Benefit assessment process under fire

Charity for disabled people Disability
Alliance told Community Care last week that it was “appalled” by
the complete lack of progress the government has made in improving
the medical assessment process for disability benefits.

Chief executive Lorna Reith said the fact that
over 25,000 people were called unnecessarily for examinations each
year showed that disabled people were “still getting a sub-standard

The figure is part of a report released last
week by the Public Accounts Committee, which also found that over
17,000 people were turned away from scheduled examinations because
of the deliberate over-booking of appointments.

Reith condemned the practice as “completely
unacceptable”, adding that many disabled people had to make
complicated travel arrangements to attend appointments.

The report reveals that up to 10 per cent of
the independent medical reports provided for the Department for
Work and Pensions by private company Sema Group were of
sub-standard quality, despite a commitment from government two
years ago that improvements would be made following an earlier
critical report.

“Not only are disabled people still facing
long delays before getting their proper benefit entitlement, but
they are also being subjected to the unnecessary stress of going
through an appeal. This often involves the extra expense of paying
for medical evidence from their GP, which people cannot claim
back,” said Reith.

Public Accounts Committee chairperson Edward
Leigh said the DWP “must do more to ensure that the service is
responsive to the needs of citizens”.

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