The privately contracted companies tasked with assessing people for disability benefits are failing to meet the government’s standards and are accused of making inaccurate decisions, leading to MPs questioning their contracts.
A report released by the Work and Pensions Committee said the companies’ assessment processes were causing a lack of trust in the system and that the process needs “urgent change”.
Frank Field MP, who chairs the committee, said that existing contractors have “consistently failed to meet basic performance standards but other companies are hardly scrambling over each other to take over”. He suggested that the government could bring assessments in-house.
He also said that face-to-face assessments should be recorded to increase transparency and restore trust in the system.
“The current contracts have not made the system fairer, have not made it more transparent and have not made it more efficient. They are up for review, and market interest appears limp.”
The decision to contract out PIP and ESA assessments was initially taken to introduce efficient, consistent and objective tests for benefit eligibility. But the committee said none of these aims have been met by the current contractors.
The report said that none of the contracted providers has ever hit the quality performance targets set for them, and many claimants “experience a great deal of anxiety and other deleterious health impacts over a process”.
On Friday the committee released a report compiling some of the thousands of individual claimants’ experiences of the PIP and ESA claims process. It said the response to the inquiry was “unprecedented – in sheer volume, by an order of magnitude – and composed of accounts that were shocking and moving, credible and consistent”.
MPs flagged up a number of cases including one where a person was asked by an assessor when they “caught” Down’s syndrome. Another claimant’s assessment said she walked a dog daily, when she could barely walk and didn’t own a dog.