But will any ‘improvement’ plan be
just another whitewash?
Of course it will.
Government is just oh so predictable. People will no doubt be jumping with joy over today’s ministerial statement that Atos is at long last going to be subjected to having to put in place an improvement plan. You’ve only got to read the small print before you see how yet another corporate global giant will be offering Atos some ‘independent advice’ as to how to go about making the much needed improvements.
The DWP has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers “to provide independent advice in relation to strengthening quality assurance processes across all its health and disability assessments. In addition, and in the longer-term, increased provider capacity will ensure that a greater focus on quality can be achieved alongside enabling the number of assessments the Department requires to be delivered.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers are no strangers to Atos as clarified by an excerpt from yet another Atos glossy leaflet entitled “e-invoicing – speed-up your process – take cost-cutting initiatives”; it’s hardly encouraging that the accent is on even more cost cutting. The glossy goes on to highlight the close working relationship with Atos Worldline (another Atos derivative) and PWC:
“Atos Worldline studies European and worldwide constraints from a legal and fiscal point of view in collaboration with Price-waterhouse-Coopers Tax Consultants SCCRL office who is the leader studying rules to be applied to e-invoicing and e-archiving at international level. e-invoicing covers fiscal and legal prerequisites in more than 30 countries over the world”
And as if you couldn’t guess there’s more controversy involving the question of donations to the Tory Party
“The Electoral Commission confirmed that, since Cameron
became Tory leader, PwC has made non-cash
donations worth £545,000 to the
Conservative party in
“staff” and “consultancy services”.
It seems PWC was also called in to sort out a probe in to the death of NHS patients at a cost of £2.7 million pounds according to an article in the Daily Mirror
No doubt PWC will leave aside the need for probing questions in to the deaths of benefit claimants following Atos’s infamous health assessments.
Await the whitewash and clean bill of health to appease the select committee; after which it’ll be business as usual. Here’s Lord Freud’s ministerial statement:
Written Ministerial Statement
Monday 22 July 2013
THE DEPARTMENT FOR WORK AND PENSIONS
New providers to deliver Work Capability Assessments
The Minister for Welfare Reform (Lords) (Lord Freud): The Department for Work and Pensions is committed to continually reviewing and improving the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process, to ensure that it is as responsive to the needs of claimants as possible. As part of this and to bring down waiting times for claimants, DWP has decided to change its approach to contracting for the WCA, by procuring additional providers on a regional basis. This is in keeping with the Department’s current commercial strategy and will provide increased capacity. These arrangements are likely to be operational from summer 2014.
The WCA process is currently subject to a system of quality assurance and audits by both Atos Healthcare and DWP. A recent DWP audit identified a reduction in the quality of written reports which are produced by Atos following assessments and are then used by the Department to form part of the decision making process on benefit entitlement. This is contractually unacceptable. The Department is considering all its options under the contract and will apply all appropriate contractual remedies to ensure quality and value.
Atos has been instructed by the Department to immediately enact a quality improvement plan. Measures include retraining and re-evaluating all Atos healthcare professionals, with those not meeting the required standard of written reporting either remaining subject to 100% audit until compliant or having their approval to carry out assessments revoked by the Department.
The Department has also engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers to provide independent advice in relation to strengthening quality assurance processes across all its health and disability assessments. In addition, and in the longer-term, increased provider capacity will ensure that a greater focus on quality can be achieved alongside enabling the number of assessments the Department requires to be delivered.
Assessment reports, such as those provided by Atos, form only one part of the WCA process, which has a number of checks and balances built in to ensure the right decision is reached for claimants. After the Atos assessment DWP Decision Makers make the final decision on claimants’ benefit entitlement based on all evidence provided during the claim. If the claimant disputes the decision or appeals there is then a reconsideration process where another DWP Decision Maker will reconsider the decision. If the claimant is still unhappy about the decision made, they can appeal. It is important to stress that DWP’s audit activity showed that claimants whose reports did not meet our rigorous quality standard were no more or less likely to have been found fit for work or appeal against the Department’s decision than other claimants.
The Department also remains committed to the ongoing process of annual independent reviews of the WCA. From the three reviews already carried out by Professor Malcolm Harrington, over 50 recommendations have been, or are being, implemented to ensure the WCA is as fair and as accurate as possible. For example, we are currently carrying out an evidence-based review of the WCA descriptors with a number of major charities and we are working closely with the First-tier Tribunal to better understand the reasons for upheld appeals.
A further independent review of the WCA is currently being undertaken by Dr Paul Litchfield, a respected Senior Occupational Physician, and we expect Dr Litchfield to make recommendations before the end of the year to further strengthen the WCA.
The above measures show our commitment to continually improve the assessment, and to take decisive action when it becomes clear that there are issues which need addressing. We will come back to Parliament in the autumn with a further update.
A million thanks to the fantastic Nick at My legal Forum
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