MP claims taxpayer paying twice for work assessments

Wheelchair car parking spaceWork assessments of disabled people provided by private firm Atos Healthcare must be reformed to make sure they work properly for claimants and taxpayers, MPs are set to be told.

Labour's Tom Greatrex, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, says that while work capability assessments are "sound in principle", the Government's chosen delivery has caused chaos.
In a speech in Westminster Hall later, the shadow Labour minister will claim the taxpayer is effectively paying twice for the £112 million contract with Atos - once to pay for the assessments and again to cover the cost of appeals, almost 40% of which are successful.

Criticisms of Atos were highlighted when the firm's logo appeared prominently on London 2012 lanyards at the Paralympic Games, as the company is a sponsor of the event.

Mr Greatrex, who applied for the 90-minute debate, is expected to say: "The work capability assessment (WCA) is sound in principle, but poor in practice. I want to see a reformed WCA that works in the interests of the individual claimant and the taxpayer.

"I want to see an end to the chaos that is at the heart of the current system, in large part caused by this Government's decision to push ahead with the migration programme before the WCA had been reformed. We need help back into work for those who are fit to do so, support for those who aren't, all the while ensuring value for money for the taxpayer."

Mr Greatrex asked the National Audit Office to assess the Government's contract with Atos earlier this year and was told the firm had not been penalised for "under performance".

Work capability assessments are used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to check claimants of the sickness element of the employment and support allowance. The assessments are used by the Government to make decisions on benefit claims and the ability of claimants to work.

Protesters staged a demonstrated at the DWP last week, claiming Atos assessments were being used by the Government to take people off benefits for ideological reasons.

A spokeswoman for the DWP said Atos does not make decisions because this is the job of "decision makers" in the department.

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