The backlog of fitness-to-work assessments for benefits recipients could take as long as 18 months to clear, according to the company being brought in to deal with the problem.
Maximus Health Services UK was awarded a £500m three-year contract that starts in March, after Atos Healthcare ended its contract early following criticism about the number and speed of assessments it had carried out.
More than 600,000 appeals have been lodged against Atos judgments since the work capability assessments began, costing taxpayers £60m a year. In four out of 10 cases the original decisions are overturned.
Leslie Wolfe, president of Maximus, said it would aim to carry out assessments in a “timely manner”, but warned that improvements would not happen overnight. “It’ll take some time to hire the healthcare professionals. The expectation is that in 12 to 18 months, we should be able to catch up on the waiting times,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “We’re hopeful that if we [conduct] the assessments in a timely manner, some of that anger and resentment will go away.”