IT giant Atos wants to ditch its contract to assess ill and disabled people claiming out of work benefits, but it has not given up assessing people with long-term ill-health and disability for the new Personal Independence Payment.
Atos wanted out because the government told them they weren’t up to the job of implementing the Work Capability Assessment. A National Audit Office report shows Atos is also not up to the job of implementing PIP (replacement for the Disability Living Allowance).
According to NAO, on the Atos-run north-east PIP pilot, new claims are taking on average 107 days, instead of the target 74. Claims by terminally ill people are taking 28 days, instead of the target of 10 days.
The assessment regime for ill-health and disability benefit — first introduced by Labour — is designed to chuck people off benefits.
Three million people currently receive DLA, but the government say the introduction of PIP will reduce that figure by 600,000.
Maybe Atos can do that dirty job for the government, but delays have bad consequences too. Thousands of people awaiting news about PIP are living in fear, insecurity and desperate poverty.
Benefit cuts destroy lives, a fact highlighted in the press recently by the tragic story of Mark Wood. Mark Wood’s life collapsed after he had his benefits cut by Atos. No one from Atos asked Mark Wood’s doctor about his state of health, relying, as they always do, on a cursory assessment. Mark Wood had a number of serious mental illnesses, and difficulties caused by his Asperger’s syndrome.
Mark Wood’s relatives believe the cut in benefit made his eating disorder worse and as a consequence he starved himself to death.
This benefit regime should be scrapped!