An MSP has accused staff at the Department for Work and Pensions of being “unprofessional and dangerous” after an over the phone assessment on behalf of a family member.
Karen Adam, the SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, described the call as “vile” after she phoned about a PIP (Personal Independence Payment) assessment for a relative.
Adam described how, when asked why the family member was unable to apply on their own, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) employee asked “is it because they cannot be bothered?”
Adam claimed the staff member also asked whether the applicant “cleaned themselves and their home” before adding “well just so you know that won’t count to being awarded benefits money”.
When Adam responded that the comment was “weird” the employee is accused of saying: “It isn’t weird because some people can’t clean up after themselves because they have been brought up like that in a house where there were benefits and they won’t do it.”
They then asked whether the applicant had tried to “commit suicide” after being informed that the applicant suffered a neurological condition.
Adam has now requested the full written transcript of the call and intends to submit a formal complaint to the DWP.
She told STV News: “My main concern is the lack of duty of care towards vulnerable people. Particularly the questions surrounding suicide.
“I have dealt with the Scottish Social Security service on behalf of family recently and there is a stark difference in attitude. They were very compassionate and attentive.”
She added: “It was an over the phone assessment because they stated in a letter ‘a routine assessment will be carried out as one hadn’t been done for a while’.
“I have requested the conversation transcript or voice recording from them. I will then submit a complaint once I get the proof and take legal advice which I have been offered. I am taking it as far as I can.”
In a series of Tweets, Adam detailed the conversation and said: “This is incredibly unprofessional and dangerous. I still feel sick today and I’m sure the application will be written in a way they get nothing like what they deserve. No faith.”
A DWP spokesperson said the department would be investigating what happened “as a matter of urgency”.
“We understand Ms Adam’s concerns,” the said.
“This call was carried out by one of our assessment providers and we will be investigating what happened in this case as a matter of urgency.
“We expect the highest professional standards from our assessment providers and that claimants are treated with dignity and respect, and we’re sorry that Ms Adam feels that the assessment fell short of those standards.
“We regularly update our guidance for assessment providers regarding all aspects of the assessment, including how Health Professionals should conduct themselves during assessments.”