The contract with Capita is due to expire on July 31, 2021.
Speaking at today’s meeting of the Communities Committee, Mr Durkan called for a rationale behind the decision given Committee members scathing view of Capita’s performance to date.
Said the Foyle MLA: “I want to record my disappointment that despite outcry from myself and many, many others, the Capita PIP contract has been extended and the manner in which it was extended.
“I understand the pandemic has somewhat restricted what the Department could do maybe in terms of putting a new contract out for tender.
“However, Committee need to request further detail from Minister Hargey as to how or why it couldn’t be done.
“The end of the contract with Capita was an opportunity for the Minister to instigate a new approach to PIP assessments, one that would subject applicants to arbitrary bureaucracy and cause them needless stress and worry.
“Instead, she seems prepared to give more public money to an organisation that has caused distress to people with disabilities.
“Gleaning any information to date from the Minister on her plans to extend this contract has proven difficult.
“Everyone around this table has been scathing about Capita’s performance in carrying out assessments; the lack of regard and dignity they afford claimants.
“The figures speak for themselves in terms of performance with a successful appeal rate of 63%. Issues are so deeply entrenched within the system that they are unlikely to be resolved by any improvements the Minister plans to bring forward in the months ahead.
“So, the decisions essentially to reward Capita for failure, is a difficult pill to swallow.
“What also concerns me is the plan to implement a single Health Assessment IT system, currently being developed by DWP which aims to improve the efficiency of sharing medical evidence.
“My fear is that given DWP’s past performance with the transition to online systems i.e. the Winter Fuel Payment which saw some vulnerable elderly households not receive support to heat their home until March this year, they could potentially complicate the process in the short term.
“People with disabilities applying for PIP are entitled to a competent process that upholds their dignity: another two years of Capita flies in the face of that objective.”Tags: