Atos crisis: Fit-to-work checks shelved amid government contractor firm shambles | Daily Mirror | 24 February 2014

February 25, 2014

From the Daily Mirror, 24 February 2014 (Story by James Lyons).

People on Employment and Support Allowance will not be automatically retested until another firm can be brought into help, a leaked memo has revealed.

Ministers have been forced to halt medical checks on sick and disabled people because of the shambles engulfing hated firm Atos.

People on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will not be automatically retested until another firm can be brought into help, a leaked memo has revealed.

Only new claimants, those who say their circumstances have changed or people being moved over from Incapacity Benefit will have to undergo Work Capability Assessments.

Campaigners said that would mean thousands of people being spared the stressful and humiliating tests every week.

The revelation comes after Disability minister Mike Penning today admitted that the scheme was a “mess”.

Atos have announced that they want to end their £500million contract with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) a year early, blaming death threats.

Mr Penning claimed it was all the fault of the last government when he was grilled in the Commons.

“It is important we get the procurement right unlike the previous administration which is why we are in this mess today,” he said.

But Labour’s Tom Greatrex said that the Government had failed to act on warnings.

The whole scheme should be scrapped and reconsidered before another company is brought in to take over, the shadow minister said.

“The government ignored all the warnings and went ahead with the scheme anyway.

“The result is chaos, and not just an administrative mess, but also the misery it has caused for thousands of disabled people.

“This is why the system has to be reset before it is re-tendered.”

And fellow Labour MP Sheila Gilmour added:

“The employment and Support Allowance was renewed by the government in 2011.”

People who are on ESA have been retested as often as every few months to see if they still qualify for the benefit.

The leaked memo to DWP staff, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, reveals that automatic checks on existing claimants were halted on January 20 to tackle a mounting backlog.

“The number of cases currently with Atos Healthcare has grown,” it states.

“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.”

The numbers coming off of ESA will fall as a result of the decision, the memo suggests.

“The Work Capability Assessment is the main trigger for off-flows form the Employment and Support Allowance load,” it states.

However, because it is an “operation decision” rather than a policy change there is no need to inform “external stakeholders such as claimants, claimant representative groups, Members of Parliament etc”.

Tonight a Department for Work and Pensions spokesman 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.”

Shopping Basket