Leading disability charity Disability Rights UK (DRUK) has signed up as a paid sub-contractor to Capita, to help the company carry out personal independence payment medicals in central England and Wales. This is in spite of the fact that DRUK itself says the forced transfer from disability living allowance (DLA) to PIP will see half a million disabled people lose their benefit and many thousands lose their jobs. There is no information on DRUK’​s website about the arrangement with Capita.

The deal with Capita was sealed some time prior to 2nd May 2012, since when DRUK continues to claim it is considering bringing a court case to prevent PIP being introduced. The charity also still leads the Hardest Hit campaign against benefits cuts and heads up the Disability Benefits Consortium.

DRUK is a charity created from the merger earlier this year of Disability Alliance, Radar and the National Centre for Independent Living. The shock news of DRUK’​s pact with Capita was revealed in PIP bid documents lodged in the House of Commons online library.

Capita were successful in just one of the regions in which they hoped to carry out PIP assessments: Wales and Central England. They lost out to Atos in the two other, larger, regions.

In Capita’​s successful bid document, DRUK’​s name is mentioned no fewer than 16 times. According to Capita:

“​We have been working particularly closely with Assist UK, DRUK, GfI [Going for Independence] and COESI [Centre of Excellence for Sensory Impairment], in testing our solution, and these are now a committed part of our supply chain.”​. . .

The document goes on to reveal just how enthusiastic DRUK are about Capita:

Mark Shrimpton, Director of Services &​ Information at DRUK, states that "​Disability Rights UK is delighted to endorse Capita'​s approach to learning, development and continuous improveme​nt."​

DRUK are the first organisation listed in a Capita bid document entitled ‘​Schedule of approved sub-contract​ors’​ which states that DRUK will be responsible for ‘​Consulting and recruitment of disabled people’​

Elsewhere in their bid, Capita make it clear that they are paying DRUK not just to advise them on accessibility issues and to recruit senior disabled staff, but also to pass on information gained from DRUK members. The bid document explains that:

“​. . .we have committed to employing a resource within DRUK dedicated to capturing the views and experiences of claimants and those impacted by PIP. DRUK has over 1,000 member organisations which should allow for broad capture of ongoing claimant experienc​es.”​

And further on, the bid reiterates:

“​. . . we are paying for DRUK to employ someone whose role it is to identify and analyse feedback from their networks of disabled people to help us improve . . .”​

The fact that DRUK are working on PIP for Capita raises question marks over their threatened legal challenge to the introduction of PIP, because of the government’​s failure to carry out a proper consultation.

The threat of legal action was first made in July 2011, by what was then Disability Alliance. A detailed letter before action was drawn up by Unity Law on Disability Alliance’​s instructions, warning that: “​should the Bill proceed to be enacted in its present form then our client intends to challenge the validity of the proposed Welfare Reform Act 2011”​.

On 16 April 2012 DRUK published a report in which they again argued that half a million people would lose their DLA under PIP and that a further 25,000 would no longer be able to afford to work because of the loss of their DLA. Once again, this report claimed that:

“​In July 2011 Disability Alliance outlined the clear case for a legal challenge of government plans if adequate impact assessments were not provided .

“​In light of the government’​s failure to demonstrate full analysis of the impact of proposals and the conclusions of the JCHR, we are examining our options to pursue full action now welfare reform legislation has been enacted.”​

Just two weeks later, on May 2nd, Capita submitted its bid to carry out PIP assessments and named DRUK as a sub-contractor.

Yet on the DLA reform page on their website, last updated on 9 August 2012 –​ a full week after they knew that Capita had won one of the PIP contracts and that they would be their sub-contractor - DRUK continues to claim that they are considering a legal challenge to PIP:

“​Disabili​ty Rights UK is considering a potential legal challenge of Government DLA plans. To read more about our letter of claim to the Department for Work and Pensions and Government proposals on DLA click here.

And on 23 October, DRUK will provide one of the speakers at a meeting of the Disabled/Deaf People'​s Organisations Legal Network. The subject of the meeting is “​Using the law to protect the welfare rights of disabled people."​

The DWP have been aware since at least May 2nd that DRUK are assisting with the implementation of PIP. It seems inconceivable that their lawyers would not point this out to a judge should a legal challenge ever go ahead. DRUK would then be in the position of having to explain to a judge how they could both genuinely believe that PIP was unlawful and detrimental to disabled people but also that it was in keeping with their charitable purposes to be paid to assist in its introduction.

There can be little doubt in the minds of most people who have read both the Atos and the Capita bids, that most claimants would prefer to have a medical with Capita. The company has committed to such things as giving claimants the option of a home medical, allowing everyone to have a recording of their assessment and are employing more mental health specialists than Atos.

It is also very likely that DRUK have been able to influence Capita for the good in these regards.

But the reality is that, no matter how thoughtfully designed the assessment process, the government’​s aim is to make around half a million disabled people significantly poorer. DRUK were far from unique in being able to advise Capita on how to conduct assessments fairly: many charities and claimants groups could have done the same. They were unique, however, in claiming they could mount a credible legal challenge to PIP. We can only hope then that we are mistaken, and that this last hope of a reprieve for claimants has not been lost through DRUK’​s decision to co-operate with Capita in the destruction of working age DLA. If it has, they may not easily be forgiven by those they say they represent.



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