Atos, the private firm responsible for carrying out Work Capability Assessments on benefit claimants on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), will cost the UK taxpayer nearly *£1.6bn in private contracts.
The staggering figure consists of a number of different contracts ranging from disability assessments for benefit claimants to IT services for the governments enGage Gateway; IT infrastructure which allows for secure identity management and payment transactions for things like tax returns and registrations to government websites.
Atos has come under a great deal of criticism from disability campaigners, healthcare professionals and politicians, who argue that assessments to deem whether a person is capable of some form of work are ‘fundamentally flawed’ and should be scrapped.
DWP figures show that Atos recommendations have been wrong in as many as 1 in 5 assessments and successful appeals at Social Security Tribunals have been as high as 38%. The government claim that they are continuing to make improvements following reviews of the assessments and that successful appeals are now closer to 1 in 4 (25%).
This will not satisfy critics of Atos who say that the contract between the private contractor and the DWP should be revoked and that their poor performance in carrying out disability assessments for the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance, should mean that they should not be awarded a contract for carrying out assessments for the new disability benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance for disabled people. Both PIP and DLA are available to those both in work and out-of-work whilst ESA is only for those who are incapable of working – both can be claimed at the same time.
The medical services contract awarded to Atos to assess unemployed sick and disabled persons readiness for work will cost a total of £983 million from 1st September 2005 to 31st August 2015. The Atos contract for the new Personal Independence Payment will cost taxpayers close to £390 million, whilst their Occupational Health contract, which includes jobcentre employees, costs £12 million. Their IT contract with the DWP is worth £200 million whilst Atos involvement in back-to-work schemes (aka workfare) costs the taxpayer over £3.1 million. In total the full cost to the UK taxpayer of Atos contracts is close to £1.6 BILLION! Some believe that the total cost of these contracts could be much higher.
Atos are not alone in the windfall. Capita, which is another private firm, have held 16 contracts with the DWP worth over £586.4 million.
*Data Source: Disability Rights UK
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was first published by the Welfare News