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Latest survey results
Last May, we published two article on What PIP telephone assessments are really like and What PIP telephone assessments are really like, part two.

The articles were based on over 250 responses to our survey on the subject, which is still open. They found widespread evidence of unfair and unlawful practices.

We left the survey open and we have now assessed 392 additional responses received between June and the beginning of November.

What they show is that whilst some aspects of telephone assessments have improved, others have grown worse and, most worryingly, the horror stories about things that should never occur at all have continued.

Breaches of confidentiality
It’s something that should never happen at all.

Yet a shocking 12% of our respondents said that the assessor had problems with having a quiet, confidential place to call from. And some of the things people experienced were both a gross breach of data protection laws and deeply distressing. Below are some of the incidents our respondents told us about

There was a trainee listening in and she had two people walk through the room sniggering at bowel and bladder questions

I heard sniggering and muffled laughter and a mobile phone ring which was answered and not by the interviewer

I repeatedly heard noises in the background, which I enquired about because it was distracting me from answering properly. I was told that it was just background noise because the female assessor was working from home. Later on in the call, after having to give humiliating answers about myself and my disabilities/illnesses, I heard a man's voice and then shortly after I heard a small excitable child's voice! I felt beyond humiliated! . Even if she was using a headset, she still repeated what I'd just said so my business was broadcast regardless and that's not on!! I couldn't wait to get off the phone and cried my eyes out afterwards. I feel sick and personally and emotionally violated

I could hear other people in the background and at more than one point the assessor spoke to another person whilst interviewing me. I worried about my privacy and personal information being shared.

I could hear people talking in the background

They were walking about trying to get a better signal and was also heard on one occasion talking to someone else

Child/children interrupted, so assessment was not entirely confidential, I felt.

Children playing in the background, which the assessor said was due to working at home.

Her son's phone rang during my assessment (ringtone was a duck quacking!) so I'm wondering whether she was on her own or with family.

In some cases the claimant was told that there was another person on the call, but this could also cause difficulties.

They said they was going to join the call with their clinical team. So not sure how many people were listening in which I felt very conscious of and embarrassed

I was told someone was listening in but not who. I was not advised I had the right to refuse this. My mobility was assessed OVER THE PHONE and resulted in no award - when I am riddled with osteoarthritis and due to have a knee replacement 9th November

There were 2 assessors! When one of them didn't like the way I answered questions he tried asking me hypothetical situations, which was stupid because those situations wouldn't happen.

Inappropriate questions
Some people were asked questions in such a way as to leave them feeling upset and even humiliated.

Was asked to make noises like I make while in pain, felt humiliated and degraded

Still trying to work out why assessor asked 'How often do you change your underwear'!

Many people believed the same questions were asked repeatedly to try to catch them out or push them into giving an answer that would give a false impression.

Felt like there were a lot of the same questions worded slightly different. That immediately set my paranoia off and I felt like they were trying to catch me out. The information page that specifically says, "We are not trying to catch you out" didn't alleviate these suspicions funnily enough...

He kept repeating questions he'd asked 10 or 15 minutes earlier. I kept saying: "My answer is the same as the answer I gave you before."

The form asks if you can make a simple meal. When I replied that I could not, he asked “So can you boil an egg then?” There were many more questions like this.

My condition means I cannot walk etc, I cannot get up without the aid of my husband. He has to prepare all meals because I am unable to do so. But they wanted to know, if my husband got the ready meal out of the fridge and gave it to me, if I sat next to the microwave, could I put it in the microwave. What sort of a trick question is that! It felt like a trap.

Assessor’s manner
The people skills of assessors seems to have deteriorated since our last survey. 11% found the assessor unfriendly, compared with 8% last time. Only 37% found them encouraging this time, compared with 47% last time.

For some respondents, the assessor was more like an interrogator in a court room.

Every single time my friend tried to answer relating to my mental health she was told to basically shut up but in a slightly politer way. This was yesterday and I am left all alone and feeling suicidal. Shame on DWP - an awful experience where I felt like I was on trial and condemned for being ill.

Very unpleasant, stressful experience, almost 2 hours of quick fire questioning and challenging my responses, no empathy or interest in listening to my explanations. When I said I didn’t understand the question he raised his voice and spoke slowly in an irritated manner, he also challenged me - telling me that two different conditions I suffer from were the same thing??? I was not feeling well and was exhausted and distressed at the end of this almost 2 hr interrogation - I felt utterly abused and felt I had done something untruthful or wrong, would not want to repeat it again, give me face to face anytime.

The assessor was relentless and the more I cried and became distressed he would just repeat "I have to do this, I have to ask these questions". No understanding a total indifference and when I talked about a low point in my life concerning my Mothers death he just said." I don't need the story" I've never got over my Mothers death due to the circumstances but today has really pushed me back and I feel lower than ever.

One claimant was told: You've got to calm down. We need to get this done!!! I'm just trying to do my job. We all have problems.

My son has many mental health problems. Has ME and is autistic. But he [the assessor] made silly jokes and seemed to be making fun out of things written in his autism report.

Overall, found it a very cold, hard hearted experience. He was clearly just 'going through the motions'. Kept repeating questions until he got an answer he was satisfied with. Was rather abrupt and short. I don't think I will get it to be honest. I am moving to PIP from a DLA lifetime award which angers me as a lifetime award is indefinite and should be honoured, irrespective of how many times they change their system.

