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Reform Watch

14 June 2007
Welfare Reform Bill enacted
The Welfare Reform Bill is now the Welfare reform Act.

The government has got the new Act received royal assent - still with lots of blank spaces - with a minimum of difficulty.

However, two important concessions were made by the government in the course of the Bill's passage through the House of Lords:

the definition of what constitutes a health care professional for the purposes of the Act is now much narrower, limiting those who can carry out assessments to doctors, registered nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists;

private and voluntary sector agencies will not have the power to sanction claimants benefits, only DWP decision makers will be able to do this.

Much of the fine print relating to how ESA will work is still missing from the Act, however, and we will keep readers informed as more regulations are passed.

Murphy u-turn on LiMA ownership
Following pressure from Benefits and Work, Jim Murphy has admitted that the LiMA incapacity assessment software does indeed belong to the DWP and not to Atos Origin.

Jim Murphy originally claimed in a parliamentary written answer that stakeholders involved in the 'transformation' of the PCA could not be given access to Lima because it is 'owned by Atos Origin and is, therefore, commercially sensitive information' (see: Reform Watch 13.03.07)

However, we contacted MP Janet Dean challenging this claim and in a further written answer on the subject to the MP, Mr Murphy admitted that:

"The DWP hold copyright and intellectual property rights over the program (sic) and license a third party - Atos Origin Medical Services - to use, customise, distribute, incorporate, market, maintain, support, sell and sub-license LiMA in return for payment of a royalty to the DWP."

Mr Murphy offered no apology or explanation as to how, yet again, property of the taxpayer had wrongly been attributed to one of the multinational companies involved in the delivery of welfare benefits.

Pathways invitations reissued
Jobcentre Plus has had to reissue the invitation for private and voluntary sector organisations to take part in moving disabled people back into work. The reason for the reissue, according to the DWP, is 'because of the expected increase in the volume of referrals after the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is introduced in 2008'.

Given that the introduction of ESA was the reason why private and voluntary sector organisations were invited to become involved in the first place, this is a rather surprising claim.

Benefits and Work suspects that the pressure to allow new tenders has come from the organisations themselves as details of ESA, and particularly the extremely harsh criteria for being part of the Support group who do not have to take part in work-related activities, have been published. The realisation may have dawned on private sector agencies that their clients under ESA will include many more very severely disabled claimants than they had ever imagined they would be working with and that profits from getting people into full-time employment may not be so easy to come by.