Friday, 8 February 2013

[Indian Bicycle Marketing] That was then, this is now

Thanks to Bob E for the links:

1. Wikipedia:

Atos HealthcareAtos Healthcare, a division of Atos providing consulting in the UK health sector, employs over 3,000 people.... Its most prominent business process outsourcing contract is with the Department for Work and Pensions, under which it "conduct[s] disability assessments for people claiming a range of disability benefits including Employment Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Disability Living Allowance and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit."

Initially awarded to Schlumberger's Sema Group (subsequently purchased by Atos) in 1998, the contract was renewed for a further five years in March 2005. The contract with the DWP was believed to be worth £400 million to Atos.

NB. The Labour Party was in government from 1997 to 2010.

2. National Audit Office report The Medical Assessment of Incapacity and Disability Benefits of 9 March 2001:

Recommendation (gg): The Committee has not been convinced that there has been an improvement in the quality of examinations and reports since contractorisation. Some efficiency improvements have been made: the challenge now must be to improve the quality of reports and the treatment of claimants. Given that there is pressure on doctors to see more patients more quickly it is difficult to see how this can be achieved.

Ministers should ask themselves whether one of the goals of contractorisation - improved service to the public - has really been achieved. If they conclude, as we do, that it has not, they should take steps to renegotiate the contract, or otherwise influence performance to ensure that this goal is met.

3. Hansard, 13 March 2008:

James Purnell [Labour MP, then in government]: I said that this was a contract, and so it is. As my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) quite rightly said, for those who can work, there is no option not to do so. We have already announced—much to the Opposition’s chagrin—that there will be work for the dole for young people who are not working or learning and for the long-term unemployed: a much wider programme than the one that they had previously announced...

Last month, we announced payment by results. Now, we can announce that everyone on incapacity benefit will be put through the work capability assessment to find out whether they are capable of work.

4. PM's welfare speech, 25 June 2012:

[David Cameron, now Conservative Prime Minister] The [welfare] system we inherited was not only unaffordable. It also trapped people in poverty and encouraged irresponsibility. So we set to work.

In two years, Iain Duncan Smith has driven forward welfare reform... And he is delivering remarkable results:

Over 400,000 more people in work than in 2010. Tens of thousands of claimants of incapacity benefits re-assessed, and found ready for work. We’ve established the biggest-ever Work Programme – and we’re well on our way to getting 100,000 people into jobs. We’ve helped tens of thousands of young people find real work experience.

5. Guardian, 7 February 2013:

Margaret Hodge [Labour Party MP, now in opposition], chair of the public accounts committee, said the Department for Work and Pensions was getting far too many decisions wrong on claimants' ability to work.

The government should accept much of the blame for distressing and expensive fitness-to-work tests that have caused "misery and hardship" to thousands of benefit claimants, according to a report by MPs released on Friday.

The public accounts committee said there had been much criticism of Atos, the firm contracted to conduct so-called work capability assessments (WCA), but it warned that most of the problems lay with the Department for Work and Pensions.

The tests on claimants were introduced in 2008 to assess entitlement to employment and support allowance. Atos was paid £112.4m to carry out 738,000 assessments in 2011-12.