Atos quietly dropped from carrying out repeat reassessments by DWP, internal memo shows

Internal memo says 'as this is an operational decision and not a policy decision, MPs and claimants do not need to be told'

An internal memo has revealed that the Department of Work and Pensions has stopped outsourcing company Atos from carrying out repeat assessments on people currently claiming work-related disability benefits.

The department’s staff have been told to leave all current employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants on their benefit, without repeat medical checks, until another company can be found to do work capability assessments (WCAs).

The Benefits and Work website reported that it obtained the memo via a Freedom of Information request. According to their report the memo reads: “The number of cases currently with Atos Healthcare has grown. A decision has therefore been taken to control the referral of repeat work capability assessments. Therefore, with effect from 20 January 2014, further routine repeat assessments referrals to Atos will be deferred until further notice.

“Controlling the volume of repeat Work Capability Assessments should help us to reduce delays for new claimants and those that have already been referred.”

It goes on to explain that they are not stopping referrals due to “quality issues” but because of the backlog of cases. People who are receiving ESA will continue to receive it until another company can be found to carry out the work. Claimants who experience a change in condition, for example a worsening illness, should still be referred for reassessment. New claimants being moved onto ESA will still be reassessed. The memo notes that because this is an “operational decision” and not a “policy change” MPs and claimants do not need to be told.

The memo was released as the government’s 500m contract with Atos came under increasing scrutiny. Disability Minister Mike Penning described the contract with the benefits testing firm Atos as a “mess” on Monday. The DWP itself has had to disagree with 158,300 decisions made by Atos that people were ‘fit for work’ when the department ascertained they were not . A further 600,000 people have appealed against decisions made by the government to cut their benefits. Atos itself is now saying that it wants to pull out of the contract early because of the death threats being made against its staff.

 

Tom Greatrex, Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, who has campaigned for an overhaul of the Work Capability Assessment said: for “It is little wonder DWP Minister Mike Penning says his Atos test is “a mess” in the House of Commons when he was aware that since the summer repeat medicals have been scrapped – not because they were a waste of time, but because Atos just can’t cope with the backlog they have caused. This chaos is costing taxpayers millions in assessments and tribunals and it is causing distress and anxiety for thousands of disabled people. Having been in denial for more than three years about the consequences of their decision to accelerate the re-testing of people on incapacity benefit, the government must now get a grip of this situation and fundamentally reform the process before re-tendering – so it is designed to help those who can work, not hound those who can’t.”

Atos will continue to carry out assessments on over three million people receiving Disability Living Allowance, soon to become Personal Independence Payments or PIP. Its capability to carry out this has been questioned with only 30,000 assessments decided on so far. Of that 30,000 only 15,000 people have qualified for the benefit and 10% of that number are people that are terminally ill. It appears therefore that only 40% of people currently receiving DLA, a benefit many disabled people will describe as a lifeline, will continue to receive it.

Labour MP Sheila Gilmore has also been campaigning for more effective reassessments since the first negative reports appeared.

She told The Independent: “For many individuals it will be a relief not to be called back for reassessment every year, or even more often. Some people winning appeals find themselves recalled for reassessment within a few weeks of winning their appeal.  But this is not a planned reaction to the problem of too frequent reassessments, but a panic reaction to a crisis causing unacceptable delays for people claiming both ESA and PIP.  A panic reaction that Ministers failed to announce to MPs yesterday, despite being  asked several questions about the delays from MPs.  A panic reaction that claimants wouldn't have 'officially' known about since it wasn't made public and so many people will continue to worry in anticipation of being asked in for a reassessment.

Ms Gilmore raised concerns that Atos would still carry out assessments for PIP in spite of the issues with the Work Capability Assessment. She added “It is clear that ATOS is not coping with all that it has taken on. My question to the Minister yesterday was why when concerns about ATOS capacity and quality were clear last year, hey were awarded a new contract for PIP.  It is a different assessment but the organisation clearly hasn't got the capacity. Over frequency of reassessments is something I have raised in previous debates with Ministers, and something which many campaigners have been raising for a long time, not only because of the stress to individuals but the extra costs involved.  It would be good to think that the Government had finally accepted this argument - but this sort of panic measure is no substitute for looking properly at the way the test is structured and administered.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We're committed to ensuring that people have their claim assessed as quickly as possible and to a high standard.

”As we announced in the summer we will be bringing in additional provision to deliver Work Capability Assessments with the aim of increasing delivery capacity and reducing waiting times.“

Atos Healthcare spokesperson told The Independent: ”We continue to provide assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. They manage the number of referrals they send us. We give people all the time they need during an assessment and treat people with professionalism and respect during what we know can be a difficult time.”

 

News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
people
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Today's Liverpool Echo back page
football
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Year 4 Teacher required for 2 terms

£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Accounts Assistant - Sales Ledger, Sage Line 50 - St Albans

£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...

EBD Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?