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End privatisation of disability benefits assessments, says Labour MP

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The controversial assessment process for deciding whether a person is eligible for disability benefits is not working under its current structure, according to a Labour MP.

Currently, disabled people must undergo an assessment which constitutes a series of ‘tests’ run by a private company to see whether a person meets the criteria to be eligible for disability pay outs.

But North West Durham MP Laura Pidcock has said that private outsourcing of the assessments has to be scrapped.

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She described the process as a “broken system” and said that the “stressful” face-to-face assessments should only be used if there is “an absolute necessity, such as a lack of evidence on which to decide on entitlement”.

Currently, benefit assessments are out-sourced by the government to contractors which have failed to meet the Department for Work and Pensions’ own performance targets on numerous occasions.

Ms Pidcock said that since 2010 more than £1bn has been paid to private contractors, including Atos and Maximus. Despite the controversy, Maximus’ contract has been extended to 2021.

“Assessments should be a last resort… Let us be honest: this is institutionalised bullying and harassment of sick and disabled people,” she said during a Parliamentary debate.

Ms Pidcock described how one person who underwent the assessment said that the process feels like “psychological rape, expressly designed to make you feel that you are the absolute property of the state, that you are not a human being and that your continued survival is basically an affront to society”.

Others have said that the system should be abolished as it is “a cruel and pointless exercise in ideology”.

Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, said that the DWP is looking to improve operational processes, including providing better training.

He added: “I am committed to supporting disabled people and those with long-term health conditions to claim and receive the benefits to which they are entitled and to ensuring that people are treated fairly and with dignity.”

Tags : atosdisability benefitslabourlaura pidcock
Joe Peskett

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