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Info. about ICE please?

Hi everyone and all Scope advisors, As some of you know I've been through a long, stressful process starting with an experience many of you will be able to identify with, namely treatment at the hands of a far from honest assessor. My ATOS complaint was rejected after 5 months when all the points I raised were denied mainly with the excuse my assessment report met the DWP standard according to their guide for assessors. Having contacted HCPC my assessor's regulatory body to question her qualifications all I achieved was confirmation that she is qualified and is on their register. I also contacted ICO the Information Commissioner's Office who regulate the Data Protection Act, they too are trying very hard to reject my complaint that my assessor contravened this Act by recording data about me that is incorrect. So far their reason for not investigating my case is a quote taken from my final complaint investigation letter from IAS which states that assessor's can use their professional medical opinion which may or may not be correct but which is taken from evidence available to them at the time along with what they see and hear at assessment. I am continuing to contact a lead case worker allocated to my case to argue that this does not include things written about a claimant that an assessor says they did during the assessment that never happened, distances walked that are recorded as further than they actually are and in my case a false professional registration number my assessor entered on a document I signed at the end of my face to face when handing over FME. My MP has also made contact with IAS who are refusing to even comment on this never mind investigate it. So after 9 months I am left with ICE who my complaint was transferred to in August 2017. They are currently working on complaints from September 2016, that's how far behind they are due to the huge backlog of similar cases referred to them. I have been supplying them with lots of evidence but the questions comes to mind:                                                                 
        "What type of complaints do they uphold, what evidence do they accept, either written or from witnesses, what happens when a complaint is upheld by way of recompense and does it help in future benefit reviews?"  
      If you've been through the ICE process with either success or failure at the end of it I would love to hear from you.  

Replies

  • loopytloopyt Posts: 79Member Courageous
    I realise this sounds a bit of a stretch but the only thing to lose is time writing yet another letter. Have you thought about writing a very thorough letter to Theresa May (recorded delivery). I am sure she won't personally read the letter but her secretary will pass it on to the appropriate person who may shock us all and actually take notice?
  • wildlifewildlife Posts: 1,316Member Pioneering
    @loopyt Good thinking. I "may" just do that but not till I've got a final answer from ICO as to why they're not prepared to regulate an ACT of Parliament that protects citizens of the UK from organizations keeping and using false information. All these regulatory bodies need to look long and hard as to why they're treating disabled people differently to anyone else. Surely we can claim discrimination on top of all the other things we've had to endure. Thank-you for your reply. I hope to hear also from anyone who's been through ICE and knows what they will accept so I can get some sort of result from my nightmare that should have been a straight forward process were it not for the lies my assessor chose to write about me.  
  • BenefitsTrainingCoBenefitsTrainingCo Posts: 2,681Member Pioneering
    wildlife,

    I like Loopyt's idea. For what it's worth you could also try the new Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton, but as you will know it seems the government is in denial about the quality of assessments generally. However, it is worth a try.

    Regarding ICE, I would have a look at their latest report on DWP complaints. There's a section dealing with 'contracted provision' - companies which provide services for the DWP. The summary is here:

    'The majority of the complaints we receive about Health Assessments concern perceived errors or failures associated with the reports produced by medical assessors. Such complaints often follow receipt of an unfavourable benefit entitlement decision from a DWP decision maker. The organisations who deal with contracted provision have been keen to attempt to resolve complaints at the earliest opportunity, and the rate at which cases have been settled by agreement between the parties has almost doubled in comparison to the previous financial year.'

    A very mild conclusion given the extent of error and failure! And unfortunately both the examples in the report about assessments state that the complaint was not upheld. I wouldn't let this put you off though. And remember that if you are not satisfied with the ICE conclusion you can take it further, to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, if you have the support of your MP.

    As for the ICO, I can only agree with you that what did and did not happen at an assessment is not a question for medical opinion! I really hope you do get somewhere with the data protection side of this as I think it is relevant to so many people's experience of the assessment. 

