Thousands of disability benefit tests branded ‘unacceptable’ under the government’s own quality control scheme
Thousands of disability benefit tests have been branded “unacceptable” by the government’s own quality control scheme.
Bombshell new figures say neither Atos nor Capita – the outsourcing giants paid more than £500m to assess people for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) – are meeting the target of 97% of assessments conforming to standards.Latest audits show 6.4% of PIP benefit assessments were deemed “unacceptable” in the three months to October 2017.
The two firms have never met the target once, according to the current method of measuring performance.
It comes after claimants lined up to complain they were denied PIP since the benefit launched in 2013. Claimants often slam the assessment process – and two-thirds of those who appeal at an independent tribunal get PIP back.
The government released the data to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, which is due to grill bosses of Atos and Capita about the tests tomorrow.
While private firms carry out the assessments, it’s the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that makes the final decision on whether to give someone benefits.
Officials audit 4,200 PIP assessments every three months, split between three “lots” managed by different firms.
Lot 1 is assigned to Atos trading as ‘Independent Assessment Services’ (IAS). The DWP said 6.2% of its tests were “unacceptable” in the three months to October 2017.
Lot 3 is also assigned to IAS. The DWP said 5.7% of its tests were “unacceptable” in the three months to October 2017.
Lot 2 is assigned to Capita. The DWP said 7.3% of its tests were “unacceptable” in the three months to October 2017.
The current performance measure – which sees an independent team pick cases at random – launched in March 2016.
Under the previous method, which saw the firms audit assessments themselves, the figures were much more dramatic.
The proportion of Capita PIP tests deemed unacceptable reached a peak of 56% in the three months to April 2015.
For Atos, the peak was 29.1% for one lot in June 2014.
Altogether more than 2.7million people have had a decision made regarding PIP since the benefit launched in 2013 – suggesting tens of thousands had an “unacceptable” test.
The PCS union, which represents lower-paid workers at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), told MPs: “We do not believe that there is any real quality control.
“Our belief is that delivering the assessments in-house is the only effective way for DWP to guarantee the level of quality that is required.”
In evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee, Capita said 95% of tests are now deemed acceptable – giving the figure for the past year.
The firm said: “This represents a significant improvement from previous years and producing quality reports for the DWP remains a top priority within Capita.”
It added: “Additionally, we use a range of intelligence as indicators, to identify disability assessors who may not be operating at the high quality output levels we expect.
“This includes data from audit activity, coaching and monitoring.
“This enables us to continually monitor performance, and take appropriate internal actions… where necessary to ensure we continue to deliver a quality service.”
Atos said 95.4% of tests are now acceptable and more work was needed to ensure the auditing process itself is “consistent”.
The firm added: “We strive to deliver fair and accurate assessment reports 100% of the time.”
Read the full article online at http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/thousands-disability-benefit-tests-branded
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