According to a report in the Financial Times, (£) Atos are trying to bring an early end to their contract to carry out the Work Capability Assessment.
Atos, if you don’t know, are the French IT company that have the contract to assess every person that claims Employment Support Allowance and determine whether they really need support or should be told to get a job. They are notoriously bad at it, with vast numbers of decision overturned by appeal tribunals and many more who could not face the appeal abandoned without any income.
The Guardian reported on Monday that the Department of Work and Pensions were looking to commission other providers to take on some of the assessments but in a quote given to the Financial Times Atos said that they were already negotiating to leave the contract early. From the FT article:
The French IT company has been in discussions with the Department for Work and Pensions with a view to exiting the deal since October last year, because it views the tests as “outdated”.
“In its current form it is not working for claimants, for DWP or for Atos Healthcare,” Atos said. “For several months now we have been endeavouring to agree an early exit from the contract, which is due to expire in August 2015.”
“Despite these ongoing discussions, we will not walk away from a front-line service. Our total focus remains on delivering the services we are contracted to provide in a professional and compassionate way, until a new service begins.”
Of particular note is that in the article Atos are cited as saying that “the political environment has become untenable” and that the work capability assessment is “outdated”.
As I wrote earlier this week the replacement of Atos with another outsourcing company will not solve the problems with the Work Capability Assessment as those stem from government policy and the way in which the DWP enforce the contract so as to keep the numbers deemed eligible for help to a minimum. It is, however, satisfying to see a company which has been quite happy to play it’s part in the cruel and unnecessary suffering of thousands finally admit defeat.
Financial Times – Outsource group seeks exit from UK £500m benefits contract after death threats (£ – free registration to read 8 articles.)