    Will
    The Benefits Training Co:
    Paul Bradley
    Michael Chambers
    Will Hadwen
    Sarah Hayle
    Maria Solomon
    David Stickland
  • wildlifewildlife Posts: 1,316Member Pioneering
    @Will, It seems to me as if they're all watching each other's backs either that or passing the buck as no-one wants to take responsibility for what is happening. I've gone as far as I can go now as ICO rejected my last attempt to get a case against ATOS investigated. It seems it's OK for my assessor to write a false PRN number on one of my documents and lie about something I did, she's just using her medical knowledge to give an opinion which may or may not be correct but hey ho it doesn't matter, she's got nothing to fear as there's nothing we can do about it. Much as I don't want to feel this way I can't help but wonder if what HCPC accused me of applies to ICO as well, that I'm doing this because I want more money. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can only hope that ICE will at least accept part of my complaint in August 2018 when they get around to investigating it so all I've been through since last February won't have been wasted. I'll have a short break then get some letters written to people in high places to express my disgust at the PIP process and what it is doing to people and how all the organizations who should be regulating things when they go wrong don't want to know. Please everyone report your lies to ICO. When they get enough complaints they will have to take action against these corrupt private companies who don't give a hoot about real people and how much they're suffering. One day I hope things will change. We must keep fighting for justice..   
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Posts: 3,457Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger

    Apologies for not knowing what happened in the first place but...

    ICE - generally only interested in process. If the DWP did what they needed to when they should have then they're not interested in whether the outcome itself was wrong. A recentish report on them held they were not fit for purpose.

    Complaints to providers - a very useful tool in the armoury but only 1 tool. I am presuming you pursued your case to MR, first tier and then upper tribunals? If not then I'd be interested in knowing why not or, if you did, what the outcome was and why.  

    A false registration number does not ring true to me. There's nothing to be gained from doing such a thing if you're already a medical professional. Only something to gain if you're pretending to be a medical professional when you're not. I would hedge my bets on accidental error on that I'm afraid.

    ICO - Again, sadly, I am with them. The DPA issue is whether an organisation collects relevant data; uses it legally  and gets rid when no longer needed. If an assessment provider had collected data irrelevant to their role, such as details of family and friends and what they do, then clearly that's a DPA issue. Provided what they have collected and recorded is relevant to their purpose then there's literally nothing for them to look at.

    Of course you may say "... but the data is wrong". It's important to distinguish between factually inaccurate data and differences of opinion. Doubtless you feel all your issues fall into the former but, even if they did, the provider and DWP provide a means to resolve that via the decision making process. You would have to be able to show that they recorded data knowing it was wrong and refusing to correct it when shown it was wrong. The bar is going to be set very high on such things so I would be seeking a welfare rights adviser to look at what happened with your original challenges rather than this approach.

    In pursuing so many avenues simultaneously, especially with what look like some fairly weak arguments, you do risk being perceived as a vexatious litigant. That will definitely not help you and will hinder whatever you need to challenge in future too. Have you sought professional advice in the first place about whether the entitlement you think you should get is likely?

