Personal Independence Payments (PIP) assessments, which provide funding for disabled people to live independently, have been judged to be unacceptable by the government’s quality control scheme.
New data shows the private firms which are responsible for PIP assessments, and earn more than £500m doing it, failed to meet their quality standards target after over 6% of assessments were deemed “unacceptable” between July and October.
The figures have been released by the government to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, which has placed the two PIP assessment firms, Atos and Capita, under the spotlight.
It was revealed that between them only four doctors are employed and the rest of the staff are made up of nurses, OTs and physiotherapists.
The government has been scrutinising the private companies after around 90,000 people overturned assessments that ruled they were not eligible for PIP.
While the committee heard quality control work is carried out by the employed doctors the committee’s chairman, Frank Field, criticised the firms for not hiring more doctors, the Mirror reported.
“You’ve got two doctors each, mega workload – maybe there’s a lot of doctors out there who would long for some part-time work. You haven’t sought them out to raise your game, have you?” he was quoted as saying.
Dr Barrie McKillop, clinical director of Atos’ PIP division, maintained that the company’s model was strong. He added that he would welcome recording benefit assessments to ensure they are fair.
While private firms carry out the assessments, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) makes the final decision on whether to grant a claimant benefits.
Recently, one former nurse said PIP assessments were “chaotic and unfair”. The nurse, who remains anonymous, was a disability assessor who said she left her job because she thought PIP claimants were being treated unfairly.
There were major inconsistencies in the feedback to assessors and staff writing paper-based reports, which made assessment guidelines “blurred and confusing”, according to the former staff member.