Over half a million people are trapped in the assessment phase of employment and support allowance (ESA) whilst waiting for a work capability assessment (WCA) and hundreds of thousands more are dealing with the uncertainty of not knowing when their next assessment will be, a government minister has confirmed.{jcomments on}

In answer to a written question, Mark Harper, minister for disabled people, stated that:

“As at 30 September 2014 there were around 580,000 cases awaiting Work Capability Assessments at Atos Healthcare (down by 25% since February). These figures do not include cases where the claimant has yet to return the claimant questionnaire.

“From 1 March, MAXIMUS Health and Human Services Ltd. will take over delivery, initially using elements of the Atos infrastructure in order to ensure a smooth and gradual transition between providers. The priority for MAXIMUS will be to deliver the best service possible for claimants, increase the volume of assessments carried out and reduce waiting times.

“We are committed to reducing waiting times which is why this Government has awarded the new contract to Maximus.”

In answer to a separate question on reassessment of existing ESA claimants, Harper responded that:

“The Department has temporarily deferred routine repeat assessments for those already in the Work-Related Activity Group or the Support Group of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), in order to focus on new claims.

“Assessments are continuing for new ESA claimants and all those already referred to Atos. Repeat assessments will also continue for people who report a change in their circumstances.

“The Department has agreed a contract with a new provider, Maximus, to deliver the new assessment service from March 2015. We are working with Maximus to increase the number of assessments and resume repeat assessments once they have the capacity to do so.”


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