ATOS bosses grilled by MSPs over profits

THE FIRM behind controversial benefits assessments faced a grilling from MSPs yesterday over the profits they are making from welfare reforms.

Around 120,000 people in Scotland would lose an estimated £2,600 a year under the reforms. Picture: Callum Bennetts

Bosses at Atos also came under fire over the treatment of people with terminal conditions and the suicide of one claimant, during a frosty appearance before Holyrood’s welfare reform committee.

Atos chiefs admitted their assessment work was “very unacceptable” in the early stages of the assessments of the personal independence payments (PIP) for people with health and disabilities.

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David Haley, client executive PIP, said the situation has since improved.

More than 92,000 assessments for PIP have been carried out by the company and its subcontractors.

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart asked: “You’ve stated at this moment in time you are contracted by the DWP [Department of Work and Pensions] to carry out these PIP assessments. Could you give us an indication of how much profit Atos is likely to get from this contract?”

Mr Haley said the company expects to return a profit “over the duration of the contract”, but said he not could say what that would be as it has invested in extra staff and additional assessment rooms.

Mr Haley said the role of Atos was only to deliver the assessment of the client’s clinical situation – it was the DWP which made the ruling over the level of benefits.

“We aren’t involved in policy, we aren’t involved in the delivery of reform, we are involved in the delivery of assessment,” he said. “I believe we deliver high-quality assessments.”

Mr Stewart added: “Do you think you are being paid to be the fall guys?”

Another SNP backbencher, Joan McAlpine, said the PIP scheme was seeking to make budget cuts of 20 per cent which meant people were inevitably going to lose out.

Dr Barrie McKillop, clinical director, Atos Healthcare, insisted he does not have any targets in relation to individual cases.

Ms McAlpine raised concern over the wider assessment process and said former nurse Jacqueline Harris from Gloucester killed herself after being declared fit for work.• Have you visited our new Scottish food and drink site?