The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has been accused of being “unduly complacent” and of “hurting the most vulnerable” in criticism of the Capability Assessment by the Public Accounts Committee.
The company in charge of carrying out the assessments, ATOS, was paid£112.4 million to carry out 738,000 assessments during 2011/2012. Of the decisions made by the DWP on those assessments, 38% of those refused benefits were successful on appeal.
The chair of the committee, Margaret Hodge, stated that although ATOS has faced criticism for poor decisions making “most of the problems lie firmly within the Department for Work and Pensions” and continued “The department’s view that appeals against decisions are an inherent part of the process is unduly complacent.”
In further criticism of the system, “The work capability assessment process hits the most vulnerable claimants hardest” and “The one-size-fits-all approach fails to account adequately for mental health conditions or those which are rare or fluctuating.” Ms Hodge said.
In 2010, the government commissioned Professor Malcolm Harrington to review fitness-to-work benefit assessments. He subsequently called for an overhaul of the system to make it more “fair and humane”.
Ms Hodge further criticise the DWPs relationship with ATOS stating, “The department is too often just accepting what Atos tells it. It seems reluctant to challenge the contractor. It has failed to withhold payment for poor performance and rarely checked that it is being correctly charged.”
Perhaps this is indicative of the government’s unhealthy cosiness with big business, where the objectives of profit and penalising the vulnerable are the paramount objective.
This government have proven themselves to be bullies time and time again, and their targeting of people who have little chance of fighting a powerful entity just goes to show there is no empathy or care.