Replacing Atos with another private provider will not solve flaws in disability benefits system, MPs warn

 

Political Editor

The Government has been warned that replacing Atos, the company which assesses whether the sick and disabled are fit for work, will not solve “fundamental flaws” in their treatment by the benefits system.

In a scathing report published today, MPs said that merely "rebranding" the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and appointing a new contractor would not help the many claimants who have been badly treated.

Atos is to pull out of its contract early after its staff were “vilified” over the work capability assessments the company carries out for the Government. But the cross-party Work and Pensions Select Committee said Atos had become "a lightning rod" for negativity about ESA itself. It urged ministers to take the opportunity of Atos’s withdrawal to "fundamental redesign" ESA.

Dame Anne Begg, the committee’s Labour chairman, said: “It is the Department of Work and Pensions that makes the decision about a claimant’s eligibility for ESA – the face-to-face assessment is only one part of the process. Just putting a new private provider in place will not address the problems with ESA and the work capability assessment on its own. The current system is clearly causing claimants considerable distress and anxiety.”

She said the new contractor could be paid more for providing a better service and should face immediate penalties if standards are not met. “Unnecessary and too frequent reassessments should also be avoided,” she said.

People found “fit for work” are ineligible for ESA. Claimants found to be unable to undertake any work-related activity are placed in a “support group”, where they do not have to prepare for work in return for their benefit. But the committee said this regime leaves a large and disparate middle group of claimants who are not yet fit for work, and may even have a deteriorating condition, but who are still required to undertake activity to help them find work in the longer term.

The MPs called for support to be tailored more closely to individual circumstances. They said ESA is not properly joined up with employment support because an health-related barriers to working are not properly assessed.

Rosanna Singler, co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium, said the “fit for work” test had had a devastating impact on the lives of the disabled since its introduction six years ago. “Some people have have ended up with very little money to live on because the test hasn’t recognised they cannot work. Others have ended up in pain and under severe stress during the test process. It is heartening to hear the committee say that it isn’t just that Atos is doing the tests badly – it is the test itself. Fundamentally, it is unfit for purpose,” she said.

Mark Harper, the Minister for Disabled People, said: "We are bringing in a new provider and a new contract for work capability assessments to deliver the best possible service for claimants, increase the number of assessments and reduce waiting times. More than 700,000 people who were on Incapacity Benefit are now looking for, or making steps to return to work after a work capability assessment - it is crucial that we continue this important process to ensure that people are not written off and we get a fair deal for the taxpayer."

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Life and Style
The spring/summer 2015 Louis Vuitton show for Paris Fashion Week
fashion
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

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?