Saturday, January 25, 2020

Fury as benefit assessment firm heads to court to reverse ‘reputational damage’

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A private firm is heading to court in a bid to reverse a legal decision that is says has caused the company “reputational damage”, following the tragic death of a disabled benefit claimant.

Capita, who were recently awarded an extension to its contract with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) despite widespread criticism, conducts assessment for the disability benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance for all disabled adults.

The widely hated and condemned benefit assessment outsourcing company was ordered to pay damages, after the mother of a benefit claimant who died shortly after being refused PIP accused a Capita benefits assessor of effectively lying in a report sent to the DWP.

Victoria Smith, 33, who suffered from Fibromyalgia and agoraphobia, as well as other medical issues, died of a brain haemorrhage in July 2018, but doctors said her health deteriorated soon after the cruel decision to stop her disability benefit.

The court agreed that Capita were guilty of ‘maladministration’ and ordered the private assessment firm to pay £10,000 in damages to the deceased woman’s family.

But Capita says they weren’t able to properly defend themselves during the court hearing due to problems with its own internal mail system, and that because of this the original decision should be reversed and the case reheard.

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BBC News reports that Capita “acknowledges that it has not been able to explain the default and therefore cannot provide a good reason for it” in papers submitted to the appeal court.

They add that the firm’s apparent failure to respond to court requests/messages were “entirely innocent and inadvertent”, because of issues with its internal mail system.

The papers also suggested that the court may be guilty of “prejudice to Capita” if it failed to consider the company’s appeal.

“Capita has been on the receiving end of significant negative press which suggests that it has been held liable following a successful claim by the claimant,” the court papers said.

“This causes significant reputational damage to Capita’s business.”

Duncan Walker, a welfare rights adviser from Unite the union, who has been supporting Victoria’s mother Mrs Kemlo in her ongoing legal battle, blasted Capita’s crude attempt to overturn the court ruling.

“In the tragic case of Victoria, this was just one more example of shocking maladministration by Capita at public expense”, he told BBC News.

“Every PIP case undertaken by Unite members in Stoke-on-Trent with the specific health care professional in Victoria’s case has been overturned by the social security tribunals.

“It is an abuse of public funds and plainly wrong that such reports are presented as fact and a shameful indictment of the government welfare reform ideology clearly persecuting disabled and vulnerable people.”

A Capita spokesperson said: “We have offered our deepest condolences to the family in this very tragic case. We reviewed our assessment report at a senior clinical level and remain confident that it was correct based on the information we were given.”

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