Last week, the Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, led an inquiry into ‘Contracted out health and disability assessments’, which looked at when the Department for Work & Pensions has used health and disability assessments. The Public Accounts Committee plays an important role in scrutinising the value for money of public spending and holds the government to account for the delivery of public services.
Our latest inquiry looked at the providers who conduct assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions which are central to the welfare reform programme; by better matching support to needs and helping people back into work. The Department for Work and Pensions contracts out assessments these assessments on eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and the voluntary occupational health assessment for those on long-term sick leave.
The Department for Work and Pensions expects to spend £1.3 billion on a total of 6 million assessments between April 2015 and March 2018 and therefore we wanted to look at whether this was providing value for money.
I know some of my constituents have encountered problems with such assessments in the past and I have stepped in on occasions to resolve problems. Where public money is being spent to provide a service, it is right that we should expect value for money and a service that delivers and meets targets. Clearly Atos and Capita have missed targets and provided a poor service, the key thing is to get these assessments right and I would like to see a better service in the future. I am glad that we had the opportunity to raise this with the providers concerned and that they recognised that their services had failed to deliver in some instances.