  • wildlifewildlife Posts: 1,316Member Pioneering
    edited December 2017
    @mikehughescq Whilst I appreciate your lengthy reply you are correct to say you don't know what happened in the beginning. Firstly ICE are out of the picture as far as I'm concerned apart from letting other interested people know how long the wait is to have a complaint investigated which also tells us they're snowed under with complaints. I have supplied them with all they need and can do no more. Their result will speak for itself around August 2018. 
         My full story is on here albeit in a few different discussions and it's too long to repeat again. I treated my complaint to a provider separately to the progress of my claim apart from saying in my MR that I had made a formal complaint to ATOS. I was happy with my award once I'd convinced DWP that my medical evidence made me eligible for a higher rate of mobility and standard rate daily living which I accepted after a 2nd MR. I was offered this by the DM who did my 1st MR if the ATOS complaint changed anything. It didn't but I used the offer to achieve a change in my award without the need of professional advice or going to Appeal.
       I found the false PRN number after doing a Subject Access Request and as it was on a document I wouldn't otherwise have seen other than signing it before my assessor and the fact it was completely different to her correct PRN number I do not believe this was done by mistake. It may be she didn't have her number and decided to make one up but then you would expect it to start with PA for paramedic which it did not. My MP has asked ATOS about this but they have refused to comment. ICE have agreed to investigate my assessor's qualifications and this PRN number which remains a mystery. I still consider it should come under the DPA as my signature was on the document which was to hand over FME to the care of ATOS. 
      I can assure you the incorrect data on my report is factually incorrect and not just examples of a difference of opinion. I am able to distinguish between the two. I have had to provide evidence to both ICE and ICO to prove this and as time has gone on where my complaint in the early days included all incorrect data it now is focused on two main areas which my MP and others agree should not have been written by my assessor. I have yet to find out whether my husband who was with me throughout my assessment is an independent witness. If so I can include false physical exam results some not even done with made up results. The other 2 are the false PRN and my assessor saying I opened a bottle of water whilst holding it between my knees by removing the plastic label round the middle. Yet I was not assessed as having any cognitive impairment. This of course never happened and was a piece of fiction written to try and make out I had no problem with using my hands.
        I do not consider these are "fairly weak arguments" but they are different to the run of the mill lies others have experienced. I suspect whatever I say will not be to your liking but I don't really care. I have done what I set out to do which was to see if there was any way to redress the blatant lies on my report and, unless I'm missing something, there is not other than taking legal action against my assessment provider who, incidentally was given ample opportunity to correct the incorrect data but refused to accept that it was incorrect even when presented with evidence to the contrary.    
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Posts: 3,457Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger
    edited November 2017
    Interesting. Have come across numerous examples of made up functional assessment results and incidents so I’m very accepting when people tell me such things. DNS had 250 plus credible examples last time I looked and I’ve put examples in to the Work and Pensions Committee last week. Unlikely a relative will count as an independent witness though. That means that whilst my professional experience tells me that what you’re describing is entirely factual, legally it will be seen as a difference of opinion. A recording, legal or otherwise, would have assisted but too late for that now sadly. That’s why I think ICO are resisting. 

    Using the DPA is an interesting way to go about this and I’d be genuinely interested to see the outcome but I do a lot of work with the DPA and, ultimately, if you got the rate of benefit you wanted then what’s the loss? Forcing the provider to amend the report would be an interesting outcome but unlikely. More likely would be a resignation and the provider accepting your point and making a token offer of comp. as there’s no financial loss.

    I stand by my comments re: the PRN. It’s simply impossible to prove who input it and a motive. Common sense says that unless they were wholly unqualified they had nothing to gain and it’s hard to see what you would gain in the unlikely event of being able to categorically demonstrate that they put in the wrong number. 

