Two private firms responsible for carrying out disability benefit assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have pocketed more than half a BILLION pounds of taxpayers cash, despite thousands of “inaccurate assessments” being later overturned in favour of claimants.
Data collected by The Mirror reveals Atos and Capita have made more than £500m from Personal Independence Payment assessments, since the new disability benefit was introduced to replace Disability Living Allowance in 2013.
An analysis of Government data by the newspaper found the DWP paid the two private firms a whopping £211m for PIP assessments in 2016, up from £198m in the previous year.
The two firms also made £91m in 2014 and £7m in 2013, bringing the combined total to an eye-watering £507m and exposing Britain’s growing ‘corporate welfare’ system – private sector companies ‘profiteering’ at the expense of the poor and vulnerable.
According to The Mirror, Atos were allegedly paid £382m for the assessments, while Capita received £125m.
This is despite official DWP figures showing 61% of appeals against PIP decisions were overturned in the claimant’s favour up to September 2016. Claimants must first ask for a ‘mandatory reconsideration’, carried out by DWP decision makers, before they can appeal to an independent Tribunal.
17% of 428,000 mandatory reconsiderations to October 2016 were overturned in the claimants’ favour, according to The Mirror, including 32,000 sick and disabled people in the process of being transferred from DLA to PIP.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the exorbitant cost of assessments “adds to the suspicion that these companies are just driven by a profit motive”, adding: “the incentive is to get the assessments done, but not necessarily to get the assessments right”.
“They are the ugly face of business”, he added.
Shadow welfare minister Alex Cunningham said the government is failing to hold the private contractors to account for “incorrect assessments”, which he claimed “cause huge distress to the most vulnerable”.
He told The Mirror: “It is clear that the assessment process continues to fail.
“Instead of holding their contractors to account for incorrect assessments, which cause huge distress to the most vulnerable, the Government are paying them even more taxpayers’ money.”
However, an Atos spokesperson said the firm “do not take a decision on a person’s eligibility for PIP – that decision can only be taken by the DWP”.
“Each assessment is carried out under the guidelines delivered by the DWP”, the spokesperson added.