Private company involvement in benefit tests must end

Eastbourne MP and Liberal Democrat DWP spokesperson Stephen Lloyd – who has a disability himself – is calling for an immediate end to private sector involvement in benefit eligibility tests for sick and disabled people. He says this has undermined the principles of the welfare state established by Liberal reformer Sir William Beveridge.

After receiving contracts for personal independence payment (PIP) tests and work capability assessments (WCA) worth hundreds of millions of pounds from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), large multinationals including Atos, Capita and Maximus have consistently failed to meet the standards set by the Government.

The companies have been accused of subjecting claimants to dehumanising procedures, failing in many cases to determine eligibility accurately, and inappropriately cutting costs by not hiring qualified medical professionals. Just this month executives from all three companies were hauled in front of the Work and Pensions Select Committee and criticised for their performance.

The Liberal Democrats would bring PIP tests and Work Capability Assessments in-house and ban any future private sector involvement. In the long-term the party would also go further and scrap Work Capability Assessments entirely, replacing them with a more humane system devolved to local authorities. This would ensure that benefit eligibility is based on local needs and labour market realities.

Stephen Lloyd, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesman said:

“Just over 70 years ago, the great Liberal reformer William Beveridge set out the foundational principles of our modern welfare state. He called for a social contract between citizen and state, and a minimum standard below which no individual should ever fall.

“Today these principles are under threat from the privatisation of benefit tests, which continue to cause immeasurable suffering. While I am a strong believer in the benefits of a market economy, the profit motive has absolutely no place in determining the safety net for the most vulnerable.

“Enough is enough. Private firms should play no further role in deciding whether sick and disabled people are eligible for benefits. Both the Work Capability Assessment and PIP tests should be brought in house immediately, with a ban on further private sector involvement.

“The Liberal Democrats would go further by scrapping the WCA all together and replacing it with a more humane system devolved to local authorities. This would ensure that people – not profit – form the basis of our safety net.”

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