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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are once again under fire after it emerged that they have paid out over £600 million to two private companies who carry out benefit health assessments. Atos and Maximus have had their contracts to carry out health assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) extended despite having been accused of poor performance.
There has been much criticism of the health assessments carried out by Atos and Maximus. I previously wrote how thousands of claimants were turned away on the day of their assessment due to staff shortages.
It is well know that claimants who appeal their original benefit decision have an over 70% chance of winning. Despite numerous alleged changes to improve assessment quality being announced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the number of claimants being successful on appealing has continued to rise.
It had already been announced earlier this year that Atos and Maximus had had their contracts extended until 2021. The DWP justified this by saying it “would ensure stability whilst changes are made.”
Now the true cost of that “stability” can be shown.
It was the Mirror Online who uncovered the contract details, (suddenly deleted when the DWP was asked about them by The Mirror).
The Mirror explains that Atos’ PIP two year contract extension will cost taxpayers up to £394.7m, while Maximus’ ESA contract will cost up to £236.4m for a 16-month extension.
That totals £631.1 million combined.
Disability campaigners have stated this shows the DWP rewards failure. It’s hard to dispute this given the problems with the system.
Barely a day goes by without a horrific story of mistreatment of a disabled or sick benefit claimant appearing in the press. It has become so “normal” that it is getting less and less attention. People are becoming desensitised to suffering at the hands of the government.
Response to Cost
A spokesman for the DWP gave a generic response when I contacted them asking them to justify these cost. They said;
“We’re committed to providing the best possible service for disabled people, which is why we’re continually improving the assessment process for PIP and ESA.
“These costs reflect the maximum budget for the respective contracts which is not necessarily the final amount paid out.
“We regularly monitor our assessment providers to ensure they are delivering against the high standards we expect.”
Labour’s Shadow Minister for Disabled People Marsha De Cordova released a statement saying:
“It is scandalous that hundreds of millions of pounds more have been handed over to private companies, such as Atos and CHDA, that are wreaking havoc on disabled people’s lives.
“By extending these contracts, this Tory government has once again shown its disregard for the appalling inaccuracies of outsourced assessments for PIP and ESA, which have had a devastating impact on so many disabled people.
” Labour will end the hostile environment that these assessments have created and bring them in house.”
Rudd’s Claims of Changes Proven a Lie
This latest revelation has shot Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd’s claim that she would bring positive changes to the welfare system.
Since she has taken charge it has been a story of same old, same old.
Rudd has pushed through changes that will force pensioners onto Universal Credit, she has attacked the UN report on poverty in the UK and launched a propaganda campaign to attempt and cover up the extent of Universal Credit’s problems.
It’s no wonder she has chosen not to run for Tory Leader and thus Prime Minister. Not only does she have the Windrush scandal as part of her legacy but now Universal Credit too.
Awarding over £600 million to two private companies who have shown they are completely inadequate is evidence that she is just the latest MP unfit to oversee the department looking after the UK’s most vulnerable.