The National Autistic Society (NAS) has criticised the Government for choosing private sector companies Atos and Capita to provide the assessment for the new personal independence payment (PIP).
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced that Atos, which runs the work capability assessment (WCA) for employment and support allowance, had won two contracts to carry out the work in England and Wales, with Capita winning a smaller contract.
The DWP’s announcement was made in the same week that two television programmes – Panorama and Dispatches – aired featuring the WCA, including highlighting the number of people who fail their initial assessment for the benefit, but then win their appeal. The programmes also suggested that the clinicians employed by Atos are monitored to ensure they do not find excessive numbers of claimants eligible for the benefit.
PIP replaces disability living allowance (DLA) in 2013. DLA is a working-age benefit for people with disabilities to help them look after themselves.
Amanda Batten, director of external affairs at the NAS, said: “The Government’s decision to use Atos as one of the providers of PIP is highly surprising. This week we saw two television programmes suggesting that the company had been granting benefit based on an arbitrary limit rather than the very real needs of disabled people.
“Since the WCA delivered by Atos failed to take into account the needs of so many people with autism and other disabilities there will be real concerns in the community about this decision.
“The Government must ensure that Atos and Capita learn from the failings of the WCA, which has not only wasted money but caused untold distress for many thousands of legitimately disabled people.
“The introduction of PIP must be a genuine strategy to improve the current system and not simply a money saving exercise. We all want to see a system that works well and protects people with autism and other disabilities who genuinely need help.
“PIP is the Government’s last chance to honour their promise to help those who need it most.”