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Atos leaves disability test contract early: but will it change anything?

27 March 2014

27 March 2014

The Work and Pensions department has this morning announced that Atos, the provider of the Work Capability Assessments which determine whether a benefit claimant is fit for work, is leaving its contract early. The company, which had been underperforming on the contract for a while, was supposed to carry out the WCA until August 2015, but has made a ‘substantial financial settlement’ to DWP. Mike Penning has emphasised this in his reaction to the announcement, saying:

‘I am pleased to confirm that Atos will not receive a single penny of compensation from the taxpayer for the early termination of their contract, quite the contrary, Atos has made a substantial financial settlement to the Department.’

But it’s interesting that in its own statement, Atos makes the following points:

‘Atos Healthcare do not make the decision on someone’s benefit entitlement – the reports produced by Atos are only a part of the process with DWP-decision-makers making the final decision. Atos Healthcare have no influence on Government welfare policy. Appeals are against a DWP decision and not Atos Healthcare. The National Audit Office warned that there were dangers in the assumption that successful appeals were due to Atos Healthcare reports.’

Why does Atos feel the need to point all this out? Well, obviously it’s rather embarrassing that the company has had to leave this contract early. But while Atos is much maligned for the way it has carried out the Work Capability Assessments, it cannot shoulder the full blame for them. A new provider carrying out the tests may well do a better job of fulfilling the terms of its contract than Atos, but there are some deep problems that remain with the design of the test, such as its failure to assess, beyond a simple test, whether someone is truly capable of doing a real job. I’ve written about these problems before, and while ministers are constantly reviewing the test, I suspect we will see many of them rearing their heads under the shiny new provider of the WCA, whoever they may be.


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  • Jim Moore

    You are misinformed ! ATOS has quit the WCA for Employment and Support Allowance (for people who are sick) and still retains the new Personal Independence allowance(PIP). The underlying problems is that politicians also share a huge responsibility in the way things have been mis conducted and ATOS for the moment is everyone’s scapegoat. Its the legislation and the regulations that are at the heart of the problem not the companies trying to implement those regulations in my humble opinion.

  • London Calling

    Atos was evil the way it treated vulnerable people……..I am not sad to see them go…………:)

  • Mynydd

    Typical of this government, always someone else at fault never them.

    • HookesLaw

      I do not see anything in this report that says the govt are blaming ATOS for the rights and wrongs of their assessment. It says they are under performing – presumably this means they have not been processing the claims efficiently.

      Call be an old cynic but I think we can expect labour to make these tests ‘easier’ than the tories.
      We are doling out taxpayers money and its right that a proper test is done to determine who qualifies.

      • P.chi ki wan

        The test should be neither harder or easier ,they should be fair

        • Alexsandr

          but where do you put the bar?

          • P.chi ki wan

            The inability to work

            • Alexsandr

              what work? some severely disabled people work -look at Stephen Hawking. But hawking would struggle to do shelf stacking. But could he do his job with a severe migraine?

              • P.chi ki wan

                So who do you suggest should set the bar,and what work a disabled person could carry out

                • Alexsandr

                  that is the job of parliament to define rules that are fair to the claimants and to the taxpayer. If a contractor carries out the work according to that specification then any blame would led up with the legislator, not the contractor.

                • P.chi ki wan

                  So do you believe ATOS has not carried out the contract to the goverment’s specification

                • Alexsandr

                  I have no idea. But we should not blame them to cover for government failing to define the spec, or because their findings are politically embarrassing.

                • P.chi ki wan

                  So no ones to blame

                • Alexsandr

                  dunno. ask mynydd.

                • P.chi ki wan

                  Why

                • Alexsandr

                  cos he said ‘Typical of this government, always someone else at fault never them.’ and we are all replying to that.

                • P.chi ki wan

                  I was replying to hookeslaw on this thread

                • Mynydd

                  It’s the job of the government’s minister to define the rules. In parliament opposition MPs can attempt to modify the rules, but at the end of the day, due to its overall majority, it is the government not parliament that sets the rules.

                • P.chi ki wan

                  I would hate to think there would come a day the genuinely disabled were considered too costly to support

    • Alexsandr

      do tell me where they have blamed Atos?

      • P.chi ki wan

        I can’t see anything in Mynydd’s post that suggests the government are blaming ATOS.

        • Alexsandr

          ‘Typical of this government, always someone else at fault never them.’ -who does he think they are blaming, and where?

          • P.chi ki wan

            Mike Penning blamed labour

            • Alexsandr

              yu will have to help me here -have you a reference for that, please. I cant find it.

              • P.chi ki wan

                Mike penning stated on BBC news labour contracted ATOS to carry out assessments but failed to say that the present government sets the guidelines for these tests.Make of that what you will

    • Colonel Mustard

      That is far more true of your precious Labour. Name a Labour minister who has apologised or resigned for anything.

      • DWWolds

        Well, of course, in Labour’s eyes all the world’s problems began in 2010. Anything before that – apart from Margaret Thatcher – has been expunged from their version of history.

        • Mynydd

          I am concerned about todays problems and who is to blame, not about the history of Heath, Thatcher, Major, Blair, or Brown, the voters have already given their verdict on these.

          • DWWolds

            It is not quite that simple because, unfortunately, so many of the problems we are faced with today have their roots in the Blair/Brown era.

      • Mynydd

        There are no Labour ministers, you may not have noticed that the Labour party sits on the opposition benches.

        • Colonel Mustard

          No time parameters to my challenge which was about Labour ministers not shadow ministers.

          “During its term in office from 1997 to 2010, controversies affecting the Labour Government such as David Blunkett’s affair with Spectator editor Kimberly Fortier and financial scandals involving senior ministers and officials shifted the focus to sleaze within the Labour Party.”

          Well?

  • Alexsandr

    I would have thought that the reputational risk of taking on this contract would outweigh the profit. Cant see providers queuing up to take this on.
    And what will happen to the staff?

    • P.chi ki wan

      Sounds like an argument to bring assessments into the public sector

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