Tuesday, January 19, 2021

DWP officials accused of ‘tampering’ with thousands of benefit assessments

"For the whole process to be a sham and for the assessment to be undermined by auditors is infuriating.”

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Benefit officials working for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have altered or binned thousands of work capability assessment reports submitted by healthcare professionals, it has been claimed.

DWP officials reduced qualifying points awarded during face-to-face assessments and in some cases binned the reports entirely, according to media reports.

The Daily Record reports that during the last year paperwork was altered or amended in around 1,840 cases, while a further 460 applications were branded unacceptable and simply binned.

DWP HQ, Caxton House, London. Photo: Paul Billanie for Welfare Weekly.
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In total, the Daily Record reports than an estimated 11,760 assessment reports were secretly graded by DWP officials as acceptable, unacceptable, or amended.

Officials graded around 980 health assessments per month, with up to 200 of these being amended every month, while 20 to 50 were deemed to be “unacceptable” and rejected outright.

However, the true number of amended reports is likely to be much higher because the DWP only publishes data from Independent Assessment Service forms (formerly known as Atos).

The Daily Record also believes that 33,670 assessments were audited from two firms contracted by the DWP to carry of disability assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

Commenting, SNP MP Marion Fellows said: “It is concerning that thousands of health reports are being tampered with each year by people who weren’t even present for the assessment.

“There must be a complete halt to audits and an inquiry into the UK Government’s rigged health assessments.

“DWP auditors, who aren’t present during assessments, should not be able to mandate changes which could bear heavily on peoples’ lives.

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“Changes should not be made by so-called health professionals who didn’t even carry out the original assessment. This is a clear injustice that must be corrected.

“People have spoken to me about how they feel they are degraded in their assessments.

“For the whole process to be a sham and for the assessment to be undermined by auditors is infuriating.”

Photo: Paula Peters

A DWP spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to ensuring people receive the support they are entitled to.

“That is why assessments are carried out by qualified health professionals and we continue to work with them to ensure quality is continuously improving.

“Sometimes assessment reports are returned to providers to ensure we have as much information as possible to reach an accurate decision.”

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DWP faces judicial review after mentally ill man found ‘starved to death’

Errol Graham starved to death in June 2018 after the DWP stopped his benefits.