MPs on the public accounts committee (PAC) have issued a report which concludes that companies carrying out personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA) assessments are still failing to meet acceptable performance standards.
The committee found that too many PIP and ESA assessments do not meet the required standards, especially for claimants with fluctuating conditions or mental health conditions.
The quality of assessments is also very variable. Between 7% and 20% of assessments sampled by contractors do not meet the required standards. Yet the DWP return only 1% to the privatised companies as unusable, claiming that telephone calls resolve the issues with the rest.
The committee found that there are “unacceptable local and regional variations” in the performance of assessments. The DWP has admitted that, while waiting times for assessments have fallen, there are strong regional variations. The DWP collect figures on these and the PAC have said that they should start publishing quarterly results by the autumn.
There is also a huge difference between the average time it takes to return an assessment. For PIP, Atos and Capita take an average of four weeks, whilst Maximus take 23 weeks to return an ESA assessment.
Strong doubts were also raised about the value for money of an increase in the cost of assessments, with the PAC saying that "there has been no noticeable benefit for claimants or taxpayers". Costs are expected to double, with a staggering £579 million going into the pockets of private contractors in 2016-17.
The cost of ESA assessments, in particular, have risen from £115 per assessment to £190 under the new contract with Maximus. Yet witnesses told the PAC that there has been no noticeable improvement under Maximus.
You can download a pdf copy of the PAC committee report ‘Contracted out health and disability assessments’ from this link.