Maximus Health and Human Services Ltd has been awarded the contract to undertake health-related assessments, DWP announced today (30 October 2014).
The contract will cover a number of assessments including the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which is currently carried out by Atos. In March this year the government announced that it had reached a settlement with Atos to exit its WCA contract early.
The new contract is part of a concerted drive to ensure that people who need an assessment get the best possible service, say the DWP. Since 2010 there have been 4 independent reviews of the WCA and the government say they have implemented the majority of the recommendations.
A key part of this drive will see Maximus take on a significant number of additional healthcare professionals to undertake assessments.
Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper, said:
“We are committed to supporting those people who can get back into work and break the cycle of benefit dependency. Where people can’t work, we are clear that we should support them to live independent lives.
“Our determination not to write off benefit claimants, but instead seek to move more people into work, has been a key factor in this government’s success in helping people into work.
Maximus Chief Executive Richard A. Montoni said:
“Assessments for people who need health-related benefits should be timely, respectful and fair. Our goal is to improve the overall customer experience by addressing certain challenges that exist today.
“First, we want to reduce waiting times without compromising quality by bringing in more health care professionals. Second, we want to improve the quality of the assessment through a number of initiatives, such as expanding the number of medical professionals who specialise in mental health and understand how fluctuating conditions can be better reflected in assessments. Finally, we want to make the assessment process more straightforward by introducing new ways to help customers complete forms and access sources of independent advice.”
The new contract will run from March 2015 for an initial period of 3 years. Maximus specialises in delivering health and employment services for governments across the world. It is already a key Work Programme provider in the UK and was recently awarded the contract to deliver the new Fit for Work service.
To make sure that there is a seamless transfer from Atos to Maximus most of the Atos assessor healthcare professionals will transfer to Maximus, which will also use the existing Atos infrastructure.
On top of recruiting additional healthcare professionals, Maximus also plans to make further improvements to people’s experience of an assessment and will seek to continually improve the service they offer. It will increase the number of specialists who conduct assessments, including experts in mental health. They will also spend more time with people before their assessment to fully explain the process and provide Disability Awareness training for all staff through Disability Rights UK.
Source: www.gov.uk – published here under the Open Government Licence v2.0.
A statement published on the Disability Rights UK website reads:
“Disability Rights UK receives huge numbers of distressed calls and emails complaining about both the content and the process of the Work Capability Assessment. We campaign vigorously on the policy – we believe it needs radical reform.
“We also believe strongly that whatever the policy, disabled people should receive completely independent, high quality information on their rights in relation to the Work Capability Assessment; and to be met by a service that knows how to treat disabled people, to make adjustments and to respect our rights. To further this aim we have held discussions with several companies including Maximus. No work has been agreed at this point.
“DR UK insists in all its work that we always speak openly and strongly to protest against breaches of people’s rights. We only enter into contracts with organisations on the understanding that we will campaign both on policy and on practice and will tell it as we find it. Our Board is stringent on this point.
“Our mission is to improve disabled people’s rights’.”