The National Audit Office has expressed concern about the management of contracts for the assessment of people on ESA and PIP. 98% of claimants for PIP have been receiving face to face assessments. They are critical of ” a cycle of optimistic targets, contractual underperformance and costly recovery”.
The DWP has been quite clear about its reason for doing so many assessments: they save money.
“The Department introduced a target of 1 million ESA assessments to be carried out in 2015-16. It told us it derived the non-negotiable target from the number of assessments needed to achieve expected benefit savings rather than from discussions with bidders or modelling of the possible number of assessments.”
Assessments do save money. Some people would say that that’s because people aren’t really entitled, and the assessments find them out; but it’s just as likely that the assessments are counting people out for the wrong reasons, such as not getting to the interview, not understanding the tests, or relying on the wrong sort of evidence. The assessments are slow, intrusive, and presumptuous (they overrule extensive medical evidence about people’s situations over time). We ought to be asking whether assessments are really the right way to save money, or whether we need to review the rules so that the benefits make more sense to everyone.