In a detailed report this month, the Commons Work and Pensions committee has said that it ‘beggars belief’ that PIP and ESA assessments are not routinely recorded. They also say that private sector companies carrying out assessments should not have their contracts renewed.
The committee found that “pervasive lack of trust is undermining” the system of assessments for PIP and ESA and that “this is translating into untenable human costs to claimants and financial costs to the public purse.”
The report goes on to say that:
“Recording the face-to-face assessment would go so far toward increasing transparency and restoring trust it beggars belief that this is not already a routine element of the process.”
MPs on the committee are clearly bewildered by the DWP’s stubborn refusal to record assessments as a matter of course:
“The resistance from the Department to instituting this is equally bewildering. The cost of providing a record of the assessment is surely nothing compared to the benefits of restoring trust. Those benefits should include far fewer decisions going to appeal – and being overturned there - at considerable legal expense to taxpayers.”
Perhaps even more controversially, the committee suggests that the DWP should sack the private companies involved and carry out assessments themselves:
“The current contracts have not made the system fairer, have not made it more transparent and have not made it more efficient. They are up for review, and market interest appears limp. The existing contractors have consistently failed to meet basic performance standards but other companies are hardly scrambling over each other to take over. The Government should be prepared to take assessments in house."
It seems extremely unlikely that the DWP will act on any of the committee’s recommendations in the near future. In particular, the routine recording of assessments is something they will fight against to the bitter end, because of the stark reality that such recordings would reveal.
But it is entirely possible that private sector companies themselves will begin to conclude that there is easier money to be made elsewhere and assessments will indeed return in-house.