I came home from 12 days in Chicago to the inevitable brown envelope: my PIP assessment is on November 23rd. That’s under a month after I sent the forms off. Last time it was an 8 month wait so I’m impressed at the speed. However I learnt two somewhat disturbing things from the phone call I made afterwards:
1. In August they quietly “ended the trial” of pre-paying cabs for claimants who needed them to get to their assessment. Instead they now pre-approve claimants for reimbursement and pay them back up to two weeks after the assessment. This means that claimants who cannot afford the return trip in the first place (which would be about £60 in my case for example) are at a distinct disadvantage. Remember that “how did you get here today?” is a commonly asked question to those with reported mobility problems, and taking public transport to the assessment can count against anyone who has claimed they have problems with public transport – even if there is no other way for them to GET to the assessment!
2. I asked if I could have my assessment recorded, after last time when the assessor might as well have written down the opposite of what I said. It turns out they now ask claimants to bring their own recording equipment – good because they can’t now say “sorry we don’t have enough”, but bad because it has to be a very specific type of recording device (dual tape or CD recorder) which most people will not have or many be able to afford. They do not accept any kind of digital recording, as both parties have to have a physical copy of the recording by the end of the assessment. A quick Amazon search shows that dual tape recording devices are not readily available, and definitely not cheap. By insisting that claimants use equipment used primarily in police and court situations, Atos are ensuring that a minimal number of assessments are recorded using a method usable in an appeal. (A covert digital recording would be fine for a claimant to personally review what had happened, but that is all.) One easier to find alternative to the double-tape recorder is to procure two identical single recorders, but again for most people this will come at a cost.
I knew already that the odds were stacked against the claimant, but these extra costs and tricks make it extra unfair.