An upper tribunal judge prevented attempts by the DWP to rely on evidence of a disgraced Capita assessor who said on one occasion that he had completed an assessment on a claimant before they had even walked through the door and boasted of earning £20,000 a month.
Alan Barham was discredited by the Channel 4 “Dispatches” programme, following undercover reporting in 2016.
Barham told the undercover reporter:
“The money? It was ridiculous. I was getting around 20 grand a month, most months.
They’d pay around £80 an assessment for the first 8 assessments, then they paid £160 an assessment for 8-14, then they paid £300 per assessment for 14-21. . . we was flying through them, because of that money. That’s 20 grand a month.”
In relation to a claimant who had had a leg amputated, Barham said:
“I’d literally finished his assessment before I’d even walked through the door. I’d done it on Saturday. Cos the informal observations with only one leg…”
And in connection with another claimant, he said:
“Disability known as being fat. She asks for help to wipe her arse because she’s too f**king fat to do it herself”
Yet even though Capita dismissed Barham and he was found guilty of misconduct by a professional standards tribunal in 2017, the DWP still went to an upper tribunal hearing and argued that his evidence should be relied upon.
In the case in question, the claimant went from the higher rate of both components of DLA to no award of PIP, based on an assessment by Barham. On appeal to the first tier the claimant was awarded standard rate daily living only.
The claimant appealed to the upper tribunal. The DWP then produced a new assessment report dated 2017, which was paper-based but still based in part on the original report produced by Barham.
The DWP argued it would be up to a new tribunal, if the upper tribunal sent the case back, to decide what weight to attach to the report.
The judge was having none of it, saying that “was not good enough, because the criticisms of Mr Barham meant that his purported observations and purported examination could not be relied upon.”
The judge told the DWP they must either agree to award the claimant the maximum of each component, making a new report unnecessary, or they must say whether they were “going to
send the claimant for a fresh examination and if not, why not.”
In the end, the judge told the DWP that there was “a wealth of evidence” already in the papers from other health professionals and if that wasn’t enough for the DWP they could order a new assessment.
The judge went on to make it clear that there was no reason for the case to go back to a new tribunal and that either the DWP should come to an agreement with the claimant or the judge would decide on an award.
In the end, the claimant and the DWP did reach an agreement. The claimant was awarded 11 points for the daily living component, giving them the standard rate, and 12 points for the mobility component, giving them the enhanced rate.
The award runs for 10 years from the date of the original decision.
The fact that the claimant had to fight for four years to get a fair decision, that did not rely on the evidence of a totally discredited assessor, says a great deal about how unfair and unfit for purpose the entire disability benefits system has become.