PIP claimants in north 'should have their assessment interviews recorded'
CALLS have been made for people seeking a new disability payment in Northern Ireland to have their interviews recorded in line with a ruling in the UK.
Following a major review, the Department for Work and Pensions in Britain has agreed to make recording assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) a standard part of the application process.
And the MLAs said the north's Department for Communities should follow suit.
The Irish News first revealed in January that the more than 125,000 people in the north seeking PIP had been told to buy specialist equipment if they wanted a recording of their interview.
PIP replaces the old Disability Living Allowance.
SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon said she had highlighted the problem several times and would write again to the Department for Communities' permanent secretary following DWP's decision.
"I had raised this issue with the department back in January," she said.
"Now that DWP has moved to this position the Department for Communities must follow. Capita assessors must be provided with recording equipment and interviews must be recorded to give greater transparency for claimants and assessors. This should be done as a matter of urgency."
Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey said the assessment process for PIP was "fundamentally flawed".
"One of the many reasons for this is that medical assessments for PIP aren't recorded as standard," he said.
"This lack of transparency has led to mistrust and disputes over what was said at interviews.
"Today DWP has agreed to record interviews as standard.
"Having raised this issue previously with the Department for Communities I have now written to the Permanent Secretary asking him to confirm if audio recording will now be provided for those who choose it."