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DR UK says sign the petition to Stop private contracting out of health-related assessments for PIP and ESA

07 October 2019

The brother of a disabled man who was denied PIP when he was dying has launched a petition calling on the government to scrap the outsourcing of all face-to-face assessments to private contractors, reports the Disability News Service.

James Oliver, from Hastings spent the last few months of his life in despair over the refusal of the DWP to grant him PIP. Shortly before he died in hospital, in April this year, he told his brother, Dave Smith: “I can’t believe it. I am dying, I am going to be dead, and I’m still not sick enough to get PIP.”

Mr. Oliver, who had chronic liver disease caused by alcohol dependency, as well as other health conditions including scoliosis, hypertension and depression, had twice tried to claim PIP, but both times was found ineligible.

In 2016, he is believed to have applied for PIP for the first time when his health worsened and left him barely able to walk.

He had a face-to-face assessment with a paramedic employed by Atos. The assessor awarded him zero points for every area of the assessment, which meant DWP rejected his claim, a decision which is believed to have been confirmed through mandatory reconsideration.

Although Mr. Smith is not certain of the details, he believes his brother had a second Atos PIP assessment last year, and was again awarded zero points, even though his health had worsened. The subsequent decision by DWP to deny him PIP again was upheld, following another mandatory reconsideration.

In reference to the 2016 report, Mr. Smith said of his brother:

“His liver is failing, his other organs are giving up, he has scoliosis, he has a backside red raw from the incontinence, he has open sores all over his body, his stomach is permanently swollen and he holds it when trying to walk because of the pain, he has pain in his arms and legs, he is regularly coughing up blood and bleeding internally, he has piles and he has pain in both hands, he is wheezing and exhausted after a few steps and constantly needing an inhaler and he needs a stick or support of house furniture to walk.”

Despite this, the assessor awarded him zero points, which led to him being denied PIP and which Mr. Smith said amounted to “blatant disability discrimination”.

The tribunal appeal against the refusal to award him PIP was due to take place late last month but has been postponed, following a request by DWP.

His brother is certain that the months of anxiety, depression and distress caused by the refusal to award him PIP last year hastened his death.

He told the Disability News Service (DNS):

“He felt nobody would help him. Whereas before he had been sticking to his doctor’s orders and restricting his drinking, when he was told he was having to go to tribunal he just gave up.

Like many other campaigners, Smith believes ministers and senior civil servants should be held accountable in the criminal courts for their failure to make the system safe for people in vulnerable situations.

Now he has launched a petition that he hopes will secure enough signatures – 100,000 – to ensure the issues are debated in parliament.

His petition calls for an end to the use of private contractors for DWP disability benefit assessments, both for PIP and for employment and support allowance (and its universal credit equivalent).

Smith has been in contact with Joy Dove, whose daughter Jodey Whiting took her own life in February 2017 after her out-of-work disability benefits were wrongly stopped for missing a work capability assessment.

He praised Dove’s “continued bravery” for continuing to speak out about her daughter’s death.

He said:

“For me she is an inspiration to keep fighting and highlighting the bullying, ineptitude, discrimination and lies coming out of the DWP and its assessment agencies.”

You can sign the Stop private contracting out of health-related assessments for DWP benefits petition here.

For more information see Months of PIP distress ‘hastened my brother’s death’ @ www.disabilitynewsservice

See also DRUK supporting the Justice for Jodey Whiting campaign.