Category Archives: ESA/Atos

Iain Duncan Smith In The Dock Again Over Unlawful Atos Assessments

MHRNThe DWP are back in court next week for the closing part of a successful challenge to the despised Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

This is the test run by Atos which is used to find people ‘fit for work’ and stop their sickness or disability benefits.  It is mired in chaos with a huge backlog of appeals and an ever growing number of tragic deaths linked to the process.  Even Atos themselves are pulling out of the assessments after fierce campaigning saw their carefully managed corporate identity demolished due to their involvement in the cruel and bungled system.

The WCA has also had its share of legal problems after a Judicial Review last year ruled the assessments are unlawful under the Equalities Act for those with a mental health condition.   Rather than accept this defeat and improve or scrap the tests for this group of claimants – or better still everybody –  Iain Duncan Smith appealed this decision and lost.  During the time this took many people will have seen their mental health worsen, been admitted to hospital or even taken their own life due to being forced to undergo assessments which are not suitable for their condition.

Next week’s court case will largely be about what amendments can be made to make the WCA legal.  As Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) explain:

“Under the Equalities Act of 2010, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is required to make “reasonable adjustments” to mitigate any disadvantages experienced by disabled people. The forthcoming hearing will be concerned with establishing what adjustments the DWP should make to the WCA process. We already know from the original hearing that they plan to run a pilot study to assess the “reasonableness” of obtaining further medical evidence. We want to ensure that any study will be fair, honest and approached with an open mind. Unfortunately we find it hard to trust that this will happen.”

A vigil called by MHRN and supported by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) will be held outside the court next week on Tuesday, 8th July 2014 at 12 noon to 2 pm.  Head to the Royal Court of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL.  Full details at: http://dpac.uk.net/2014/07/vigil-for-the-wca-judicial-review-tues-8th-july/

MHRN say they have been too cautious about publicising this important victory.  Sometime people have been working so hard for so long that they don’t even see when or what they’ve won.  But the Work Capability Assessment – introduced by Labour and which looked unbreakable at the time the current government weren’t elected – is beginning to look broken.  That didn’t happen by accident.  It happened because disabled people and benefit claimants have fought these vicious assessments in the courts, on the internet and in the streets.

The real opposition to this Government has not been the Labour Party, the unions , charities or even the growing range of celebrity left-wimgers.  It has been people who are disabled, sick, carers or people on their own with kids to look after.  People dealing with shit housing, homelessness, low or no wages, the bedroom tax, workfare, benefit sanctions and most of all poverty.  The people that liberal do-gooders call vulnerable and the Tory press calls benefit scum.  Yet we keep winning and those victories should be shouted from the rooftops.  As MHRN say:

“We believe that it is vital that people do know about this victory. After all, outrageous lies about disabled benefit claimants have been shouted from the rooftops in much of the national press. Yet where have the front page headlines about this victory been? Nowhere! We now want to rectify this by making as much noise as possible about the truth: that the WCA does not fairly assess people with mental health problems and there has been terrible suffering as a result.”

Please blogs, tweet,share and spread the word about the MHRN/DPAC vigil, and about the court case.

Don’t forget this Friday’s Independence Day Party outside the DWP and around the UK called by DPAC.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Number Of Employment Support Allowance Claims On The Rise – Is Iain Duncan Smith Making Us Sick?

IDS-I-dont-care-whos-diedThe total number of claimants claiming out of work sickness or disability benefits rose by 15,000 between March and April provisional DWP statistics report.

2.485 million people were claiming Employment Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit in April, representing a steady rise of 1.2% since November 2013. This comes despite the horrific Atos regime which has seen hundreds of thousands of claimants being stripped of benefits after being assessed as ‘fit for work’.  The number of people on out of work sickness benefits should be plummeting, and it was until just over a year ago.

It is hardly surprising that people are still becoming ill or disabled despite the magical Atos assessments. The UK did not have significantly more people on out of work sickness or disability benefits than other comparable countries even before the despised Work Capability Assessment began. It is unusual however that the number of people unable to work for health reasons should be rising at a time when unemployment is allegedly falling.

