Atos and Capita blamed
The DWP had planned to have moved all working age claimants off DLA by the end of September 2017. However, the OBR says it now expects the DWP and its contractors, Capita and Atos, to reassess 35,000 fewer claimants per month in 2016-17, a 45% reduction. The OBR now believes that the reassessment process will not be completed until 2018-19.
The OBR’s ‘Economic and fiscal outlook’ document, written to accompany the chancellor’s Autumn statement warns that the DLA to PIP transfer regime seems to be heading down the same disastrous road that saw Atos pull out of the work capability assessment:
“It is a concern to us that the revisions to our spending forecasts on DLA and PIP echo the pattern of revisions to our forecasts of spending on incapacity benefit and ESA during the reform of the incapacity benefits system.”
The OBR appears to lay the blame for the delay squarely on the shoulders of Atos and Capita:
“DWP’s external contractors have so far struggled to meet required volumes and outcomes. This means that the timetable for the reassessments has been extended from two to three years.”
400,000 to lose out
The report goes on to say that the OBR still expects 26% of current DLA claimants to end up with no award when assessed for PIP:
“. . . our forecast assumes that only 74 per cent of DLA claims reassessed would be successful in a PIP award. 8 So with around 1½ million claims assumed to be reassessed through managed migration, that implies that by 2018-19 just under 400,000 managed migration claims will not receive a PIP award, reducing spending by around £1.8 billion in that year.”
However, the prediction comes with an important caveat: the OBR has no data from forced reassessments to base its predictions on. Instead, because no results have yet come through from the forced reassessment of long-term claimants, all predictions are currently based on a group of 900 lifetime award claimants who volunteered to be assessed for PIP.
As the OBR points out, “these cases may differ from the larger number of managed reassessment cases due to take place over the next three years.”
The big question
The fact that reassessments are going to take three years instead of two may be good news for some claimants, who will be able to keep their DLA for an extra year. It is undoubtedly bad news for the government, which will find itself many hundreds of millions out of pocket as a result of taking longer to cut the disability benefits bill.
But the big question for claimants and the DWP alike is: what proportion of indefinite DLA award claimants will actually lose out as a result of the reassessment process. So far, we have predictions but no certainty.
Benefits and Work will keep readers posted as figures become available.