    Please keep us informed of progress though. In a case where there was a clear loss; an independent witness and/or a recording the DPA arguments have some potential.
  • wildlifewildlife Posts: 1,316Member Pioneering
    edited November 2017
    @mikehughescq Thank-you for your reply. My functional assessment results consisted of a full sheet of results where not one was what I actually did. However I have more or less accepted this will never be proved. I do have a question though. I had sent as evidence a physio report dated 1 dec. 2016 and my assessment was 20 Jan. 2017. The Physio report described my muscles and reflexes to be weak in all limbs with actual results for the weakest parts. Written as follows C7 4/5 bilaterally etc. The info. in this report contradicted my assessor's MSE results and a statement she wrote repeatedly on my report that all upper body results were normal. Should the physio results have been used instead of the assessor's results as all the way through it was ignored along with an earlier similar physio report from 2010 which I supplied for MR. The older report was accepted by a tribunal in 2010 for DLA.
       I already have an outcome from ICO which is to reject my case even though I am only using things they can see on my report or docs from my SAR and that I have supporting evidence for. As regards the water bottle I just want someone to accept this never happened as what she claimed I did is not the way you open a bottle of water. This and the PRN are not based on the assessor's medical opinion about any of my disabling conditions at least not if all medical evidence had been used as a basis for her writing this in Informal Observations. Also under the DPA any opinions should be anotated that they are only that and there is no note to that effect on the assessment report.
         You question why I have done all this when my reward was OK. I accepted what was offered at the time as a partial victory but not what I felt I was entitled to. Mainly because the false MSE results were used when things like 4 falls last year, Physio results, whiplash injuries, arthritis in the neck (diagnosed in 2003), peripheral neuropathy, balance issues were all ignored for help needed in the shower which is over the bath and to prepare a meal due to pain when pressure is exerted to chop veg. etc. I am 67 now and was only given PIP for 4 years with review in 2020 so I wanted to make sure I didn't go through this all again and have to fight and argue for what I'm entitled to.
       Regarding the false PRN I have the form and a screen shot of the correct number so should not need any further evidence for ICO. I had a lot of correspondence by email with HCPC about my assessor and after sending them info about someone with the same name from Linkedin with a job history that makes no mention of training or work as a Paramedic, as my assessor claimed to be, they wrote back saying they used this to investigate her and they confirmed that the person on their register is the same person who carried out my assessment. My hubby also recognized her from FB but I cannot use this. So I know she's registered with HCPC and I know her registration number, so when I spotted a completely different number underneath her signature on one of MY documents I think we can assume she wrote it and in my mind it should have been correct. I strongly suspect she isn't qualified but cannot prove it. 
        Regarding a recording I long since separated out things I couldn't prove and now only use what anyone can see on my report or other data from my subject access request and then only if I have other supporting evidence which contradicts the things I'm claiming are incorrect. My assessor wrote 9 times on my report "she has no medication or specialist input for Mental Health". She was disregardng 6 IAPT (Phychologivcal therapy service) reports and 46 years of documented treatment for mental health issues on my medical records. All of which she was supposed to have read. This is incorrect data. 
       I was made so ill by seeing my report I had an ambulance out within a week as my vision kept going (I suffer from Occular Migraines) which are stress related.
      Any advice as to what more I can do would be appreciated. 
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Posts: 3,457Member - under moderation Disability Gamechanger

    Thank you for your further explanation. I appreciate the time such things take.

    I'll try and take your points in turn:

    1) According to the provider guidance you should simply not have had a functional examination because, as you say, they had an up to date one. That alone should be the subject of a complaint to the assessment provider referring directly back to the DWP PIP provider guidance with full paragraph references. I have found that a very effective tactic. 

    Sadly, the problem you have decision wise is that, whereas it used to be the case that invalidly obtained evidence could be excluded from consideration, nowadays there is a consistent approach which acknowledges the dodgy circumstances in which evidence was obtained but doesn't exclude it and then seeks to weigh it appropriately. This is on the basis that a decision maker cannot un see evidence once it has been viewed.

    2) I am not convinced there is a case to argue on opinions having to be noted as opinions but being able to show that the healthcare professional breached DWP guidance begins to make a case if you then point to the water bottle incident as well. I honestly don't think the PRN thing is going anywhere BUT, again, if allied with the above two things, it does begin to suggest at best a level of carelessness which is entirely believable. Similarly, if you can evidence the falls with things like GP notes or A&E discharge notices then it begins to edge towards a compelling argument. To make that argument you need to make a complaint to the assessment provider. I'm sure you've already done this but you may wish to seek legal advice about a further complaint.

    3) Your choice to accept the offer post MR in order to avoid an appeal hearing is understandable and is one many people make. Unfortunately, it has created much of the subsequent work you have undertaken. You would have much more ammunition had you proceeded to appeal and won what you believe to be the correct award. That would immediately have undermined the HCP report for starters.

