Charities seek safeguards for disabled people following DWP decision to award new assessment contract to ATOS

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Charities seek safeguards for disabled people following DWP decision to award new assessment contract to ATOS

Posted on August 2, 2012 | 4 Comments

The Government has just awarded a contract worth hundreds of millions of pounds to two private sector companies, ATOS and Capita, to reassess disabled people for a disability benefit they need to help with the essential higher costs of living (Personal Independence Payment, or PIP).

ATOS already conducts face to face assessments for people accessing Employment and Support Allowance (the benefit for disabled people out of work), but continues to draw intense criticism due to the high rate of inaccurate decisions, successful appeal rates (40%) and waste of restricted resources. Appeals to ESA decisions cost over £26 million in 2010/11.

The Disability Benefits Consortium, a coalition of charities representing hundreds of thousands of disabled people, is concerned that many disabled people will be stressed and fearful of the new process – as well as mistrustful given the overarching policy aim of reducing expenditure. DWP plans show that 500,000 fewer disabled people will be eligible for support.

The consortium is calling on ATOS and Capita to learn lessons from the Work Capability Assessment, used to assess people for ESA since 2008, and sign up to ten pledges that will help alleviate concerns, establish a greater trust in the new system and deliver a process that is as fair as possible under Government plans.

PIP ASSESSMENT PROVIDER PLEDGES

We will make sure that a full range of communications methods are available, that our staff are trained in how to use them, and that individuals only have to tell us once what their accessibility and/or communications requirements are.

We will proactively gather all relevant written evidence, and will only call claimants in for a face to face assessment when a decision cannot be reached on the basis of written evidence.

We will only reassess claimants when a change in circumstances is likely, to ensure that claimants are not reassessed at inappropriate frequencies.

We will ensure that the assessment venue is accessible and appropriate for a full range of disabled people, that claimants are informed of their right to a home visit and aware they can bring a friend, family member, or advocate to their assessment.

We will train our assessors to understand a wide range of impairments and conditions, and to recognise the impact of multiple and complex conditions. Where possible we will match claimants with assessors who have the most appropriate expertise.

We will hold assessors to account for their decisions, will have an accessible complaints procedure in place, and will seek claimant feedback to monitor performance.

Our assessors will conduct interviews in a sensitive and culturally appropriate manner, and will explore how individuals complete activities.

Our assessors will share written reports and any observational evidence they record with claimants, providing them with an opportunity to correct any inaccuracies as early as possible.

We will set up procedures to proactively gather feedback on the assessment process from disabled people and their representative organisations, and will be open with the findings from these.

Guidance for assessors will be regularly updated and developed using input from relevant experts, disabled people and their representative organisations.

2 Replies

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  • It beggars belief that Atos has been awarded one of the contracts, especially after all the negative publicity the Work Capability Assessment has generated since it was introduced. I fear that the current government are too eager to slash costs and benefits all round to even consider listening to the disability benefits consortium.

    I suspect that Atos and Capita, having been awarded these contracts, will have little time for the PIP ASSESSMENT PROVIDER PLEDGES; after all, having been awarded these contracts, they will be loathe to lose them by making decisions which are fair to the claimant, rather than cost saving for the government.

    I hate to be the "harbinger of doom" or to say "I told you so" but when the Work Capability Assessment was brought in and Incapacity Benefit was ditched in favour of ESA, I felt that any fairness in the system would soon be subsumed by penny pinching and idiotic bureaucracy and red tape - you only need to look at the system now to see that that is very much the case.

    I have started badgering my local MP, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, as well as the members of the cabinet responsible for health and welfare, to try to make them listen to what the disability benefits consortium and other disability rights organisations are saying, as well as listening to what disabled people, such as myself, feel about the lack of fairness and transparency evident in the system at present.

    I think it will take concerted action by those of us who are affected by the current unfair and ludicrous benefits system, joining together to put pressure on the government, to make our voices heard.

    I suspect that in the end, it may come down to testing the fairness of the system under the Human Rights Act and/or the Equality Act 2010 in the courts before the system is altered to allow for fairness toward those who legitimately claim benefits due to disabling conditions or illness, while at the same time, counteracting the claims of those who claim dishonestly.

    Apologies for the long winded reply/rant, but this issue is one that I feel very strongly about, and it will take many people voicing their opinions consistently and loudly over a long period of time before any action is taken to change a system which punishes all disabled and sick individuals for the actions of a few benefit cheats.

    It is tough to have to fight when you already feel exhausted and in pain, but unless we take on the fight, nothing is likely to change.

    Gentle hugs to all x

  • Very very well said Sarah and quite right too. We have to all individually keep bringing this to the attention of our MP's, GP,s etc etc. I have already written to my MP and have sent him my ATOS assessment report plus my 35 page of corrections to all the mistakes and 'Omissions' within the report plus I have sent ATOS the same in the form of an official complaint. We have to keep on and keep on making as much of a pain in the neck of ourselves (no pun intended everyone) as possible, so that eventually they will have to listen. Though I did enjoy reading the suggested 'PIP ASSESSMENT PROVIDER PLEDGES' In an ideal world hey! that should all have been normal practice for anyone with a modicum of common sense. But then if they applied those guidelines they wouldn't be able to proclaim so many "fit for work".

    xx