An angry father has shamed benefits bosses after his 26-year-old disabled son was checked to determine if he was disabled enough for benefits despite being unable to see, talk, move, and eat.
50-year-old John McMullan said he was stunned by an assessment of his son, Declan, who struggles against locked-in syndrome.
Assessors from private firm Capita are hired by the local Department for Communities to check if claimants are eligible for Personal Independence Payment, which replaces Disability Living Allowance.
The Capita employee started ‘ignorant questioning,’ John said, and at one point the worker insisted on seeing the 26-year-old son face-to-face.
John claimed the assessor showed ‘total ignorance’ of Declan’s condition, which he mentioned doctors described as being ‘buried alive.’
He told Belfast Live: “In my opinion, I supplied ample evidence of Declan’s disability but I doubt they actually understood what is on that paper.
“I don’t think the people assessing are fit to be doing it.”
Declan suffered from disability after he experienced a heart attack several years ago and the supply of oxygen to his brain was cut off.
He was then approved to get the new PIP payment but his father John was shocked to see he didn’t receive the full marks of his daily needs.
“Declan cannot eat and is PEG fed yet the assessor only gave him 6 points out of 10 for the level of assistance he needs with eating and drinking,” John expressed.
“He cannot move at all, only blink, yet the assessor gave him just two out of eight points on whether he needs supervision or assistance managing his therapies. He got 2/8 for needing assistance making budgeting decisions and just 4/8 for needing support in social situations.”
The father added: “I knew Declan was never going to be turned down for PIP. It was just the stupidity of the process and the fact even he did not get full points.
“Declan is probably one of the most disabled people in Northern Ireland. How disabled do you have to be?”
A spokesperson of the Department for Communities said: “The Department expects the highest standards from Capita, who deliver the PIP Assessment Service and they have to conform to a rigorous set of quality standards set down by the Department.
“Each disability assessor must have a minimum of two years post registration experience which must be fulfilled within an approved health profession and receive extensive training in line with DfC guidelines before they undertake PIP assessments.
“Capita is committed to delivering a high quality and empathetic service for people applying for PIP. Its disability assessors are healthcare professionals with the required skills and knowledge to carry out PIP assessments across Northern Ireland.
“The PIP assessment looks at how individuals are able to complete a number of key everyday activities.”
The spokesperson added: “The Department understands that an annual quality incentive of £3,000 is wholly based on the Disability Assessor producing consistent high-quality reports on a timely basis and is not related in any way to decisions on entitlement to PIP.
“Decisions on individuals’ entitlement to PIP are made by the Department.
“Every claim is considered on an individual basis, and decisions are made based on the available evidence and the relevant legislation. More people are being awarded PIP at the highest rate of benefit than under DLA.”
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