As part of “covert” tactics to deceive disabled persons waiting to be evaluated for their benefits, private sector benefit assessors are leaving elevators out of service on purpose and removing cups from alongside water coolers, according to information sent to members of parliament.
Ben Spencer, a member of the Conservative Party and a physician, told reporters that he had been informed that disability benefit assessors working for government contractors were constructing traps at assessment centres in an effort to test the mobility of claimants.
Chloe Smith, the minister for disabled people, spoke before the Commons work and pensions select committee. During her testimony, she vowed to conduct an immediate inquiry into the accusations.
Spencer, a member of the committee, stated that while he was attending an event that was taking evidence from disabled people who had been through the assessment process, he was told of their perception that they were being covertly assessed.
He said that one claimant had described to him how there had been water available at the assessment centre, but that the water cooler did not have any cups, whereas the cooler at the end of the corridor did have cups. Spencer stated that this was a test “to see if the person was able to walk beyond the first water cooler to get some water.”
The Disability News Service reports that another claimant stated that the lifts at the assessment centre had been “deliberately” damaged so that it could be determined whether applicants were capable of using the stairs.
A third claimant reported how the healthcare expert who was evaluating them had dropped a pen on the floor to check if they could pick it up as part of a covert examination, effectively, of their mobility.
However, Smith stated unequivocally that she did not acknowledge these strategies as being genuine components of the evaluation procedure, and she described her state of mind as “concerned” after hearing the instances that Spencer had supplied.
Katie Farrington, who is the director general for disability, health, and pensions at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), expressed that she was also troubled by the things that the committee had heard.
She added: “I certainly do not think we should be in a place where people are going away feeling that the lift is deliberately broken, nor the water cooler is deliberately broken.
“I do think what you’re raising is an important issue, is about whether people have the right confidence in the process.”