1 June 2011
A company which specialises in helping the police catch sex offenders is interviewing benefits claimants across the UK as part of the move to abolish disability living allowance (DLA) and replace it with personal independence payment (PIP).
In January 2011, G4S Forensic and Medical Services Ltd (G4SFMS)won the contract to interview 500 volunteers who are currently in receipt of DLA to find out what award they would be likely to receive under the proposed new benefit PIP.
G4SFMS is a subsidiary of the G4S security company which recently won contracts to begin moving sick and disabled claimants back into work under the new work programme. It employs doctors, nurses and paramedics who work as sexual offence examiners. Their role is to assist the police in gathering medical evidence from victims and suspects in relation to sexual assaults on adults and children.
G4SFMS is currently interviewing at least 500 DLA claimants who are selected by the DWP and whose details are passed on to the company. The claimants are then contacted by G4SFMS and offered £30 in vouchers, plus travelling expenses, to take part in the trials. Those who agree are interviewed by G4SFMS medical staff, either at their home or in a DWP medical examination centre.
The purpose of the interviews is to fine tune the points system for the new PIP benefit so that the DWP can be certain that at least 20% less will be paid out in the future. There is more information about PIP and its effect on current DLA claimants in the members area of www.benefitsandwork.co.uk
One poster on the Parkinson’s Disease UK website who volunteered for the trial explained that:
“The guy was a paramedic. Very pleasant guy, confessed he had almost no knowledge of PD [Parkinson’s Disease]. Asked me about my history, what led up to diagnosis, looked at my meds list, asked about personal care, aids and adaptations, daily routine, etc. He looked at my general mobility, tested my blood pressure, tested my upper body strength by my pushing against him etc.”
Claimants are assured that their information will be anonymised before it is passed on to the DWP and the original records destroyed once the trials are complete. They are also told, however, that they have no right to see what has been written about them. This may well be in breach of the Data Protection Act and does raise questions about what evidence exactly is being collected and why it should never be seen by the person it is about.
Claimants should also be aware that from a benefits legislation perspective, payment in vouchers is exactly the same as payment in cash. Any payment should be declared and is likely to be treated as income for benefits purposes. Claimants who are receiving benefits as incapable of work should be particularly cautious about taking part in such trials.