The former civil servant commissioned by the government to review its new disability benefit has refused to accept there is any dishonesty among the healthcare professionals who carry out assessments, despite being shown significant evidence of wrongdoing.Disability News Service (DNS) has twice contacted Paul Gray’s personal independence payment (PIP) review team with evidence collected during a lengthy investigation into allegations of widespread dishonesty by assessors working for the outsourcing giants Capita and Atos.But in his second and final review of PIP for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), published seven days ago, Gray dismisses any suggestions of dishonesty.Although he says in the review that some claimants “assert that the Health Professional has misinterpreted or even deliberately misrepresented what was discussed during the assessment”, he says there could be several explanations for this other than dishonesty.He suggests instead that PIP claimants may hold these beliefs because the assessor: failed to mention evidence they had provided, made “inappropriate assumptions” about the impact of their condition, or “may genuinely have made an error when transcribing their notes”.In early February, DNS passed on detailed evidence to Gray’s review team, which included excerpts from more than 40 cases in which PIP claimants had alleged clear dishonesty by healthcare assessors in the way they had written their assessment reports.The claimants spoke repeatedly of dishonesty, “fraudulent conduct” and “lie after lie after lie” told by assessors in their reports, on which DWP decision-makers based their decisions on their eligibility for PIP.DNS then contacted the review team two weeks later, with further evidence of widespread wrongdoing, including a news story which described how the investigation had by that time collected more than 100 cases of alleged dishonesty.None of that information has been included in Gray’s review.The position taken by Gray, who also chairs DWP’s benefits advice body, the social security advisory committee, mirrors that of the department itself, which has consistently stated that it does not believe there has been any dishonesty by its assessors.Asked by DNS about the dismissal of any suggestions of dishonesty, Gray said in a statement that the review’s role was “to make an assessment of how PIP assessments as a whole are operating, not to investigate individual cases or complaints.“The Review does though emphasise that the assessment process should be more transparent to help improve claimant trust in the system.”He refused to comment further.Elsewhere in his report, Gray says public trust in the “fairness and consistency” of PIP decisions was “not currently being achieved, with high levels of disputed award decisions, many of them overturned at appeal”.He is also critical of DWP’s new mandatory reconsideration process, the internal process that all claimants have to go through before appealing to an independent tribunal.He says in his report that tribunal judges are “sceptical about the thoroughness of the Mandatory Reconsideration process”.He adds: “Furthermore, currently 65 per cent of appeal hearings overturn the initial decision which is clearly eroding the trust of claimants and stakeholders in the system.”Gray says progress made by DWP to improve PIP since his first review in 2014 has been “mixed”, with implementation of his recommendations “either incomplete or slower than the Review had hoped in many areas”.He adds: “Professionals and organisations were asked to comment on progress since the first Review. The majority of feedback regarding this was negative.”In a further blow to the credibility of ministers, he says that tribunal judges told the review that “rather than further written evidence, it is cogent oral evidence from the claimant at the hearing that is by far their most common reason for overturning decisions”.Ministers and Tory MPs – including former disabled people’s minister Justin Tomlinson last week – have repeatedly claimed that the main reason for successful appeals was claimants producing fresh written evidence at their tribunals.Gray also warns that he had been concerned to see that some assessors appeared to assume that if a claimant had a job this was evidence “of limited functional impairment”.In his recommendations, he says he hopes that DWP “re-emphasises and ensures that employment will not disadvantage claimants when they seek to claim PIP and explores ways in which PIP may be an enabler in improving employment retention”.Among Gray’s other recommendations, he suggests DWP should introduce audio recording of assessments to increase claimant confidence, as long as there is an opt-out option.But there are likely to be concerns over another of Gray’s recommendations, that the responsibility for ensuring that further evidence is gathered should “primarily sit with the claimant” rather than DWP or the assessor.He made the recommendation even though more than 87 per cent of the professionals and organisations who responded to the question, following his appeal for evidence, believed claimants faced barriers to providing further evidence.Disabled activists, coroners and Scotland’s Mental Welfare Commission have all linked the failure to secure the necessary further evidence with the deaths of claimants of the out-of-work sickness and disability benefit, employment and support allowance (ESA).A legal case backed by the Mental Health Resistance Network resulted in the upper tribunal administrative appeals chamber ruling that the ESA assessment process discriminated against some disabled people with mental health conditions and learning difficulties.Asked about his recommendation on further evidence, Gray said in a statement: “As the review makes clear, the department should make a concerted effort to improve communication products to ensure accessibility and ensure that PIP claimants understand what evidence should be provided.“The review advises this should be done before the department emphasises that the primary responsibility for collecting evidence rests with the claimant.“The review also emphasises that, although the primary responsibility for evidence provision should rest with the claimant, the department and providers should make use of evidence they hold elsewhere in the benefits system and should also follow up evidence leads that emerge during the claim process.”When asked whether he was aware of the Mental Health Resistance Network WCA appeal ruling, and the links between the failure to secure further evidence for ESA claims and the deaths of claimants, he again refused to comment further.In a written statement, published on the last day before MPs began their Easter recess, Penny Mordaunt, minister for disabled people, said the government welcomed the review’s publication “and will consider its findings and issue a detailed response in due course”.Meanwhile, a petition on the UK parliament website which calls for all PIP and ESA assessments to be video-recorded because of the “errors and false or inaccurate statements” made in their reports by healthcare professionals, has reached more than 3,000 signatures.The petition, created by Sharon Ann Smith, says that a video recording of the assessment “would assist claimants, the DWP and appeals panels by giving an indisputable record of the assessment”.
