Controversial assessments run by Atos on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions should be scrapped and the work brought back in-house, the Public and Commercial Services union says.
The union, which represents almost 80,000 of the DWP’s 100,000 staff, was commenting after MPs on the public accounts committee criticised the government for its treatment of sick and disabled people forced to undertake a work capability assessment.
But the union also criticised the committee for blaming the lack of ’a competitive market for medical assessment providers’.
The key problem is not Atos’s monopoly, it is that the policy’s primary aim is to remove vital benefits from some of the most vulnerable people in society, and that spending cuts and the profit motive are driving decisions.
If companies were allowed to operate in a competitive market the quality of assessments would suffer even further in the race to cut costs to win contracts and make profits.
Instead the government should scrap the work capability assessment, bring the work back in-house and establish a fair, humane and inclusive system of assessing people who are entitled to benefits, alongside proper investment to create sustainable jobs and training opportunities.
A House of Commons motion – submitted by the chair of PCS’s parliamentary group John McDonnell, and currently the eighth most supported among MPs with 118 signatures – ‘applauds the British Medical Association call for the work capability assessment to end immediately’.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “These assessments are cruel and inhumane, and have been shown not to work. But the answer is not to throw the doors open to more private companies.
“Instead of targeting sick and disabled people in this way to simply cut the welfare bill, the government should scrap the assessments, bring it in-house and works with us and other advocates to set up a system that work with and for people, not against them.”
(from a press release)