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One of a collection of long overdue freedom of information requests received by Benefits and Work demonstrates that another of Iain Duncan Smith’s deadlines is unravelling before our eyes. The memo reveals that the new contractor delivering work capability assessments (WCAs) should already be in place and beginning to take over from Atos.

A memo headed ‘Atos Healthcare will no longer deliver Work Capability Assessments by 2015’ was sent out to DWP managers on 27 March 2014

The document explains that the Atos is to exit early from its contract to deliver WCAs, which was due to end in August 2015. The memo goes on to say that:

“The most effective way to stabilise and then increase delivery of Work Capability Assessments is to bring in one national provider to deliver the services. The plan is for the new contract to be awarded later this year. There will be a gradual transition from Atos to the new provider with a view to the new provider taking responsibility for delivery of Work Capability Assessments by 2015.”

However, that plan began to unravel as early as July of this year when the DWP realised that Atos owns all the hardware required to run the LiMA software used in WCAs.

As the Central Government Computing website revealed, the DWP were having to pay Atos an extra £10 million to carrying on running all the hardware for assessments for an additional year whilst a new IT provider is sought. The new contract runs into 2016 with options for it to continue right into 2020.

Meanwhile, however, there is still no sign of a company stepping in to carry out the actual face-to-face assessment. The possibility of Atos being fully replaced by the end of the year now seems very slim as another of IDS’ projects misses its deadline.

Comments  

#12 micksville 2014-10-29 12:30
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-29815425

this news breaking today though the bbc hasnt fully confirmed it yet. Nor is there anything on internet re a timetable for the transition from Atos to Maximus or what areas the latter will cover
+2 #11 tintack 2014-10-23 11:28
Quoting carruthers:
But by then the MoJ will have introduced charges for appeals which, together with the stopping of Legal Aid and the squeeze of CAB, WRO etc funding, is going to reduce the number of cases going to Tribunal.

And all of that before the withdrawal from the ECHR, which will mean that there will be nothing stopping a new Parliament from passing any laws for which they can get a majority regarding rights of appeal etc.

Last time I saw some incredible proportion of cases is now going into the Support Group - >50%? So look for new legislation to reduce eligibility down to something closer to 20% or some other device to reduce the disability benefits bill. And that's whichever party is in power, because that's the policy of the DWP permanent officials - including Lord Freud, who might still be there regardless of which government we end up with.

Still, there's a chance that a General Election might just see the back of IDS and UC.


Getting the Tories out in May is obviously of paramount importance. The Tories will bring in charges for appeals and other measures of the sort you describe without a second thought. A Labour government would find it much harder to do so, even assuming it wanted to, since there is a fair bit of opposition on the Labour back benches to the persecution of the sick and disabled. By contrast, on the Tory back benches there's positive relish for it.
+2 #10 carruthers 2014-10-23 04:17
Quoting tintack:

That said, the problem will certainly continue if a company like Maximus takes over. The only glimmer of hope I can see if that happens is that it will be just as big a train wreck as it was under Atos. That might be enough to deliver the coup de grace to this wretched system.

But by then the MoJ will have introduced charges for appeals which, together with the stopping of Legal Aid and the squeeze of CAB, WRO etc funding, is going to reduce the number of cases going to Tribunal.

And all of that before the withdrawal from the ECHR, which will mean that there will be nothing stopping a new Parliament from passing any laws for which they can get a majority regarding rights of appeal etc.

Last time I saw some incredible proportion of cases is now going into the Support Group - >50%? So look for new legislation to reduce eligibility down to something closer to 20% or some other device to reduce the disability benefits bill. And that's whichever party is in power, because that's the policy of the DWP permanent officials - including Lord Freud, who might still be there regardless of which government we end up with.

Still, there's a chance that a General Election might just see the back of IDS and UC.
+1 #9 tintack 2014-10-22 21:11
Quoting carruthers:
I'm far from sure that Atos is backing out because "their reputation is in shreds". I think they are backing out because of their staffing problems - which is not helped by the odium attached to Atos, but is mainly because (a) Atos are bad employers and (b) the job stinks - even for people who support the no-so-hidden agenda of "disqualify anyone you can". Atos bully and harass their staff and doctors, in particular, object to having their judgements over-ruled by bureaucrats with no medical training.


It's impossible to know for sure, but suppose that Atos had the staffing problems, but hadn't had their reputation torn to shreds: in that scenario, I'm pretty sure they'd be happy to carry on pocketing huge sums of public money, even if it meant a high turnover of staff due to the way they treat them. They're too greedy not to.