    No-one can pretend that all appeal hearings are entirely positive experiences but generally speaking you are kicking at an open door with most judges, albeit not necessarily their colleagues. They willingly accept that the quality of HCP reports is dreadful and often ask reps. like me to not over egg our complaints for that reason i.e. they already know what a poor, inconsistent report looks like. Turning that around slightly one of the things most reps. will say is that it's easy enough to pick apart a HCP report but that, in itself, does not help you qualify for PIP. A case is proven not by picking apart a HCP report but by anecdotal examples of when you have had specific issues and such other supporting evidence as is appropriate. Tribunals would say the same thing. Bear in mind the president of the social entitlement chamber has recently called most appeals "no brainers" and stated that the evidence submitted by DWP would not pass muster in any other court. I can't disagree with any of that.

    You may well have got the award you sought and a face to face perspective on the impact of the other issues you have since been pursuing. If you are within 13 months of the last decision on your claim then it remains open to you to lodge a late appeal and I would urge you to seek advice and representation for that.

    Sadly, if you're outside the 13 months you have limited means of opening this up again but it's certainly not impossible.

    Even losing an appeal would have opened up the opportunity to go to Upper Tribunal on an error of law and the inconsistencies in evidence and how parties weighed it would then come to the fore.

    4) Specifically on the PRN, having a form and screen shot is nothing to the point. Anyone you raise this with will most likely concede that data was wrongly entered. The issue is why and why does it matter. As I've already said any attempt at "why" is speculation and undermines your case. You have since confirmed that they were registered and thus they had zero to gain from using the wrong PRN. That suggests either someone else did it or they are careless. The latter is the more credible case when you add it to the points I make in 1) and 2) above.

    I hope this distils things a bit further for you.

    I have two eye conditions which react to stress, tiredness, excitement etc. and have in the past triggered 3 day full on migraines so I totally understand where you're coming from in terms of the impact of this.

  • wildlifewildlife Posts: 1,316Member Pioneering
    @mikehughescq Thank-you once again for a very comprehensive reply. Having gone through the ATOS complaints procedure for 5 months and received their final investigation findings as a 6xA4 page document with permission to take the complaint to ICE I can't see them accepting a new complaint about the physical assessment being done. I didn't include this in my original complaint as I wasn't aware of the ruling till reading it in one of your other posts. I have already approached ATOS post receipt of their final letter about the PRN number by email and have had no reply. However when my MP contacted their MP contact he replied by sending him a copy of the same letter and saying they would not reopen my complaint. So this begs the question of what would happen or whether I'd be wasting my time with a new complaint about the necessity for a physical exam. If this is an option I will certainly try it.
       I'm happy to let the rest drop apart from using your advice to tweak the information I've sent to ICE and adding the physical exam to it as currently this is not included. I read right through the DWP guide for assessors but don't remember reading about this. I did do a detailed study of the guidelines side by side with my assessment report highlighting examples of how the report did not comply with the guidelines to send to ICE. By the way I had given DWP plenty of evidence of all my debilitating conditions and the effect they have on my daily life, how much help I need etc but most of it was ignored in favour of the assessor's word. This lack of use of evidence IS included for the ICE investigation.  
       Although I am still well within a 13 month timescale for Appeal I really can't face this and have heard so many negative stories I would rather work towards my review. I have had a near mental breakdown recently which I'm working hard to recover from and am now on medication. So I have new evidence plus my eye condition did not feature in my last claim as I wasn't aware how significant this could be till the latter stages. If this started when on a journey or in the shower or anywhere I need someone with me or to be able to lie down in a darkened room till it passes. My vision does not recover completely for a number of hours. I've also been diagnosed with trigger finger so new things to include for my review.
         It looks like I'll have to forget about ICO and the DPA but would the finding of ICE if anything is upheld make any difference? So just 2 questions this time this and whether I can do a new complaint to ATOS. I suppose it's a case of try it and see what happens? 
        
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