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Capita takes legal action to stop compensation payment ordered after PIP claimant's tragic death

07 August 2019

Capita, who conduct health assessments for PIP on behalf of the DWP, is going to court to try to reverse the "reputational damage" it says it suffered after a court awarded to the family of a PIP claimant who tragically died, according to www.bbc.co.uk.

Victoria Smith died months after her personal independence payments were stopped following a Capita assessment.

Capita was ordered to pay £10,000 in damages over its handling of her disability claim.

It was found to have made incorrect statements but wants the county court verdict set aside and the case reheard.

A Capita healthcare professional (HCP) came to assess Ms Smith in March 2018.  The 33-year-old, from Market Drayton, in Shropshire, suffered from agoraphobia and fibromyalgia, which left her body in constant pain. The Capita HCP found Ms Smith did not score a single point in the test - and the DWP stopped her benefit.

In February 2019, her mother, Susan Kemlo, told BBC News the decision had "destroyed her":

"When they took away her ability to look after herself, to have a way of life, she gave up," she said.

Ms Smith died of a brain haemorrhage in July 2018 but doctors told the family her underlying conditions, particularly the fibromyalgia, had deteriorated as well.

The week after her death, a social security tribunal decided she had been eligible for PIP.

Furious with the conclusions the Capita employee had reached, Mrs Kemlo took legal action against the company for maladministration - in essence making inaccurate statements - and was awarded £10,000.

Mrs Kemlo stressed that she didn't do it for the money:

"I did it for them to admit they were wrong, to get some justice for my daughter, because [it's] only ever been about justice for Victoria."

But Capita is now going to court later this month to try to set aside the judgement.

At a hearing scheduled for Telford County Court, the company will argue it never had a chance to defend the case because of problems in its own internal mail system.

In court papers, Capita "acknowledges that it has not been able to explain the default and therefore cannot provide a good reason for it" but says its failure to respond to the court was "entirely innocent and inadvertent".

Capita also stands by its employee's assessment of Ms Smith, describing it as "fit for purpose, accurate and medically justified" and says the family's claim is therefore "without merit".

If the court refuses to set aside the judgement, the company says, "the prejudice to Capita… is extremely significant":

"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. This causes significant reputational damage to Capita's business."

The court action by Capita has been condemned by Duncan Walker, a welfare rights adviser with Unite the Union, who has been supporting Mrs Kemlo since her daughter's death:

"In the tragic case of Victoria, this was just one more example of shocking maladministration by Capita at public expense.

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."

 Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and policy officer said:

"DR UK echoes the strong condemnation by Duncan Walker of Capita’s actions.

It is shameful that Capita to maintain that the assessmsnt by its HCP was "fit for purpose, accurate and medically justified" and that the family's compensation award is"without merit".

Especially so given more than a third of Capita's PIP disability assessment reports have been found to be significantly flawed.

Social Security Appeal Tribunals do not uphold PIP appeals lightly.

The PIP award made to Victoria can only have been made on the grounds that the available medical and other evidence meant that Capita’s assessment was wrong and could not be relied upon.

Instead of investigating why Victoria’s assessment was so badly wrong and taking steps to rectify similar mistakes in the future Capita is seeking not to pay compensation to her family.

Capita says that it is taking legal action in order to protect its reputation.

If it cared at all about its reputation among disabled people, it would not even think of doing so.”

For more information see Capita seeks to reverse reputational damage after death of claimant available @ www.bbc.co.uk