A “PERVASIVE lack of trust” among disabled people in the method of assessing their welfare claims risks undermining the operation of the UK Government’s flagship benefits, MPs have warned.

Since 2013, 290,000 rejected claims for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) have been granted on appeal – a total of six per cent of all those assessed.

The Department for Work and Pensions has spent “hundreds of millions of pounds” of taxpayers’ money over that period checking and defending decisions made on the basis of reports by private contractors, said a report by a cross-party committee.

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The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee said there was evidence that the companies carrying out assessments – Atos, Capita and Maximus – have produced reports “riddled with errors and omissions”.

Noting that quality targets set for them had been “universally missed”, the committee said ministers should consider taking the process back in-house when contracts come up for renewal in 2019 and 2020.

Committee chairman Frank Field said shortcomings in the system were causing “untenable human costs to claimants and financial costs to the public purse”.

The committee received an “unprecedented” number of responses from PIP and ESA claimants, with almost 4000 detailing “shocking and moving, credible and consistent” accounts of the failings of the system. Assessors were viewed as “at best lacking in competence and at worst actively deceitful”.

A DWP spokesman said: “Assessments work for the majority of people, with 83 per cent of ESA claimants and 76 per cent of PIP claimants telling us that they’re happy with their overall experience.

“However, our aim has to be that every person feels they are treated fairly, with respect and dignity.”