On 6 August, Channel 4 News focused on the stories of disability claimants forced to negotiate the horrors of the DWP’s assessment process:
Desperate disability benefits applicants ‘being denied extra support’, amid criticism of assessment systemhttps://t.co/fpIEyIIKC7
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) August 6, 2018
One story featured was that of Simon Brandez. Brandez suffered a “massive stroke nearly 20 years ago”. He couldn’t return to work as a property developer and accountant so applied for the disability benefit Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
The disability assessor only awarded Brandez nine points at his medical assessment, meaning he was not eligible for any support. Yet when he took the case to a tribunal, the court awarded him 66 points.
Brandez was also claiming Disability Living Allowance. But when the DWP moved him onto Personal Independence Payment (PIP), he had a very similar experience. The assessor originally stated he was not eligible for PIP before a tribunal concluded he should receive “the maximum amount possible”.
Chillingly, Brandez’s story is commonplace:
I had exactly the same experience, I was turned down 3 times by Atos but at the tribunal it took no more than 5 minutes for my claim to be accepted. I had the impression that Atos had only one set of questions, and we're more interested in declining a request than approving it
— Peter James Crabtree (@PeterJamesCrab1) August 7, 2018
The DWP contracts private companies Independent Assessment Services (formerly known as Atos) and Capita to carry out PIP assessments. In 2017/18, tribunals overturned 68% of negative PIP decisions that were brought to trial.
No wonder some people just want to go “straight to appeal”:
It isn't an assessment system! It's a failing system where everyone is set to fail. My Mum is off to her 5th fail in 2 years. The whole thing is a waste of everyones' time. Be cheaper, quicker & kinder to auto fail everyone & go straight to appeal.
— Ben Crouch (@BenCrouchUK) August 6, 2018
Raji Hunian, CEO of disability charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, had some harsh words for the DWP:
It’s an incredibly hostile environment… Our clients simply aren’t being believed. There is a real lack of empathy. A lot of our clients will come away from the assessment process feeling like liars, feeling like they’ve just been treated like they’re cheating the system.
And this conclusion struck a chord with many:
Absolutely, and thank you for covering it, it gets little to no coverage despite being one of the biggest scandals, but of course nobody cares about the ill and disabled.#PIP #UniversalCredit #ATOS #Benefits #DisabilityRights #MentalHealthMatters @EstherMcVey1
— HollyHox🐇 (@HollHox) August 6, 2018
People should watch this video, it’s important. For some reason and somehow, genuinely disabled people are being victimised through no fault of their own. It’s been going on since this govt took over and it’s an absolute disgrace. In different times this wouldn’t be happening.
— den (@Iddonpup) August 6, 2018
In response to Channel 4 News‘s investigations, the DWP stated:
Assessments work well for the vast majority of people, but one person’s poor experience is one too many. We’re committed to continuously improving assessments.
“Adversarial from the start”
Brandez pulls no punches in his assessment of the DWP’s aims:
It’s adversarial from the start. Whereas you think these people are going to help you, they actually don’t want to help you.
Channel 4 News laid bare a system which seems designed to stop people from claiming the support they badly need:
The bloke summed it up perfectly –
— Mikee (@M1K33EE) August 6, 2018
Yet this “hostile environment” is not new:
Many think rise of far right is only becoming apparent now in UK & within Govt. But unemployed,chronically ill,mentally ill,homeless,old,disabled, have been under a brutal regime, causing deaths since 2011 & been trying to warn everyone. 2018 shows how much they have been ignored
— Lyn Venables (@LynVenables) August 7, 2018
It appears that this government is trying to ignore disabled people. We must not let it.
– Support DPAC, fighting for disabled people’s rights.