The government is set to give millions of pounds more to outsourcing colossi to run fit for work and disability examinations.
Atos, Capita and Maximus are due to have their profitable contracts for PIP and ESA assessments increased for up to two years, and it will be the third time the contracts have been extended without going out to tender.
That’s despite more than 450,000 sick and disabled people winning challenges against their assessment since 2013, and in the first three months of 2020, 17,598 people who were denied PIP or ESA had the test result reversed at a tribunal.
Three-quarters of all ESA and PIP tribunal claims overthrow the government, and contracts were originally due to last four years, but the latest extension suggests they will last about a decade.
This means that private firms will have taken hundreds of millions of pounds between them in extra government money, without having to compete for renewal through conventional rivals.
Previous extensions were awarded to July 2021 because the government wanted continuity while it changed the system, but ministers are now proposing another expansion to July 2023, after those reforms were suspended due to coronavirus.
Postponing procurement is an understandable decision, but it’s vital Government use the additional time to bring forward a green paper that will address the important weaknesses of our welfare system.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a constant, severe and disabling illness and welfare assessments like personal independence payments just don’t reflect the realities of living with the condition, and a survey uncovered that more than half of the people with MS didn’t feel their assessor understood their MS.
Atos delivers the preponderance of PIP assessments under the signature Independent Assessment Services (IAS) through a contract it’s held since 2013. Capita also has a PIP assessments contract.
The Atos and Capita contracts were first extended from July 2017 to 31 July 2019. They were then extended a second time to July 2021, and a third extension could take them up to 31 July 2023.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has been delivered since October 2014 by a firm called The Centre for Health and Disability Assessments Limited (CHDA), whose parent company is US outsourcing colossus Maximus.
CHDA previously had its contract, scheduled to terminate on 28 February 2018, extended to 29 February 2020.
It was then extended again for a further 16 months to July 2021 and the third extension could take it up to 31 July 2023. The latest extension was announced by Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson.
He maintained he was still committed to reforms including a single, integrated health assessment service on a digital platform, but he stated that owing to COVID 19, they had to examine their commercial strategy.
And that the impact of COVID 19 meant that it wasn’t possible to launch procurement for new contracts at the moment, even though they realised that their claimants needed to have a reliable and stable service.
And he said that his department planned to examine options to prolong the prevailing contracts for up to 2 years, which would ensure the continuation of services when the current contracts end on 31 July 2021.
And that they would continue to evaluate those extensions to ensure they only continue for the time they needed to effectively respond to the consequences of COVID 19, and that the extension period would give time to thoroughly understand and assess the impacts of COVID 19 on those crucial services, ahead of anticipated procurements.
While private firms run the assessments, the DWP decides on whether to accept someone for PIP or ESA, and the CHDA and IAS previously stated that they’ve made continuous enhancements to assessments.
Face to face PIP and ESA assessments were postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic – that respite remains in place but some activity is set to slowly return, and assessments are being carried out using paperwork or over the telephone.
But these assessment tests are extremely discriminatory to countless people who are just unable to work.
They make judgments based on ludicrous physical tests which have no relation to the persons capacity to work, and people who have infirmities with no visible physical disability are even less inclined to be given a fair assessment.
The decision should be left to the persons GP, who would have a much greater perception of that person’s health and their history, but welcome to Orwellian Britain!
None of these companies should be permitted to conduct the assessments as they all employ unqualified people.
A person with complicated neurological problems arising from a traumatic brain injury could get assessed by a social worker with a first-aid certificate. And you might be persuaded that the person doing the assessing is qualified but once you’ve done a little digging, you’ll find out that it’s a massive sham, and that person’s judgment could leave you with no money for weeks if not months.
The entire process needs to be taken out of private hands and put back in the hands of the NHS so nobody has to fight against decisions made by the uneducated who get ill-gotten gains for each person they strip of their benefits.
These assessors aren’t sufficiently qualified, and most of them don’t have the slightest notion of how the person’s disability impacts on their life.
The only qualification anyone needs to work for these companies is their own in house certification which has no bearing on their skill, or lack of skill, in any area of medicine, but some people have been incredibly lucky, but there’s a number of extremely ill and sick people who have died because they’ve had their benefits terminated.