LONDON Britain is set to pick U.S. group Maximus Inc over UK-based Interserve Plc for a contract worth around 500 million pounds to assess whether benefits claimants are fit to work, a source with knowledge of the situation told Reuters.
Britain's Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been searching for a service provider for months after French incumbent Atos SE reached a financial settlement in March to quit the contract earlier than scheduled next year.
Maximus had been bidding against Interserve for the politically contentious task of assessing if the sick and elderly are fit to work - part of an effort by Britain's coalition government to shrink the country's welfare bill.
The source, who did not wish to be named, said the 3-1/2 year deal was worth around 500 million pounds.
A DWP spokesman would only say that the process was still ongoing and that preferred bidder would be announced in due course. Maximus and Interserve both declined to comment.
Atos's decision to quit its five-year contract early came after the company said the system was not working. Its offices had attracted protests and its staff had been subjected to abuse over its decisions, a large proportion of which were overturned on appeal.
According to its website, Maximus is an operator of government health and human services programmes in the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Saudi Arabia.
(Editing by Kate Holton and David Holmes)