Tom Greatrex (Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Labour)
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. She has made a point to which I hope the Minister will be able to respond.
I will attempt to move on. Back in February, I wrote to the National Audit Office to outline concerns about the contract between Atos Healthcare and the DWP. The correspondence centred on two issues: first, a lack of efficiency in the use of public funds, to which I have referred, and secondly, a lack of accountability inherent in the disbursement of those public funds. As the recent House of Commons Library note and many of the figures that I have received as answers to parliamentary questions over the past 18 months or so have confirmed, and as my hon. Friend Wayne David reflected, 41% of those found fit for work appeal the decision and 38% have their appeal upheld. For those who seek the advice and support of professional advocacy groups such as Citizens Advice, the appeal success rate is closer to 70%. Just last week, Kent’s largest citizens advice bureau indicated an appeal success rate of 95%.
The impact of what is happening is twofold. First, too many sick and disabled people are being found fit for work when they are not. They become entangled in a lengthy appeal process that, as I said, can occupy up to nine months of their time. In many cases, even when the appeal is successful, the individual is placed in the work-related activity group and then they have to begin the whole process anew.