Channel 4 News exposed the DWP’s ‘hostile environment’ and people are piling in with their own horror stories

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On 6 August, Channel 4 News focused on the stories of disability claimants forced to negotiate the horrors of the DWP’s assessment process:

Simon Brandez

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”.

Not alone

Chillingly, Brandez’s story is commonplace:

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”:

“Hostile environment”

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:

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:

Yet this “hostile environment” is not new:

It appears that this government is trying to ignore disabled people. We must not let it.

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– Support DPAC, fighting for disabled people’s rights.

Featured image via d97jro – Pixabay and UK government – Wikimedia

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