The performance of the two companies carrying out disability benefit assessments on behalf of the government is continuing to deteriorate, according to new figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The DWP figures, released to Disability News Service (DNS) under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the proportion of personal independence payment (PIP) assessments carried out by outsourcing giant Capita that lead to a complaint has risen significantly in the last three years.
And the proportion of PIP assessments carried out by fellow outsourcing company Atos that lead to a complaint has increased sharply in the last two years.
The figures suggest that the likelihood of claimants experiencing sub-standard PIP assessments at the hands of the two companies has dramatically increased, despite public expressions of regret to MPs by Capita and Atos in February 2016 and December 2017 (pictured) about their performance.
The figures also show that Capita is continuing to attract a much higher rate of complaints than Atos, while Capita is also about twice as likely to uphold a complaint as Atos.
In 2015, there were more than 1,800 complaints about Capita, with 1.1 per cent of assessments leading to a complaint.
But that rose to 1.42 per cent in 2016, to 1.44 per cent in 2017 and 1.57 per cent last year, with 3,490 complaints about Capita assessments in 2018.
In 2015, 0.52 per cent of Atos assessments led to a complaint, falling slightly to 0.49 per cent in 2016, before rising to 0.69 per cent in 2017 and 0.8 per cent in 2018.
Last year, Capita upheld 34 per cent of all PIP complaints, while Atos upheld only three per cent of “admin” complaints and 15 per cent of “clinical” PIP complaints.
DWP refused to say if it was concerned by the rise in complaints, by Capita attracting more complaints than Atos, and by Capita upholding more of those complaints.
It also refused to say if the figures showed that the performance of Atos and Capita was worsening year by year, and it refused to say what action it would take to address these concerns.
Instead, a DWP spokesperson said in a statement: “We want the PIP assessment process to work well for everyone and have made significant improvements, including testing the video recording of assessments.
“The number of complaints about PIP assessments represents less than one per cent of the total number of individuals assessed.”
Capita refused to say why it appeared to be attracting so many more complaints than Atos; why it was drawing more complaints every year; why it was upholding so many of those complaints; and whether it believed the figures showed its performance was worsening year by year.
A Capita spokesperson said: “We are committed to delivering a high quality and empathetic service for people applying for PIP.
“All our people are focused on delivering the best service to individuals coming through the PIP assessment process – their passion is evidenced in our monthly independent customer satisfaction results, which in 2018 was over 95 per cent.”
Atos refused to say why it thought it was attracting more complaints every year, and whether the figures showed that its performance was worsening year by year.
It also refused to say why it was upholding so few complaints, and fewer than Capita.
But an Atos spokesperson said: “While complaints represent on average less than one per cent of all assessments, we strive to ensure every claimant experience is positive, which is why our focus has consistently been on providing a professional and compassionate assessment service.”
Last year, the then minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, announced that the government was extending the Atos and Capita PIP contracts by a further two years, to 2021.
Since the introduction of PIP in 2013, the two companies have earned hundreds of millions of pounds from their assessment contracts.
DNS spent months investigating allegations of dishonesty by PIP assessors in late 2016 and throughout 2017, hearing eventually from more than 250 disabled people in less than a year about how they had been unfairly deprived of their benefits.
It continues to receive such reports today, more than two-and-a-half years after the investigation began.
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