General News

New report reveals vulnerable people applying for benefits in the City receive “shocking” treatment

Besi Besemar February 15, 2018

Healthwatch Brighton and Hove, the local consumer champion for health and social care finds vulnerable people applying for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) have their applications routinely declined.

Healthwatch Brighton and Hove found:

  • A lack of empathy by assessors who appear to know little about common medical conditions
  • Advocates treated with disrespect with reasonable requests e.g. for a home visit declined without explanation
  • Benefit assessment reports contained factual inaccuracies and bore little resemblance to assessment interviews
  • An approach which is more about ‘catching people out’ and declining claims rather than actively helping vulnerable people
Healthwatch Brighton and Hove reports: “Assessments begin as soon as individuals arrive at the centre and observed actions are subsequently included within final assessment reports: e.g. if the person can walk from the lift to the assessment room then they are able to walk a certain distance (ignoring how slowly or painfully this occurred); or if a person is seen raising their hand to their hair, or holding their handbag, or sipping water from a glass then that person can raise their arm implying they can carry out physical activity unaided.”  

“….an assessor described an applicant as being “happy and chatty”, yet this ignored the fact that the person’s mental health led them to become over accommodating to others. 

David Liley
David Liley

David Liley, Chief Officer, Healthwatch Brighton and Hove, said: “There is concern in Parliament over the way vulnerable people are treated by the benefits assessment system. Here on the streets of Brighton and Hove we see the reality, decent people trying to live a good life but challenged by chronic ill-health treated in a shocking and insensitive way.

“One local organisation helping people with high level autism and Asperger’s Syndrome took 17 cases in a row to appeal and not one appeal was declined. Why should people who clearly need help be forced routinely to appeal their first assessment decisions. The cynical conclusion is that some folks will not have the capacity, ability or motivation to appeal and claimant numbers will fall.”

Healthwatch Brighton and Hove is challenging those who provide these assessments to show that they treat local people with respect, that they do not use underhand techniques in assessments, that they can explain why almost everyone who appeals wins?