That said, the problem will certainly continue if a company like Maximus takes over. The only glimmer of hope I can see if that happens is that it will be just as big a train wreck as it was under Atos. That might be enough to deliver the coup de grace to this wretched system.
+2 #8 carruthers 2014-10-22 17:34
Quote:
the current contractor is pulling out of its contract early, despite it being so lucrative, because their reputation has been utterly shredded
I'm far from sure that Atos is backing out because "their reputation is in shreds". I think they are backing out because of their staffing problems - which is not helped by the odium attached to Atos, but is mainly because (a) Atos are bad employers and (b) the job stinks - even for people who support the no-so-hidden agenda of "disqualify anyone you can". Atos bully and harass their staff and doctors, in particular, object to having their judgements over-ruled by bureaucrats with no medical training.

This problem is going to be the same for whoever inherits the contracts unless the DWP is prepared to change the rules under which Atos had to operate. I'm sure I read somewhere that the DWP were intending to change, by ministerial order, the lists of those conditions which needed to be assessed by a doctor. (If anyone has a reference for that, I'd love to have it). That would ease the staffing problem.

I'm also guessing that the DWP would probably like to remove the right to have the assessment recorded (as they have for PIP). That's one of those things which I shall be raising with anyone trying to get my vote in 2015 - it's not a big concession or a major spending promise, but it is one safeguard against outright misinterpretati on and fraud.

We may need it.
+4 #7 tintack 2014-10-21 17:29
A company with a track record of fraud and corruption in the US getting involved in the UK benefits system.....soun ds like UNUM all over again.

There is a difference this time round though. When the WCA was being set up, hardly anyone knew anything about who was involved, or what sort of assessment was coming. It therefore took some time for that knowledge to emerge, and for people to get themselves organised in order to protest. For the first year or two of the WCA's existence, the public knew very little about Atos or the WCA itself, and it was very hard to get any kind of media interest.

Maximus - or whoever it is that gets the contract - will not have that luxury. Not only are they are taking over a massively dysfunctional assessment regime, they are doing so when the current contractor is pulling out of its contract early, despite it being so lucrative, because their reputation has been utterly shredded. The new company will therefore find themselves under the microscope from day one.

There is no way Atos would have left the contract early had it not been for the tireless campaigning by sick and disabled people, which eventually started to be heard over the incessant propaganda of the right-wing press. If Maximus go down the Atos/UNUM road, as their track record suggests, they will find the heat turned up on them very quickly. And it's virtually inevitable that the appalling decisions and bad press will continue - whoever gets the new contract - because everyone knows that the current mess won't be sorted out until the WCA itself is subjected to radical reform. That is exactly what this government refuses to do.

I can only assume that the government is stupid enough to think that we'll be fobbed off by changing the contractor, thus allowing them to leave the WCA as it is. If so, they've badly miscalculated. If anything, appointing a company like Maximus will only intensify the protests and controversy.
+1 #6 Just Me 2014-10-21 14:31
Well it looks like an announcement is going to be made next week....

http://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/7241/

If Maximus get the contract in then they will make ATOS look like Mother Teresa. :(
+3 #5 francis1969 2014-10-20 20:24
I was under the impression that of those who had tendered that it was now down to only 2 'disability denial' firms. I had read recently that a US group, Maximus were 1 of those still in running who apparently make ATOS look like altar boys!
I know Maximus have already been handed a contract to deal with employees on sick with a view to returning them to work asap. Maybe and hopefully I am mistaken, but if what I have read about this bunch, things ain't gonna get any easier for us, in the short term. The whole bloody idea of the WCA and anything and everything linked to it needs consigning to that place where those who call themselves part of current 'govt' will find themselves at GE2015! Please, God.
+1 #4 margaret 2014-10-20 19:56
Does the inclusion of "software" mean that the LiMA program, which the DWP was keeping secret because it represented commercial assets owned by the DWP, is not owned by them after all?

LIMA is owned by ATOS they have the contract for IT till 2016 and possibly 2020 aswell
+2 #3 tintack 2014-10-20 15:44
Quoting shimtoan:
I think I know why no company has offered to take over WCAs - they don't want to receive the same press Atos have.

Of course, they'd avoid that bad press if they did their job properly and compassionately


The problem that any new company would have is that they would be implementing the same assessment currently carried out by Atos. Even Atos have said that the huge flaws in the WCA mean that simply changing to another company won't make a great deal of difference.

That's not to say that better and more compassionate implementation wouldn't be welcome, but until the assessment itself is overhauled to make it more realistic and compassionate, the appalling decisions will continue and so will the bad press. Since the current government is completely against overhauling the test, it's not surprising that they're having trouble finding a replacement for Atos.
+2 #2 shimtoan 2014-10-20 13:50
I think I know why no company has offered to take over WCAs - they don't want to receive the same press Atos have.

Of course, they'd avoid that bad press if they did their job properly and compassionately
+2 #1 carruthers 2014-10-20 13:22
The website says,

Quote:
The technical requirements of the IT services, including hardware, software, premises, mean that another supplier would not be able to build, test and deliver new IT services in time.
Does the inclusion of "software" mean that the LiMA program, which the DWP was keeping secret because it represented commercial assets owned by the DWP, is not owned by them after all?

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