Penalties needed on health assessment contract, MPs told

21 November 2012

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21 November 2012 | Anna Reynolds

The chief executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy, has called for additional penalties to be enforced on the contractor responsible for medical assessments.

Speaking at a Committee of Public Accounts hearing earlier this week, Guy said the contract managed by Atos Healthcare for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was too “process driven” and didn’t look at the results of what happened to claimants afterwards.

She said further penalties should be imposed upon the contractor for inaccuracies and appealed to the DWP to work with Citizens Advice to discuss ways of making the contract more effective.

Guy said the work-capability assessment is failing many disabled people and also questioned the qualifications of the staff carrying out the assessments. “There needs to be a requirement to get employment and support allowance (ESA) completed in advance, there is no excuse for assessors to be unaware of certain conditions,” she said. “There needs to be better information sharing with the DWP and Atos.”

Neil Coyle, policy director of Disability Rights UK, told the committee the review and said that it highlighted “a massive failure in public policy”. He went on to say: “We want to see better support for disabled people getting back into work but the delivery has been abysmal.”

Both Atos Healthcare and the DWP were criticised in a report into the contract by the National Audit Office published in October for poor contract management.

SM has contacted both the DWP and Atos Healthcare and is awaiting a response.

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