The French firm judged 158,300 benefit claimants were capable of holding down a job – only for the Department of Work and Pensions to reverse the decision.
Tens of thousands of sick and disabled people were wrongly assessed as fit for work by the private company Atos. The French firm judged 158,300 benefit claimants were capable of holding down a job – only for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to reverse the decision.
The figures from a Freedom of Information request come amid reports the department is set to end the £500million contract with the firm. According to the request, work capability assessments carried out by Atos between August 2010 and June 2013 said 158,300 people with disabilities or a serious illness as fit for work.
In all these cases the DWP went on to decide they should be classed in the work-related activity group or the support group categories for people not yet ready to return to the jobs market. The figures are on top of the estimated 100,000 claimants who have had their Atos assessment overturned on appeal.
Labour’s shadow Work and Pensions minister Kate Green MP said: “What this shows is there are deep-rooted problems with Atos and the DWP has been aware of these problems for several years. It is high time ministers took action. Disabled people have no confidence in a system that is letting them down so badly.”
Atos has been dogged by criticism since winning the contract to carry out work capability assessments. Charities in August described Atos as “farcical” after it told nearly a half of all people suffering from crippling life-long diseases like Parkinson’s they would get better.
Ministers are now looking to end the multi-million pound contract with Atos after an 80-page financial review by the Department for Work and Pensions questioned the quality of the service.
“The department is working with Her Majesty’s Treasury and Cabinet office colleagues to seek additional providers to offer further capacity in the short-term and for these providers to then take over the whole contract,” the review said.
Richard Kramer of the charity Sense said: “The news that the Department for Work and Pensions is considering other providers for fit to work assessments is only part of the picture. There needs to be a root and branch reform of the system to ensure disabled people are judged fairly on their ability to work.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “Atos were appointed the sole provider for delivering Work Capability Assessments by the previous government. In July we announced Atos had been instructed to enact a quality improvement plan to remedy the unacceptable reduction in quality identified in the written reports provided to the Department.
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