Benefits and Work has heard several accounts lately of awards of the mobility component of PIP being refused based on allegedly bogus observations of claimants walking in assessment centres. We have now been contacted by a disability group to ask if such cases are on the rise?
One claimant posting a comment on the Benefits and Work website recently about an assessment centre warned:
“It is a few feet along a corridor, maybe 2 metres or less, then a small waiting area. The office I went into was no more than 4-5 metres from my seat. The office was quite small. Somehow I was "observed walking 15 metres in 10 seconds". which is ludicrous because there is not a 15 metre length to walk in there, so take note of the distance. Disabled spaces right at the door, not sure about the car parks.”
A disability organisation has also been in contact with us in relation to a claimant who was allegedly observed walking 50 metres at an assessment centre. They are certain there was no corridor of anything like that length in the centre.
Another poster, in relation to a different centre warned that :
“There are markings on the floor to measure how far you can walk either aided or unaided.”
There is nothing legally wrong with health professionals observing how far a claimant walks and using that as evidence. From that point of view, having markings on the floor could aid accuracy.
However, even if the distance and time are correctly measured, there are many other issues that need to be taken into account.
For example, can the claimant cover the distance reliably and repeatedly? Do they suffer pain or severe discomfort? Could they walk a similar distance on pavements outdoors where there are uneven surfaces or kerbs?
If the assessor bases their entire opinion on mobility on a snapshot of the claimant on the day, walking indoors in the assessment centre and without asking any questions about issues such as whether they are experiencing pain or discomfort, then their evidence is of little value.
A tribunal is likely to take all of this into account. There is nothing new about questionable or incomplete observations by health professionals.
But is such evidence being increasingly relied upon?
If the DWP are refusing many more claims on the basis of unreliable observations, we know that a very large percentage of claimants will not go on to appeal, even though there is a very strong probability they would win.
The result will be fewer successful PIP claims.
We also know that PIP award rates have fallen dramatically, from 42% overall to just 30% last October for new claims.
There has not been any change in the law or in publicly available guidance to account for this dramatic drop.
Could bogus observations be one of the hidden explanations?
Please let us know your experiences.