JON Wilkin thinks the Wigan defeat was a timely reminder of what it takes to win a big match.He says Michael Maguire’s side were ruthless in defence and that has to be a key of Saints’ play going forward.“Our pride was dented after the Wigan match,” he said “We turned up to win that game and we got beaten. From the outside it may seem like we got beaten without a fight but that wasn’t the case. We tried hard, had passion and energy and but we didn’t have that last two per cent that gets you from a good team to a championship team.“Wigan were ruthless and disciplined with us and that is a timely reminder of what we need to do to win a big game. Our execution was poor and we defended too much. You can’t do that in the big games and win.“We have enjoyed the intensity in training this week. It has been the best of the season so far. We have been aggressive with each other and ruthless.“I didn’t realise we hadn’t beaten the teams above us until after the match and that isn’t something that sits comfortably with us. It is a massive game this week and we need to lay a marker that we aren’t a soft touch. We need to fight for every inch on the field and show desperation and desire. That’s what makes champion teams.“Warrington’s success this season has been their stingy defence as it gives them the energy to go out and score points. They are knocking teams over and making everyone sit up and take notice too.”Jon has been one of Saints standout performers over the last few weeks and has been playing nearly 80 minutes a match.He also played in the Origin game and admits he has enjoyed the challenge of backing up recently.“It’s been a difficult few weeks but to be honest I didn’t feel any knocks or anything like that until midway through the Wigan game. The Exiles match was a good experience and I didn’t get chance to recover for the Bradford match – but that didn’t affect me much.“We contributed four forwards for the Exiles match and we played a lot of minutes. But that’s no excuse as we are conditioned to play that about of time. My match fitness I as good as it has been for a long time.“I know there is talk of the game being on a free weekend, but I’m not that bothered. I enjoyed the mental and physical challenge of going from the Exiles Weekend to Bradford and then to Wigan.“I think there is plenty of scope for it to become a big day and possibly a series in the future. It was well supported and the intensity was there too.“It is certainly the closest I have been to playing in a Test Match environment without playing Australia or New Zealand.“It felt like a big game and that’s important!”
OLIVER Davies has been selected for England Academy’s match against Australian Schoolboys on Friday.The final game of the 2014 Autumn Academy International Series will take place at Leigh Sports Village with a 7.00pm kick-off.England Squad:Ash Golding (Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders), Jack Johnson (Warrington Wolves, Saddleworth Rangers), Ash Handley (Leeds Rhinos, Stanley Rangers), Toby King (Warrington Wolves, Meltham All Blacks), Jack Logan (Hull FC, Cottingham Tigers), Jordan Abdul (Hull FC, Skirlaugh), Joe Keyes (London Broncos, Medway Dragons), Ted Chapelhow (Widnes Vikings, West Bank Bears), Robbie Ward (Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders), Tyler Dickinson (Huddersfield Giants, Siddal), Oliver Davies (St Helens, Orrell St James), Jansin Turgut – Captain (Hull FC, West Hull), Sam Wilde (Warrington Wolves, Shevington Sharks), Luke Waterworth (Wigan Warriors, Ince Rose Bridge), Will Maher (Castleford Tigers, Ulverston), Mikey Wood (Huddersfield Giants, Slaithwaite Saracens), Elliot Minchella (Leeds Rhinos, West Bowling).Australian Schoolboys:Gideon Gela (North Queensland Cowboys, Kirwan State High School Townsville QLD), Connor Cox (Morayfield State High School, Morayfield QLD), Braden Robson (Newcastle Knights, St Francis Xavier College Hamilton NSW), Keenan Yorston (Cronulla Sharks, Wavell State High School Wavell Heights QLD), Latrell Mitchell (Sydney City Roosters, Marist College Pagewood NSW), Brock Lamb (Newcastle Knights, St Mary’s College Maitland NSW), Jack Cogger (Newcastle Knights, Mackillop Catholic College Warnervale NSW), Hame Sele (St George Illawarra Dragons, Kingsgrove High School Kingsgrove NSW), Jayden Brailey (Cronulla Sharks, Acquinas Catholic College Manai NSW), Tom Amone (Parramatta Eela, The Hills Sports High School Seven Hills NSW), Tyrell Fuiaomano (Parramatta Eels, Patrician Brothers College Blacktown NSW), Ash Nisbet (Cronulla Sharks, St Gregory’s College Cambeltown NSW), Ray Stone (West Tigers, Wollindilly Anglican College Bargo NSW), Jacob Liddle (West Tigers, Wadalba Community School Wadalba NSW), Keegan Hipgrave (Brisbane Broncos, Palm Beach Currumbin State High School Palm Beach QLD), Jacob Host (St George Illawarra Dragons, De la Salle College Revesby Heights NSW), Oliver Clark (Penrith Panthers, Terra Sancta College Schofields NSW).See the stars of the future as England Academy take on the Australian Schoolboys on Friday 12 December at Leigh Sports Village (7.00pm). This is a pay on the door event – £5 for adults and £3 for concessions.