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The DWP is refusing to release training materials which would potentially highlight difference between the way that Atos and Capita carry out PIP assessments, Benefits and Work can reveal.

Back in June Benefits and Work made a Freedom of Information Act request for training and guidance materials issued by Atos to staff carrying out PIP assessments.

The detailed guidance covers issues such as the way in which requests for the recording of PIP assessments are dealt with.

However, the DWP refused to release the guidance on the grounds that it was commercially confidential.

We asked the DWP to reconsider their decision, because these are not commercially confidential matters and there is a strong public interest in knowing how the PIP system is administered on a day-to-day basis.

If there is a difference in the PIP is manged by different companies, then this is also a strong matter of public interest as claimants ought to be able to be sure that their assessment is a standardised one and not one based on which company carries it out.

The DWP, however, have once again refused to release the documents because they consider them to be commercially sensitive.

The DWP told us:

“Release of this information would reveal to their competitors commercially sensitive information which would disadvantage IAS’s [Independent Assessment Service, the name that Atos now use] competitive position in the marketplace.

“This in turn would prejudice the ability of the Department to secure best value for the taxpayer when the contract is re-tendered. Release of this type of key financial information would also undermine the effectiveness of the Department’s future dealings with IAS or other service providers.”

The DWP now routinely refuses a large proportion of freedom of information requests on the grounds of commercial confidentiality, without attempting to justify in any way how anyone’s interests would be threatened.

Benefits and Work is now applying to the Information Commissioner to have the documents disclosed. We’ll let you know what their decision is.

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