Audit criticises Department for Work and Pensions over failure to achieve value for money in medically assessing benefits claims
Ministers have been urged to overhaul the government’s contract with the private firm Atos Healthcare, which carries out medical assessments for benefits claims, after auditors said the deal did not contain “sufficiently challenging targets”.
Work capability assessments (WCA) carried out by Atos are used to make decisions about whether people are fit to work or are eligible for benefits. The company has conducted about 738,000 medical tests on benefit claimants in the past financial year. However, it has emerged that 40% of people appeal against the decisions – with 38% of those successful.
The Labour MP Tom Greatrex wrote to the National Audit Office (NAO) earlier this year urging an investigation to ensure the deal gave taxpayers value for money. On Friday the National Audit Office criticised the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for not seeking “financial redress” for delays in carrying out tests and noted that the department had only collected 10% of possible penalties triggered by poor performance.
Greatrex, a shadow energy minister, said: “This is a damning assessment of the failure of the Tory-Liberal government to get value for money for the taxpayer or properly hold Atos to account for the chaos and confusion at the heart of the work capability assessment.
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