There has been much understandable delight about the announcement that Atos will be exiting its contract to carry out work capability assessment (WCA) early. But what will and what won’t actually change as a result?{jcomments on}


The current situation for ESA and IB claimants. Although Atos are quitting the WCA contract early - except in Northern Ireland where they are staying on - they won’t actually be going until a new assessment provider has been put in place next year. In the meantime, IB claimants will continue to assessed for ESA by Atos as will all new ESA claimants.

Nothing changes for existing ESA claimants either. As we revealed last month, the DWP temporarily stopped referring existing ESA claimants for reassessment by Atos at the end of January, in order to try to clear the current backlog of cases. There has been no announcement of any change in that policy as yet.

The test. On the same day that they announced Atos would be leaving the contract early, the DWP also revealed, rather more quietly, that they would not be changing the WCA. So, whichever company gets the job, they will be administering exactly the same discredited and deeply unfair test.

The software. LiMA, the computer software system used to administer the WCA belongs to the DWP, although Atos have an exclusive licence to sell it to other countries around the world. The WCA is staying, so LiMA will be staying too.

The health professionals. In the statement announcing the early exit of Atos, Penning said:

“It is expected that the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment regulations will apply and most of the Atos employees will transfer to the new provider. The new provider should therefore be able to step into the contract without disrupting the service.”

In other words, the current health professionals will just be moved across to the new company wholesale.

The assessment centres. The ministerial statement also talked about “using elements of the Atos infrastructure”. It is very likely that all those centres that disabled claimants currently can’t park near or get into will be taken over by the new company.


The money. It’s very likely that the profits made by the new company will be greater than those made by Atos.

The DWP have been advertising throughout Europe since September last year for another company to carry out some of the WCAs, in order to end the monopoly held by Atos. In all that time they haven’t found a single taker.

Now they have to try to persuade a company to take over not just a bit of the contract, but the entire assessment system, in spite of all the reputational damage that Atos has suffered as a result if its involvement. The only way that any company is likely to touch the WCA is if either the profits are so big that they justify the risk to their brand or if there is a clandestine guarantee from civil servants and ministers that future bids for other government contracts will be very favourably assessed.

Either way, whichever company gets the government out of the mess it’s currently in with Atos, they are likely to be rewarded very handsomely.

So, everything stays the same . . . except the size of the pay cheque for the new assessment company.

For claimants, the fight goes on.


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