to deal with the public. In fact we did not deal with the public for six months! Every day for six months was used for training and learning the benefits system. Also, we had customer service days, these days we learnt how to deal with the general public efficiently and politely. I am not saying it was a perfect system but at least we were professionals and the job we did, we were trained rigorously for. We knew all the rules and regulations for the job we were assigned to do and we did that job very well, we looked like and were professionals. The CAB has realised a problem with the PIP assessments they said in a recent report –
The scale of the problem with personal independence payments (PIP) means that needing help with the benefit is now the most common reason for approaching the national charity Citizens Advice charity, new figures show…..
Staff who work for the DWP now are not trained rigorously enough, it seems that because computers do most of the work these days, the people who put the information into them do not need to be educated and trained. This is wrong, computers cannot be relied on when it comes to human and medical issues.
During the past few weeks I have had to deal with quite a few people associated with my son’s PIP claim, mostly on the phone. The first line staff that you have to deal with when you first contact the customer service department are employed by the DWP however, it is just like a call centre and some are not trained well enough. Obviously it seems from my experience that anyone can do this job they know exactly zilch about your claim and it’s worse than useless ringing them up, it’s a complete waste of time and money. I phoned them twice this week to ask if my son’s claim had been dealt with and both times all they said was it takes 8 to 9 weeks for the assessment to be completed and that is it. The actual decision makers are uncontactable, see part two for more on this.
After being in hospital for almost 2 weeks with my own illness, I had to come home faced with this NIL decision of my sons knowing that I had to write a rebuttal to his assessment. You can however, have a phone call for the reassessment but I was advised not to by someone who had also gone through this process. I would have had a higher rate of it going to appeal and more delays if I did it that way. So I took the written response rout, it took me all day and 7 pages later and with a letter received from his GP and a booklet about brain injury and its effects on people, it was immediately sent off by recorded delivery, that was on the 23rd June. I will let you all know the outcome and I hope for his sake we do not have to go to Appeal because it’s all delay, delay. And this means less money for longer and for someone with brain damage to the frontal lobe this is no easy task to process as all of his emotions are exaggerated.
PART TWO OF THE FIASCO – FURTHER PROGRESS?
It is now 16th July, they received the written response on Monday 27th June and we are still no closer to a decision. The indecision has made my son very ill and having to deal with him is not helping me either. I have rang them up almost every day and last week they informed me for the first time, that I could actually request a phone call from his caseworker! I was so excited about this so asked immediately for this referral but was informed, ‘the computers are down at the moment but ring back tomorrow’.Of course I did that and was told that someone would ring me soon usually within the next 24hrs. I kept checking my phone all day and telling all my callers I could not talk because I was expecting an important call, but no one rang. I rang the following day again and was informed that it could take a week before they contacted me if they were busy, I felt like screaming at that point, I felt like I was getting no where at the same time my son was unravelling more each day so I decided to contact my local MP. He replied quite quickly and he contacted the DWP’s MP Liaison Team at the Yorkshire Benefit Centre. I really hope that they will be able to help sort this out as quickly as possible for my sons sake. Will let you know my progress.
It is now 22nd July and I have been through every web site and help site that I can in order to do the best for my son. I still haven’t heard from the Decision Maker whom I requested a call back from on the 14th July. I phoned PIP this morning and said that we have not heard from the Decision Maker and the call centre woman said that, ‘it is down on your sons file to ring and they have 5 days but if they are very busy it can take longer’. I said it’s been 6 days now, unbelievable!
I feel that the worse part of this whole process is the lack of communication between you and the actually people who are doing the job. You have got this receptionist, call centre person fobbing you off every time you call, like a secretary saying her boss is out of the office when he doesn’t want to take calls. However my son received a message today to tell him that they are looking at his decision and he will receive this decision in the post soon. I had to ring them to get the jist of the text because my son deleted it and forgot what it said, as I say it’s been a difficult experience. I just hope that the revised assessment is positive for him.
I am pleased to say that on the 26th July we finally received my sons PIP award and he has been awarded both care and mobility components and I am highly delighted and so is he. Thank goodness this whole process is now over and he can now get on with living his life and know he has some financial security. It has been a long and painful process and I do not at all envy anyone who has to go through it at all.
FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT THIS PROCESS
Whilst I have been trawling through the web site and googling all manner of things associated with PIP, I have found loads of information and bad press about this benefit. I am very glad that my experience is universal and it’s not just me! The following is a piece that I have copied from the site #PIPFightback and it is very interesting so I am including this on my post –
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is the replacement for Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
Whilst DLA worked to provide support for the extra costs of being disabled, and the system worked well, the whole PIP system is rotten to the core.
The whole purpose of making the change from DLA to PIP is to remove people’s entitlements to the vital support which DLA provided to help enable disabled people to live a life on more even terms with non disabled people.
With the PIP assessment regime now in place, thousands of people have already lost out and reports of the shoddy nature of the assessments are growing every week. Whilst the success rate at tribunal is high, it is taking up to 6 months or longer for cases to be heard – leaving disabled people struggling
Atos and Capita are making a killing from conducting sham PIP assessments which are seeing thousands of legitimate claimants having their benefits refused, their incomes slashed and their motability cars removed.
I also found information from the DWP site and found a very interesting review that is taking place right now it is called the Second Independent Review of the PIP Payment assessment and they are calling for evidence from carers and claimants, they state –
This call for evidence relates to the second Independent Review of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment. It seeks information about how the PIP assessment is working. It focuses in particular on the use of further evidence in the claim process, data sharing and the claimant experience.
Individuals and organisations are invited to submit evidence to help inform the review by answering the following questions. Where we use the word “condition” in these questions we mean disabilities, health conditions and impairments. We use “condition” for short.
Your responses can only be taken into account if you press submit at the end of the form. Please ensure your response reaches us by 5pm on 16 September 2016.
I have got the following link for anyone to click on if they would like to include their experiences and send them in, its worth a try anyway!