This is privatisation. It’s ugly.

Here are a few extracts from the recent Public Accounts Committee report on the performance of the contracted out companies who perform disability assessments.

 

Contracted out health and disability assessments.

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Given this lack of transparency, claimants do not have a clear expectation of the service they can expect from the Department and its contractors. MIND, Citizens Advice and the Disability Benefits Consortium reported that delays and problems with the assessment process still create anxiety for claimants.
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Claimants are still not receiving an acceptable level of service from contractors, with particular concerns for claimants with fluctuating and mental health conditions. While the average time it takes PIP contractors to return assessments to the Department is now an acceptable four weeks, ESA assessments still take an average 23 weeks. MIND, Citizens Advice and the Disability Benefits Consortium considered that, despite claims being processed more quickly, the claimant experience is often poor.
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Too many assessments do not meet the standard required. The Department and contractors acknowledge that past performance has been unacceptable and noted their commitment to improving the quality of assessments. A significant proportion of the assessment reports sampled by contractors (ranging from 7% to 20%) do not meet the contractual standard required.
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The unit cost of assessments has increased, but there has been no noticeable benefit for claimants or taxpayers. The Department expects to pay more to contractors as the volume of assessments increases—the cost of contracts is expected to more than double to £579 million in 2016–17. However, the cost per ESA assessment has also increased with a significant rise in cost per assessment from £115 to £190 under the recent contract.
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 Capita admitted that it had not got the PIP contract right and that critical assumptions had to be revisited. MAXIMUS confirmed that it would not meet the one million ESA assessment volume target in the first year of its contract.
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We are concerned by the National Audit Office’s finding that the Department could not show it had challenged assumptions about staff attrition rates during training despite holding evidence that assumptions were optimistic.
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Atos paid to exit the first ESA contract early. The current ESA contractor expects to make a loss on the contract in the first year and one experienced bidder withdrew from the recent procurement process for the ESA contract. Neither Atos nor Capita would comment on whether they would consider re-bidding for PIP contracts.
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