There is growing evidence that Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are damaging people’s health. Some parts of the UK have reported soaring malnutrition linked to benefit cuts. A report produced by Citizen’s Advice last year told of people being unable to meet special dietary needs due to sanctions or having to beg or go through bins to find food. Homelessness charities have said that sanctions are causing people to lose their homes. And a damning report by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland claimed that 35% of psychiatrists said at least one of their patients had been admitted to hospital as a consequence of the stress of Atos assessments.

Using hunger and homelessness as a weapon against benefit claimants will not incentivise people to find work, it will demolish lives.  Forcing people with mental health conditions into stressful and demeaning assessments under the threat of destitution will not magically cure them of their condition – in many cases it will make it worse.  Iain Duncan Smith really is making us sick, and with more workfare and sanctions on the way then things are only going to get worse.

The latest ESA figures can be downloaded from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dwp-statistical-summaries-2014

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The Nastiest Shambles Yet, Quarter Of A Million People Awaiting New Disability Benefit Decision

atos-professionalsPersonal Independence Payments (PIP) have lurched even further into chaos with over quarter of a million people waiting months on end for a decision on the new benefit.

PIP is Iain Duncan Smith’s replacement for Disability Living Allowance, the benefit paid to many disabled people to meet costs associated with mobility or care.  The new system launched for new claims in April last year and means sick and disabled people will be forced to attend demeaning and stressful assessments carried out by the notorious Atos and bungling Capita.  The purpose of these assessments is to strip benefits from a fifth of disabled people.

335,000 people have claimed the new benefit since it began last year, but appallingly only just over 80,000  have had a decision made on their claim.  Some people have been waiting for months.  In August last year 95,500 people had claimed Personal Independence Payments meaning that the wait for some has been around eight months and counting.

For people on low incomes this wait will be devastating.  Many PIP claimants will be newly disabled, or will have faced an existing health condition becoming significantly worse.  Some will simply not have the money to pay for care or mobility until the DWP can get their act together.  This delay will mean people trapped in their homes, or going without vital care at a time in their lives when they’ve really got better fucking things to be dealing with.

Atos recently pulled out of similar assessments for out of work sickness and disability assessments and know only too well that most medical professionals are far to ethical to involve themselves in grubby benefit tests that harm people’s health.  It is possible that much of the shambles is down to a failure to recruit enough healthcare professionals who have no desire to be part of Iain Duncan Smith’s horrifying attempt at destroying disabled people’s lives.

Whatever the cause the disaster that PIP has become shows just how much the safety net of the welfare state is being swept away by a combination of callousness and incompetence.  If you become sick or disabled, and need the help you’ve already paid for to live an independent life, then expect to strung along for months and treated like dirt by the DWP.

To download the latest statistics go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/personal-independence-payment-official-statistics-june-2014

Thanks to Richard Cole for the pic.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Universal Credit Boss Has Been On The Sick For Nearly Five Months! Where’s Atos When You Need Them?

atos_dr_nickThe man in charge of bungling the introduction of Universal Credit is currently only working a day a week after being on the sick since last Christmas.

Howard Shiplee is the builder that Iain Duncan Smith brought in to rescue his doomed project to reform benefits last year.  He is the sixth boss Universal Credit has had in the last two years and after just a few months in the job went on long-term sick leave.  According to Computer Weekly, who uncovered the story, he was suffering from bronchitis which has now developed into something more serious.  The publication claims the DWP are looking for someone to replace him behind his back.

Of course Shiplee, like everyone else, has the right to take time off if he is unwell.  But 20,000 people with respiratory conditions have been found fit for work since the Atos assessments began.  Under Universal Credit some of those claimants could be sent on workfare, or will face endless ‘work related activity’ to bully them off benefits.  This is the system that Howard Shiplee is being paid huge amounts of tax payer’s money to introduce, or at least he is when he actually turns up to work.  So fuck him.  Send him a pack of fags as a get well soon present.

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Welfare Reform Has Failed: Number Of Long Term Claimants Soars Under Tories

long-term-claims-tableThe number of long-term claimants on the main out of work benefits has almost doubled since 2010 when this Government weren’t elected DWP statistics have revealed.

