The first details of the new assessment contracts for PIP, ESA and UC have been announced. The contracts split the UK into five regions, hand over £2 billion to the private sector over five years and allow the DWP to decide what proportion of assessments will be telephone or face-to-face, regardless of actual claimant needs.
Under the new claimant Functional Assessment Services (FAS) system, the UK will be divided into five regions from 1 August 2023:
Lot 1 – Northern England and Scotland 647,600,000
Lot 2 – Midlands and Wales 473,400,000
Lot 3 – South West England 338,000,000
Lot 4 – London, South East & East Anglia 396,800,000
Lot 5- Northern Ireland 105,100,000
In each region, a single company will carry out all the PIP, ESA and UC assessments.
The total value of the contracts is £2 billion, rising to £2.8 billion if the DWP chooses to extend the contract for an additional two years.
The Scottish government will be taking over PIP assessments itself in advance of August 2023, but there will be a few claims that are already underway which will still be dealt with by private sector assessors.
The bid winners will be paid for a 10 month ‘implementation phase’ during which they will have to get all their staff recruited and trained, acquire premises and set up IT systems before going live.
The DWP will provide one IT system for supporting PIP and a separate system for all other benefits.
However, bidders are warned that various changes may take place throughout the life of the contract.
These changes include alterations in the ‘channel mix’ as the DWP term it.
What this makes clear is that it is the DWP, not assessment providers who will decide what proportion of claimants receive a telephone or face-to-face assessment.The document gives the example: “change in proportional requirements relating to virtual assessments and face to face assessments. For example, the requirement may change from 60% face-to-face to 20%'.
This means that assessment providers will be working to meet targets for types of assessment, regardless of whether that means that some claimants are obliged to have an inappropriate method of assessment.
You can read more details of the contract on the Find A Tender website.