Assessors 'could be breaking guidelines'

A CONTRACTOR could be in breach of Government guidelines on travel to benefit appointments.

Healthwatch Kirklees advisor Shabana Ali detailed the rules after it emerged that some local disabled people are sent as far as Stockport for interviews.

Appointments for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit have to be within 90 minutes’ travel time. There is no assessment centre in Kirklees and an interview backlog means some are sent to Manchester and Stockport.

Ms Ali said: “The system automatically offers appointments that were outside the 90-minute guidelines issued by the Department for Work and Pensions.

“The travel distance appears to be based on looking at a straight line on a map, not on a realistic assessment of public transport times.

“And we found Atos was poor at offering home visits for assessment that people are entitled to under their contract.”

Atos had a deal for Employment Support Allowance assessments axed earlier this year due to poor performance.

Ms Ali said the lack of a PIP assessment centre in Kirklees has a big impact on the sick and disabled.

“We’re interested in more stories from people who have been forced to travel long distances for their PIP assessment," she added.

Anyone who has had such an experience can call Healthwatch Kirklees on 01924 450379.

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