Taxpayer money ‘wasted’ on benefit checks

By staff

Benefit claimants have been "hounded" by the firm tasked with checking their fitness to work, according to a Labour MP.

Tom Greatrex called for a review from the National Audit Office (NAO) which found that French firm Atos Healthcare, a Paralympic sponsor, had not provided sufficiently tough checks on those seeking to claim disability benefits.

Its work capability assessment had seen inaccurate test results which led to four out of ten appeals succeeding, leading the NAO to conclude the £112 million contract is not good value for money.

The National Audit Office hit out at the Department for Work and Pensions for not seeking financial redress for the failures.

"The taxpayer is effectively paying for this service twice – once through the £112 million a year Atos receives from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and then again through the £60 million a year spent on appeals and clearing up the mess that results from Atos assessments," Greatrex said.

"Yet as the NAO makes clear, the government has failed to claw this money back from Atos to reimburse the taxpayer.

"The principle of assessing a claimant's fitness to work is a sound one. But people who are genuinely sick and disabled need to be helped, not hounded."

MPs had previously struggled to establish information about Atos' performance targets and financial penalties.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "It is a complicated area but we are committed to making it a success to ensure it is both fair and accurate for the user and value for money for the taxpayer."

Labour had originally introduced the fitness-to-work test in 2008, but it was the coalition government which opted to roll out the scheme nationwide after the 2010 general election.