Disability benefit assessors trouser £50 rewards for squeezing extra tests into their day
Disability benefit assessors have trousered £50 rewards for squeezing extra sessions into their day, a leaked letter reveals.
MPs fear the cash piles are an “incentive to ride roughshod over claimants” by making tests rushed and inaccurate.
The powerful Commons Work and Pensions Committee launched a probe into the policy tonight after being shown the letter by the Mirror.
Atos staff assess four people per day for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which gives disabled people up to £141 a week.
But the outsourcing giant wrote to its health professionals in May 2017 offering £50 for every test they ran beyond four.
The letter said “incentives” were being extended and invited health professionals to work overtime.
It added: “You’ll receive an additional £50 for any assessment you do above four, within an assessment centre session, and three within a home consultation session.”
It comes despite Atos failing to meet its target of 97% of tests being “acceptable” - and tribunals overturning more than 100,000 PIP assessments since 2013.
The policy, which Atos told the Mirror was genuine, was shared online by an ex-assessor who said running more than four tests a day was “unrealistic”.
The assessor told the Mirror: "Every morning caused anxiety for me, knowing one claimant who required more probing questions could set the day back.
“I would spend evenings exhausted and unmotivated and anxious.”
Tonight Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field wrote to Atos demanding to know whether the policy was genuine, how widespread it was, and how Atos polices the quality of tests.
He said the incentive was never mentioned in Atos’ evidence to his committee and claimed it would “go against everything” he was told.
Mr Field’s letter to Atos states: “I am concerned financial incentives to complete assessments quickly may compromise the accuracy and quality of assessment reports - causing further distress to claimants.”
He told the Mirror: “It’s an incentive to ride roughshod over claimants and it can’t be right.
“Not only has the Government outsourced the assessment work, it has outsourced moral responsibility for the welfare of claimants. This is the outcome.”
Atos is the government’s largest provider of PIP assessments. Mr Field is also due to write to Capita, the other provider, and has not ruled out grilling bosses at the committee.
Asked about the £50 policy, a spokesman for Atos’ PIP assessments arm, Independent Assessment Services, confirmed: “It was a time-limited incentive in place last year in response to a period of high assessment volume and is not currently in use.”
He added: “When we have more cases to assess and to help minimise the time it takes for claimants to receive their assessment we will ask our health professionals, who undertake the assessments, if they are able to work additional hours to help complete more cases and we compensate them for doing so.
“However, we are clear that quality cannot be compromised and that satisfying all assessment criteria fully in each and every assessment is the number one priority.
“A continual programme of internal and external audits for assessments and reports is in place with verifiable information collated in an objective and transparent way.”Dan Bloom, Daily Mirror