Two private companies have earned more than half a billion pounds over four years conducting fit-for-work assessments of disability benefit claimants.
Data published by the Daily Mirror showed that Atos and Capita were paid a total of £507m since the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) system was launched in 2013.
The assessments are carried out when claimants move from the old Disability Living Allowance, which is being replaced by PIP, to determine whether they are entitled to the new benefit.
How Atos And Capita’s PIP Earnings Have Skyrocketed
£211 million for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments for 11 months in 2016
£198 million in 2015
£91 million in 2014
£7 million in 2013
But the Mirror found that 61% of 90,000 claimants who appealed against a PIP decision at a tribunal in the period up to September 2016 won their case, the Press Association reported.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the figures raised a suspicion that the companies were driven by the profit motive, with the incentive “to get the assessments done, but not necessarily to get the assessments right”.
Farron described the firms as “the ugly face of business”, while Labour’s welfare spokesman Alex Cunningham said: “It is clear that the assessment process continues to fail.”
But an Atos Healthcare spokesman told the paper: “The Atos team undertake PIP assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions and do not take a decision on a person’s eligibility for PIP - that decision can only be taken by the DWP.
“Each assessment is carried out under the guidelines delivered by the DWP.”
And a DWP spokesman said: “Payments to our providers reflect the amount of work they do for us.
“We introduced PIP to replace the outdated DLA system, and as we invite more people to claim PIP, claims have been steadily increasing quarter on quarter since summer 2015.”
The assessments themselves have caused controversy.
Last year, a partially-sighted amputee revealed his shock after being told he is not considered to be “disabled enough” to receive benefits.
And in another case, a partially paralysed man who had half his skull removed after suffering a stroke was declared ‘fit for work’ and had his benefits cut.
That decision was later overturned.