The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that they are looking for a new contractor to replace Atos to carry out Work Capability Assessments.
This isn’t unexpected given the recent announcement from Atos. However it is clear that the DWP have no interest in making the process any less traumatic. In fact the DWP press office has said that they intend there to be even more assessments but will not stop inflicting punishment by regularly reassessing people who are unlikely to recover.
The government is of course taking the opportunity to blame the previous government for the whole debacle while glossing over the fact that the coalition took a trial of Employment Support Allowance that was going badly, rolled it out across the country and ramped up assessments against the advice of their own experts. Labour may have hired Atos but the Conservatives and LibDems inflicted this travesty on far more people. In a written ministerial statement Mike Penning talked about “the process we inherited from the previous Government” and claimed that they had listened to experts when in fact they had repeatedly ignored experts.
The fact is that while Atos are complicit in inflicting suffering on sick and disabled people, they were following orders from the DWP. When Atos are replaced by another company the contract will still hold the replacement to “statistical norms” that allow only a tiny number of people to actually receive the help that we expect the government should provide. In reality the replacement of Atos by another brand name is unlikely to change even the staff carrying out the assessments or the buildings in which they take place. (Most of which are rented from the DWP anyway.) In his written statement Mike Penning said
“It is expected that the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment regulations will apply and most of the Atos employees will transfer to the new provider.”
The replacement for Atos will include the same staff, the same buildings, the same descriptors, the same statistical norms. Nothing will change. Same shit different scapegoat.
It is important to note that Atos will carry on under a separate contract in Northern Ireland and that Atos will still carry out WCAs until a replacement is found, though most repeat assessments will not take place. Do not assume that your WCA is cancelled!
Doc Hackenbush sums it up well: