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Personal Independence Payments

Volume 609: debated on Monday 9 May 2016

9. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that staff carrying out personal independence payment assessments act in a professional manner. (904886)

The Department has set clear requirements regarding the professions, skills, experience and training of the health professionals that providers can use to carry out PIP assessments. We expect the highest standards from the contractors who carry out assessments on our behalf, and measure their performance against several targets, including quality and customer experience.

My constituents have reported huge inaccuracies between the information that they provide against PIP descriptors and the conclusions drawn by Capita’s staff, which causes great stress for people already in difficult circumstances. What is the Department doing to ensure that Capita’s staff are trained to take the appropriate time and care over assessments, so that they are as accurate and as fair as possible?

All health professionals must be registered practitioners and must have met the requirements for training competence. They must also use their expertise in disability to provide advice on people’s level of functional ability and the impact on their day-to-day lives. A team of experts provides additional support. We also work regularly with a wide range of stakeholders to help to advise on where further improvements can be made.

The Minister will be aware of the recent Public Accounts Committee report on the process of contracting out disability assessments. Does he agree that the recommendation to publish regular contractor performance data is one way of ensuring that assessments are professional and effective?

I know that that Committee did some valuable work in that area, which was partly why we had the extensive independent review of the performance and management of PIP that was carried out by Dr Paul Gray.

The Minister’s response to my letter and that of my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State following the shocking revelations of last month’s “Dispatches” on personal independent payment assessments was complacent to say the least. Given the evidence not only from “Dispatches” but from the Public Accounts Committee in March and from the National Audit Office in January, all of which raised concerns about the quality of PIP assessments, when will the Minister investigate the matter and review Capita’s contract?

I gave a crystal clear, comprehensive response in the Westminster Hall debate, and I am sorry that the hon. Lady was obviously somewhat distracted. It is crystal clear that the individual in that film, who acted disgracefully, has rightly been removed. Progress in training and policies is being reviewed weekly. We have zero tolerance of such behaviour.