DWP signs potential £50m Atos deal for IT system to support personal independence payment assessments
Platform will go live with assessment providers next summer
The Department for Work and Pensions has signed a potential £50m long-term deal with Atos, through which the consultancy will support a nationwide IT system that will underpin the delivery of assessments for Personal Independence Payments.
Newly released commercial documents reveal that the deal came into effect on 19 May, and will run for an initial term of six years and three months, during which Atos will be paid at least £31m – plus an optional nine-month extension, valued at £3.9m. Contingency payments of an additional £14m may also be made to the consultancy between now and 2029, depending on the volume of assessments processed once the system opens for use in August 2023 – the point at which contracts with providers of a new functional assessment service for claimants will come into effect.
PIP is available to adults to help meet the additional costs of living with a disability or long-term health condition. Beginning in 2013, the benefit was gradually introduced to replace Disability Living Allowance.
The most recently available government data shows that, as of the beginning of this year, there were 2.9m people across England, Wales, and Scotland eligible to claim the payment. A total of 170,000 claims were made in the closing quarter of 2021.
The new functional assessment service will replace two existing services, one of which is for existing assessments for claimants of PIP, and the other for those applying for Employment and Support Allowance. The former are currently administered by Atos and Capita, while the latter are delivered by Maximus. The DWP intends to appoint one provider of FAS for each region of the country. Thes firms will then be tasked with delivering assessments and advising departmental officials on claimants' eligibility to receive benefits.
In the meantime, Atos will deliver “implementation, migration and transition services” for a new “national managed IT service supporting PIP”.
The contract notice said: “The IT managed service solution will administer the processes for the completion of all PIP assessment reports… [which] support the [DWP] to decide whether a claimant is entitled to PIP. The system will initially receive referrals from the DWP PIP Computer System. An initial review takes place to determine whether an assessment can be completed based on the available evidence held in the DWP Document Repository System, or if a consultation is required.
It added: “When a consultation is required, the solution will support the scheduling and booking of appointments – at an assessment centre, by video or phone call, or at the claimant’s home. The solution will support the completion of all types of PIP assessments and facilitate audit processes to check the quality of the completed assessment reports. The solution will send assessment results to the DWP PIP Computer System and initiate the generation of completed assessment reports.”
At some point, the DWP may extend the scope of the IT system to include the processing of work capability assessments – which are required for some claimants of Universal Credit – as well as “other related benefits”. The Atos contract may be modified accordingly.
“No decision to include these services had been made prior to award, and this was not a factor in the evaluation,” the notice said. “Any agreement to modify the PIP IT Managed Service to include these additional services will be subject to agreeing a contract change with the supplier.”
Atos previously provided Work Capability Assessments, but its contract to do so was brought to a close in 2014 – one year earlier than planned.
The termination of the deal came after growing controversy about reports of inhumane treatment of those being assessed, and sick and disabled people wrongly being judged to work. Once the contract was concluded, the then-minister for disabled people Mike Penning said “I am pleased to confirm that Atos will not receive a single penny of compensation from the taxpayer for the early termination of their contract; quite the contrary, Atos has made a substantial financial settlement to” the DWP.
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