Notice of a telephone assessment
The law says that you should receive seven days’ written notice of the date, time and place of your assessment.

Since May, the proportion of people getting no notice at all of an assessment has improved, down from 13% to 8%.

The percentage getting less than a week is much the same, up from 25% to 26%.

But this still means that one third of all our respondents did not receive the notice they are legally entitled to.

There’s been a small reduction in the proportion only getting notice by phone, down from 18% to 16%. Again, this is a breach of their legal right to written notice.

Respondents told us:

Text message sent, saying going to ring me, then rang straight away giving me no time to prepare

Just a 9am call out of the blue no notice at all.

The letter arrived on Saturday for assessment on Tuesday morning

Letter arrived Mon. Assessment on the Wednesday

More people said the call was not on time, up from 18% to 27%.

I received a phone call making an appointment for 1.30pm on Sunday. Then a letter confirming. Two days before the appointment I got a call saying it would be at 2.15pm. I got the call at 11.45am!

Rang 3 days before my scheduled appointment telling me assessor wasn't available on that day and had to have it done within 15 mins.

Changed the time of the call twice and then called over 2 hours early

Changed the assessor and time at the last minute and I was unable to have my wife with me.

In some cases the call just didn’t come at all.

I received my letter on Thursday 4th June, informing me of an appointment on Monday 8th June. I didn’t receive my call at the scheduled time, so called the help centre 10 minutes after my appointment should have started. The person I spoke to advised that I was called 3 times on Friday 5th June as a prep call but that I didn’t answer. There is no notification in the letter that this would take place and I explained that I don’t answer calls from unknown/withheld numbers unless I am expecting such a call and if they had informed me in the letter to expect a prep call, then I would have answered.

Appointment at 11.45am. Called capita at 12.05 an was told assessor had rang 3 times and no answer, no missed calls on my phone. I didn’t receive any and was told assessor no wrote no show, made complaint to customer services as to what happened and why recorded as a no show

They never called on the first two appointments made by them, they called on the third...stressful

Additional calls
As we discovered in May, people need to be aware that there may be more than one assessment call.

I had to have another one a week later as the assessor had missed loads out

My assessment was done wrong so I had to go through it all over again 2 weeks later with a different person. I was given 48hrs notice.

Had a follow up call out of the blue the next day asked me the same questions

Wasn't happy as sat and had phone call with support then ring back later and said had to re do it again as didn’t write report, putting me through more stress.

Length of calls
Calls are still long, with around half taking an hour or more. And technical problems were up from 18% to 23%.

First telephone call was just over 2 hours which was lost due to technical problems second call was 1 hour 49 minutes

I was assessed for 3 hours and the following day they called back and assessed for further 1 hour pretty sure not normal such long assessment.

It was over 2 hours and I said I was exhausted more than once. I had a migraine that was caused by the stress and strain and intensity of the call which lasted for 3 days after the call. I had to stay in bed and go to sleep after the call.

1 hour and 50 minutes. I got very tired. After an hour I said I was getting tired. He went on another 50 minutes.

The assessment took 2 long and gruelling hours. The assessor told me I was her last appointment of the day and that she would be taking her time even though my appointment was at 10.30 am

Volume was very low and I struggled to hear what was being said. I had phone on hands free and loudspeaker. The line also was breaking up on occasions, the assessor herself said she was moving about to get a signal. Obviously having some issues with hearing me too.

Poor reception. I am hard of hearing and had to say 'pardon?' quite a lot which made the assessor quite agitated.

Recording your assessment
Slightly fewer people recorder their call, down from 18% to 16%.

You now have the right to ask to have your assessment recorded by Capita or IAS, although you need to do this as soon as you can and also be aware that it may cause delays in getting your assessment.

Some people wrongly thought it was illegal to covertly record your call.

I wanted too but have seen the law you are not allowed too

i didn't know how to or if it was legal for me to.

We thought it was unlawful to do so

Some people asked if they were allowed to record the call and were refused permission.

I informed them I was going to record it. And they stated that they could not continue with the call if it was recorded. I had to go ahead without recording it.

I asked to record my assessment and the assessor snapped at me stating "It's not allowed, no no no!" so no, I did not record my call even though I wanted to.

Some respondents regretted not recording their call.

I wish I had. He said we told him my son can overcome all his difficulties and go on public transport alone. Public transport was not mentioned in any way. And my son has only left the house with me by car for medical appointments in the last 3 years

Didn't know I was allowed to although wish I did as the assessor lied throughout

I wish I had recorded the call. Some questions were very dubious. I’ve been advised to write them down as evidence

And some claimants told us that they did indeed record their call and even how they did it.

I had my phone on speaker and recorded it on a spare phone

Phone on speaker, recorded on laptop, I didn't tell him I was recording

So so so glad I did, it is a must to do this

It is clear that telephone assessments are going to be the norm for a long time yet, if not permanently.

It’s also clear that on some occasions at least, the process does not meet the standard that every claimant should have the right to expect.

As a result, we would advise you to strongly consider covertly recording your telephone assessment, as well as asking IAS or Capita to record it, just in case the official copy goes astray or turns out not to have worked.

And, if you have been given insufficient notice or treated rudely or unfairly, don’t hesitate to complain.

And please do complete our survey so that we can forewarn other claimants.

 

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