Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Atos apologises to long-term sick wrongly assessed as fit for work

Healthcare company 'takes complaints seriously' but says it only runs assessments and that decisions are made by the DWP. 

 In her first public interview, Lisa Coleman, the manager who oversees the firm's contract with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), was asked by BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme if she would like to apologise. She replied: "If we get something wrong then I'm very happy to say sorry."But, she added, Atos did not make decisions on what benefits people received, and its responsibility was only with properly conducting the assessments.

"The Department for Work and Pensions make decisions. We don't make decisions."Although the coalition has conceded that the assessments could be improved, there is little doubt that ministers intend to increase their role in the welfare system. 

Ministers claimed last month that 878,000 people who were on incapacity benefit dropped their claim to the payments rather than undergo a tough medical test.

The Conservative party chairman, Grant Shapps, said the figures "demonstrate how the welfare system was broken under Labour and why our reforms are so important". 

 But it later emerged that this figure was calculated by adding up the 20,000 claimants every month who leave the benefit system without undergoing a work capability assessment over four years – which DWP's own research says is largely owing to the fact many people will see an improvement in their condition, or will return to work regardless of whether their condition improves.

A DWP spokesman said: "We are committed to helping thousands of people move from benefits and back into work if they are capable, while giving unconditional support to those who need it.

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