Sacked ‘back to work’ test firm Atos will hang onto a separate contract to test disabled people in the district – triggering fresh criticism of the Government.
The French company – under fire for bungled examinations of the long-term sick – will stop that work within a year, ministers announced yesterday.
The move follows widespread accusations that Atos wrongly found sick people able to work, provided a poor service and inflicted huge delays.
Last month, campaign groups in Bradford joined in a nationwide day of protest against the company, outside its testing centre in Bank Street. Mike Penning, the disabilities minister, said a new company would be appointed in early 2015 and vowed Atos would not receive “a single penny of compensation”.
In fact, Atos had a “substantial financial settlement” to the department for work and Pensions (DWP), after it found “significant quality failures" in its post-assessment reports.
However, Mr Penning said the company would continue to carry out tests for the new personal independence payment (PIP) in much of the country, including Yorkshire.
Yet that contract has been as fiercely criticised as the work capability assessment (WCA) tests that Atos will now lose. Councillor David Green, leader of Bradford Council, said people simply wanted the process to be fair and simple.
“Most people don’t care who does their assessment, as long as it is done fairly and quickly,” he said.
“Some people in our district were waiting 18 months for an appeal to be heard. We need assurances that Atos’ replacement will be fair, responsible and quick to act.”
Councillor Mike Gibbons, chairman of the scrutiny committee which is leading a Council investigation into the way Atos was working in the district, said it was difficult to comment on the issue while the matter was ongoing, but felt the announcement “wouldn’t be sorry news for some people”.
Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, Liberal Democrat group leader and scrutiny committee member, said if Atos were to continue in any role, it would need to “shape up.”
Mike Penning, Minister for Disabled People, said: “We are seeking a new provider to replace Atos, with the view to increasing the number of assessments and reducing waiting times.”