MINISTER REFUSES TO CONFIRM DISABILITY REPORT TAMPERING

18th March 2019

BUT PREVIOUS ANSWERS SHOW DWP AUDITORS ARE FORCING “REQUIRED”, SWEEPING CHANGES TO HEALTH ASSESSMENT REPORTS

Today in Parliament, Justin Tomlinson MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Work and Pensions, refused to confirm that DWP auditors were mandating sweeping, required changes to the health assessment reports for people claiming Personal Independence Payments when asked by SNP MP Marion Fellows despite build-up of evidence.

DWP audits came under scrutiny last year after Mrs Fellows raised the case of her constituent – who suffers from MS – when he was accidentally sent both the original and the audited report of his face-to-face health assessment carried out by Independent Assessment Services.

Every section of the original report where her constituent scored points was reduced to zero by the auditor. Had her constituent’s report not been audited, he would have been entitled to the standard rate of the daily living component of PIP worth £57.30 per week. He is now awaiting a date for Tribunal.

Speaking in Parliament, Mrs Fellows said: “The former Disability Minister said that DWP Auditors can grade health assessment reports as “amendment required” and the “DWP is not prescriptive on how changes should be made” to these reports. Will the Minister confirm that while changes are not “prescriptive”, that auditors – who aren’t present during assessments – can mandate required, sweeping changes that can drastically affect a person’s claim for PIP?”

The Minister responded “We are always reviewing that process and we work very closely with stakeholders with their wealth of experience to make sure we continue to deliver improvements.”

A letter from Atos previously confirmed that auditors have the ability to “overrule” the findings of health professionals and that auditors had “instructed for changes to be made which ultimately affected the scoring”.

A Minister previously confirmed that two people who didn’t witness a health assessment could amend reports, stating: “where possible, this activity should be taken by the Health Professional who carried out the original assessment”.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“Due to an admin blunder, the Tories’ tampering of health assessment reports has been exposed and now Ministers are providing non-answers so they can continue to cheat some of society’s most vulnerable people out of support. There must be an immediate and independent review.

“Regardless, previous answers and a written admission from IAS have confirmed that audits are being utilised by the UK government to force sweeping changes to reports. Despite their slippy language, the Tories cannot disguise the role they are playing in blocking access to PIP.

“Assessment providers are not innocent either. They are complicit in a rigged system. The outsourcing of health assessments to so called health professionals is putting them under pressure to chase targets.

“Given that a report could be amended by two people who weren’t even present during the health assessment, it’s evident that the aim isn’t to accurately assess people, but to carry out a charade and chase results which bear heavily on peoples’ lives.”