Seeing as the costs of the government’s reforms to welfare and unemployment are in the news today I thought it would be a good day to reveal an exclusive I have been sitting on – the costs of testing every individual on incapacity benefit are to be at least £100m a year.
I know this because I requested the information under a Freedom of Information Request way back in July and was very suprised to get an answer from the Department of Work and Pensions (they are normally very good at fobbing you off when you ask about current policy).
Following the government’s announcement that they were going to “test” every person on incapacity benefit to see whether they were claiming it legitimately or not I wanted to know a bit more about the actual process and how much it would cost.
I asked for the “expected cost of testing every individual on incapacity benefit” and the answer I received was: “The total cost of these services amounts to approximately £100 million per annum.”
This, to me, is a staggering sum of money to be spending on testing every individual on incapacity benefit to see whether they are ‘deserving’ of it.
Similarly I asked a vague question about “How this testing will be done in practice” and they revealed something worrying.
The DWP admitted that those assessing whether or not someone is deserving of incapacity benefit do not need to be trained doctors.
The FOI says “unlike the more widely known type of examination undertaken by a customer’s GP, the assessment is not concerned with diagnosis or decisions about treatment and therefore specialist diagnostic qualifications are unnecessary.”
To me this inevitably suggests mistakes will be made, and worrying ones at that…
The full FOI request is copied below
Date: 22nd July 2010
Our Ref: FOI 1526-1860
Dear Mr Dyke
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request dated 8th July 2010.
In you letter you asked:
- The expected cost of testing every individual on incapacity benefit
- How this testing will be done in practice
Following a customers claim for benefit, the DWP Decision Maker may ask Atos Healthcare to conduct an independent, impartial assessment of the customer’s illness or disability on their every day life. The resulting report then forms part of the evidence used by the Decision Maker when deciding the outcome of the customer’s claim.
These types of assessments are completed under the terms of the contract DWP has with Atos Healthcare by Health Care Professionals who are trained in Disability Analysis. Expertise in this field qualifies them to give an impartial, independent assessment on the way in which a customer’s illness or disability affects them in carrying out of a range of everyday work-related activities. Training includes the assessment of the effects of specific conditions, for example mental health, or where a condition may fluctuate. Emphasis is always placed on the differing circumstances of each individual customer.
Before Health Care Professionals can be approved by the DWP Chief Medical Adviser they must pass strict recruitment and experience criteria, be registered with an appropriate professional body such as the General Medical Council or the Nursing and Midwifery Council and be fully trained in Disability Assessment Medicine, with a programme of continuing medical education. They are also trained in customer rights, equal opportunities and professional standards.
Unlike the more widely known type of examination undertaken by a customer’s GP, the assessment is not concerned with diagnosis or decisions about treatment and therefore specialist diagnostic qualifications are unnecessary. However a customer may submit evidence from their doctor or specialist if appropriate.
The total cost of these services amounts to approximately £100 million per annum. This figure not only covers the total number of examinations undertaken across all benefits, but also costs relating to written and verbal medical advice, fixed overheads, administrative costs, investment in new technology and other service improvements.
If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number above.
Freedom of Information Officer
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