Written evidence from Dr. Dylan Murphy (HAB0024)

I am disabled with a serious neurological illness and have personal experience of claiming disability benefits ESA/PIP. I am hoping that my informed submission will help improve the future experience of other disabled people when claiming these benefits.

6. How practical would it be for DWP’s decision makers to rely on clinician input, without a separate assessment, to make decisions on benefit entitlement? What are the benefits and the drawbacks of such an approach?

DWP decision makers should as a matter of course rely on clinician input to make decisions on benefit entitlement. Doctors and other health professionals have both the medical training and knowledge to provide accurate evidence for DWP decision-makers. Besides this, in many cases health professionals have built up a relationship with the claimant over time which gives them great insights into how the person's disability affects their daily lives.

The benefits of such an approach are obvious and clear. DWP decision-makers should trust the professionalism of doctors and other specialist health providers to provide accurate and up-to-date evidence to help them make decisions on benefit entitlement. In the current setup we have health professionals conducting face-to-face assessments with claimants and in most cases they have no specialised knowledge of the health conditions affecting each particular claimant. This lead on a regular basis to inaccurate and unfair judgements being made by health professional conducting the face to face assessments.

 

The other obvious advantage of relying on clinician output, without separate assessment to make decisions on benefit entitlement, would be to streamline the entire process which would undoubtedly lead to reduced costs for the DWP and the taxpayer.

7. Appeals data shows that, for some health-related benefits, up to 76% of tribunals find in favour of the claimant. Why is that?

The answer to this question is incredibly simple. There is widespread malpractice by many health professionals who carry out face-to-face assessments. Investigative journalist John Pring of the Disability News Service has exposed how large numbers of disabled people have reports written about them that are based on lies or information made up by health professionals, deliberate misinterpretation of what claimants have told the health professional, failure of health professionals conducting face-to-face assessments to take into account the medical evidence submitted by claimants.

a. What could DWP change earlier in the process to ensure that fewer cases go to appeal?

Again the answer to this is incredibly simple.

The DWP should eliminate face-to-face assessments and decision-makers should rely solely upon the medical evidence provided by doctors and health professionals who are familiar with claimants medical condition and medical history.

 

 

9. What are your views on the Department’s “Health Transformation Programme”? What changes would you like to see under the programme?

Apparently, a key objective of the Health Transformation Programme is to improve the trust and transparency in the assessment process. This laudable objective will not happen along as claimants are not treated with respect. There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence to show that large numbers of claimants do not feel believed when they give testimony to health professionals at face-to-face assessments.

The programme should be claimant centred with input into the programme from claimants themselves, from their carers/family, from disability charities, and from organisations such as the CAB that provide assistance to many disabled people. This input should be integral to the delivery of the programme. It should not be a tokenistic exercise whereby the DWP can claim to have consulted and worked with so-called stakeholders.

 

a. (For people claiming) Would you like to be able to manage your benefit claim online?

No I would not. I have serious new neurological condition and it is not my responsibility to ‘manage’ my benefit claim.

b. What would be the benefits and drawbacks of DWP bringing assessments “in house”, rather than contracting them to external organisations (Capita, Atos and Maximus)? In particular, would this help to increase trust in the process?

The DWP should bring all assessments in house and should immediately end the contracting out of assessments to external organisations such as Capita Atos and Maximus. Profit driven private companies have no place in delivering essential public services. The fact the such large numbers of people are having to go to appeal and then win on appeal to obtain their benefits illustrates how dysfunctional the current system is, that relies on profit driven private companies to deliver assessments. Bringing assessments back in-house would undoubtedly increase public trust in the whole process.

 

13. DWP recently published research on the impact of applying for PIP or ESA on claimants’ mental and physical health. What would be the best way of addressing this?

Claimants should be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. This is currently not the case with the existing arrangements the DWP operates. I can speak from personal experience on how my applications for PIP and ESA had a very negative impact upon my physical and mental health. Organisations such as the Disability News Service and Work and Benefits can provide plenty of examples to substantiate the point that I have made.

The whole process applying for disability benefits should be made claimant friendly. Instead we have under the current system a regime where claimants do not feel believed, and feel pressured to comply with unrealistic and arbitrary deadlines for the completion of application forms.

Another way of addressing the negative impact of applying for PIP or ESA on claimant's mental and physical health would be to end the punitive sanctions regime currently operated by the DWP. The sanctions regime not only infringes claimants human rights but it also instils fear and anxiety in many claimants that can exacerbate existing physical and mental health conditions.

 

14. What could the Department to do to shorten waits for health-related benefit assessments—especially for ESA/UC?

The DWP should employ more staff to process the claims of people applying for disability benefits.

 

16. How effectively does DWP work with stakeholders—including disabled people—to develop policy and monitor operational concerns about health-related benefits?

 

The DWP does not work effectively with so-called stakeholders including disabled people and disabled charities that represent many disabled people. Instead we have a situation where the DWP consistently ignores the concerns of disabled people and disabled charities about health-related benefits. This is a scandalous situation and legal action should be taken to make sure that the human rights of disabled people are taken seriously by the DWP.

a. What steps could the Department take to improve its engagement with stakeholders?

 

The DWP should be legally mandated to work cooperatively and listen to the concerns of disabled people and disabled charities about health related benefits. Malpractice by the DWP should have legal consequences for the senior management of the organisation. Otherwise, the DWP can continue with its current practice of effectively ignoring the concerns of disabled people and disabled charities about health-related benefits. In 2017 the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities pointed out how the UK is guilty of systematic violations of disabled people’s rights. This includes the DWP’s treatment of disabled claimants.

 

 

November 2021