This should concern anybody who has a long-term illness or disability, who has a family member with one, or may develop one in the future.
Disability News Service has reported that an assessor working for Capita, the sub-contractor hired by the Depatment for Work and Pensions to assess claims for Personal Independence Payment, basically terrorised a household.
The man, believed to be in his 50s, was carrying out the assessment at the home of Cheryl Matthews, in Cardiff.
Ms Matthews works as a customer service agent and has several long-term health conditions, including one that could cause a fatal aneurysm if she becomes anxious.
She already receives the PIP standard rates for daily living and mobility, but had requested a new assessment after her health worsened in recent months.
But the assessor seems to have been determined to ignore her information about recent events, describing them as “irrelevant”.
His attitude angered Ms Matthews’ 22-year-old son, who asked for the assessment to be ended.
On his way out, it seems the assessor shoved her son so hard that he fell against a door – then challenged him to a fight before leaving the front door open and kicking the safety gate – that protects their three dogs – off its hinges, damaging the wall of the house.
He made off, saying that he would be back to fight Ms Matthews’s son.
She has struggled to sleep since the incident, according to the report. Considering her health condition, it seems that – rather than helping Ms Matthews meet the challenges of life with a disability – the assessment put her life in danger.
We are told Capita has suspended the assessor and offered Ms Matthews £600 in compensation. South Wales Police has launched an investigation into allegations of criminal damage.
To This Writer, that seems right and proper – but what about other people facing assessment?
I should say that Mrs Mike had her PIP assessment at home, and the Capita assessor in that instance behaved in an exemplary manner. She was polite and considerate, and paid attention to everything Mrs Mike had to say.
But the incident in Cardiff suggests that others may not be so lucky.
It certainly seems appropriate to raise questions about the standards under which private companies, working for the government, hire people to carry out this work.
While the policy of privatising this task may be attractive – it allows the Conservative government to distance itself from incidents like this – it does suggest that the government is also putting people at risk.
Is this incident not an argument for these assessments to be brought back in-house – under the auspices of the public service, with higher, public-service standards?
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