David Cameron: #ATOS Decision Making Must Improve
David Cameron has said the company that carries out “fitness-for-work” tests on disabled benefits claimants has to improve its decision-making.
But he rejected an angry call by Labour MP Dennis Skinner, at Prime Minister’s Questions, to “get rid of” Atos.
The Bolsover MP dubbed Atos a “cruel, heartless monster”, referring to a constituent with cancer who had to wait 11 months for an appeal.
The man, a “butcher and farmer in Bolsover”, had now died, he told MPs.
The veteran Labour MP, his face red with anger, told Mr Cameron: “Isn’t it time we put an end to this system, where people that are really suffering should not be allowed an appeal, having to live on £70 a week? Him and his widow.
“Two things the prime minister should do: One, with immediate effect, make an ex-gratia payment to his widow to cover the suffering and pain and lost income
“And secondly abolish this cruel, heartless monster called Atos – get rid of it.”
Mr Cameron promised to look into the “desperately sad case” raised by Mr Skinner, adding: “Everyone who has constituency surgeries and talks to constituents knows that we have to improve the quality of decision-making about this issue.”
But he added: “I think it is important that we carry out proper assessments of whether people are qualified for benefits or are not qualified for benefits.”
He said Labour had “started to look at work capabilities” when they were in power.
Labour has said it would keep fitness for work tests if it wins the next general election, but has suggested it would sack Atos, saying it gets too many tests wrong and delivers poor value for money.
The French IT firm is paid by the government to carry out “work capability assessments” for people applying for the sickness benefit employment and support allowance, as well as people who were previously on incapacity benefit.
It was told to improve its services by MPs in July after an “unacceptable reduction” in the quality of its written reports.
A government audit, which analysed 400 reports, followed concerns being raised over the firm’s services.
The company responded by saying it provides a “professional and compassionate” service.