Capita have been given the contract for assessing disabled people in England for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) instead of Atos.
They are thought to give a more professional, empathetic and dignified service, and is said to be a ‘stark difference’ in their approach.
Atos have come under heavy criticism since the beginning of the governments reforms of disability benefits.
They are the company that runs the Work Capacity Assessment (WCA) for employment and support allowance and has been awarded the contract for PIP assessments for Scotland, the north and the South of England.
There has been a lot of upset caused by the changes, in particular with the contract being given to IT firm Atos, who have at one stage had a successful appeals rate of 40%. Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity, Scope, has described the PIP assessments as “deeply flawed”.
Capita is the company that have been given the contract for Central England, Wales and Ireland PIP assessments, and they believe that they will have much more emathetic approach to the assessments.
They have consultated with disabled groups, and decided to carry out 60% of the assessments in people’s homes and the remainder in an assessment centre, and to give claimants a choice about where they are seen. They have also said they will try to ensure that each PIP applicant is seen by an assessor expert in their disability.
Out of six-person senior management team, three are disabled themselves as well as the chief executive of Captia PIP. They believe this will help give them a better understanding in the impact of the assessments.
Capita have a commitment for 40% of it’s assessment team to be disabled themselves as they believe if more disabled people are involved in the process, it will make it more knowledgable and aware of the problems. Applicants will also be met for their assessments by “meeters and greeters” to ensure they are not anxious about their assessment.
The Disability Benefits Consortium have reviewed the companies, and found that Capita, compared with Atos, are consistently more understanding of disabled people’s needs.
Stephen Duckworth, chief executive of Capita PIP, said:
There is an awful lot of learning to be taken, from the Harrington review [into the WCA] and the anxieties and concerns that disabled people’s organisations have expressed.
We’ve got to develop an empathetic, professional and dignified service, to meet individual needs.
He accepts that the government’s restrictions on who is now to qualify will still mean that people who would previously have being assessed as needing PIP now will not, but his intentions of the assessments are not to save money:
All the targets we’ve got are around quality, customer experience and timeliness. We are not targeted at all on bringing benefit payments down.