A “DISTURBING” benefits assessment with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) left an MSP feeling “sick” after a staff member repeatedly asked “judgemental” questions about her family member’s disability, she has told The National.

SNP MSP Karen Adam was speaking to the DWP as part of a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment for a family member who is unable to look after themselves.

Her relative had been receiving the benefit – which helps with living costs if you have a long-term health condition – for seven years after being diagnosed as neurodivergent.  

And so she said she “felt sick” when the staff member on the other end of the phone began asking whether the family member couldn’t clean themselves and their home because they “couldn’t be bothered”.

Adam – who said the staff member “snapped” at her over the phone - was also taken aback by them asking whether her relative had ever tried to “commit suicide”.

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Adam said: “We were sat on the sofa and I put my phone on loudspeaker on the table and she [the staff member] asked if I could tell her if my family member was able to clean themselves and their home.

“I said no and they get help to do that and then she said ‘just to let you know that won’t be part of the assessment’ and I just said that was weird.

“She snapped back and said it wasn’t weird. I also wondered why she was asking if it wasn’t part of the assessment.

“She then said there were many people who don’t look after themselves and their houses because they’ve been brought up like that, and my jaw just dropped.


The National: The Department for Work and Pensions has been repeatedly criticised for degrading assessments The Department for Work and Pensions has been repeatedly criticised for degrading assessments (Image: Other)

“Then she said ‘just to let you know if you’re going to keep arguing points like this, this time will be taken off someone else’s assessment’.

“I was so taken aback by how horrible she was being and the things she was saying. I honestly thought it was a prank at points.

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“She then asked if they had ever tried to commit suicide. I just thought that’s language we tend not to try and use anymore, but I didn’t say that out loud.

“I asked them had they ever tried to take their own life, and I felt like breaking down at that point. I thought they weren’t going to tell me and if they had then this might be triggering for them.”

Adam said the verbal assessment had only happened because she was told she had made a mistake on an assessment form that had been sent out for the claimant.

The Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP said the call was so mortifying she had to try and stop her relative from walking away because they were left feeling so uncomfortable.

Although Adam’s relative has been told they will continue receiving payments until a decision has been made on the assessment, there’s now no knowing whether the PIP instalments will be cut off at that point.

Adam added: “She had no duty of care to who she was talking to. I had to stop them from walking away, because they are so uncomfortable with these things anyway.

“She was so judgemental throughout the whole thing and I felt so sick.”

Adam said she had dealt with Social Security Scotland on several occasions and described it as a "totally different experience" to talking with the DWP.

Social Security Scotland was set up in 2018 to create a benefits system based on dignity, respect and fairness - with the DWP system having been criticised repeatedly for carrying out degrading assessments.

Adam said staff at Social Security Scotland act as if they want to make sure claimants get what they are entitled to, whereas she feels the DWP does the opposite. 

The DWP has been contacted for comment.