In 2010 a total of 698,000 people had been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, the Work Related Activity Group element of Employment Support Allowance (WRAG ESA), Income Support for Lone Parents (ISLP), or a combination of these, for three out of the last four years.  By 2013 this figure had leapt to an astonishing 1,244,000.

This does not represent everyone who has been on long-term benefits.  Whilst the statistical release doesn’t explain why these claimants were singled out in the figures it seems likely it is because all of those on these benefits are subject to ‘conditionality’.  That means they face workfare, benefit sanctions and all the so-called ‘help’ of the welfare-to-work sector to try and bully them off benefits.  Many will have endured two years of the shambolic Work Programme and like most sent on the scheme have failed to find lasting work.

The figures are particularly embarrassing for Iain Duncan Smith as this is exactly the groups of claimants many of his bungled welfare reforms have been aimed at.  Billions has been spent harassing and stigmatising this group only to make the problem far worse than when the Tories came into office.

The analysis of the figures points out that one reason for the growing number of this kind of long term claimant is that it does not include all those on working age benefits including people in the Support Group of ESA – who are not forced to look for work, or those still claiming the old Incapacity Benefit.  The DWP’s excuse is that the Atos re-assessments, which have found hundreds of thousands of people ‘fit for work’ and so placed them under a conditionality regime, are responsible for this huge rise in the number of long-term claimants.  Whilst on the surface this seems to make sense, it actually turns out to be complete bollocks.

This is because the total number of people on all working age benefits for three of the last four years –  including the ones left out of the first figures – has also risen since 2010, from 2.46 million to 2.49 million.  The ESA re-assessments, which have caused untold suffering and are linked to an ever growing number of suicides, have not made a dent.  This is backed up by the official figures for the number of people on all forms of out of work sickness or disability benefits which despite Atos, has only fallen by about 200,000 since 2010.  This comes nowhere near to explaining the jump of half a million people on long-term conditionality based benefits.

Iain Duncan Smith’s reforms are absolutely hurting – unprecedented numbers of people are finding themselves dependent on foodbanks to feed their children.  Welfare reform is costing a fortune, with billions of tax payer’s money being shovelled into the pockets of grasping parasites like G4S.  But it clearly isn’t working.  4% of the working age population has now been on benefits for three out of the last four years, up from 2.3% in 2010.  Iain Duncan Smith’s reckless experiment has failed.  And the cost of his breath-taking arrogance has been homelessness, child poverty and in some tragic cases, even death.

View the figures at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/307634/duration-on-working-age-benefits-may-2014.pdf

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Just For The Record, The WCA Is Not Being Scrapped, Yet

atoskillsgrafThe report in The Daily Record which claims that Atos style assessments for sickness and disability benefits are to be scrapped should sadly be treated with caution.

There is no doubt that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is in chaos, after the announcement from Atos that they are pulling out of the contract to run the tests.  This has led to a predictable tantrum from Iain Duncan Smith, who is now running round telling everyone he was going to dump Atos anyway and is threatening them with huge fines.  This is the same Atos that he is dependent on to sort out the shabby assessments for Personal Independence Payments, which are currently also mired in chaos.  But there has been no announcement as yet that the WCA is to be scrapped, and the report the Daily Record’s story seems to be based on does not call for this.

The story refers to the recently published response by the Government to the review of the Work Capability Assessment carried out by Dr Paul Litchfield.  The Government have accepted all but one of the recommendations in this report, which includes agreeing to carry out an impact assessment into whether in some cases a decision could be made without a face to face assessment.

Litchfield recommends: “The Department carries out a full impact assessment on an alternative process whereby DWP Decision Makers triage cases” and that “where suitable and sufficient evidence is available on paper and a face-to-face assessment would provide no additional value, the Department should make a decision without referral to its HAP;”

The Government have responded: “DWP will carry out the recommended impact assessment to inform decisions about if and how triage of cases by Decision Makers might be implemented.”

So unless the Daily Record know something that no-one else does, and if they do urgent clarification is required, that unfortunately, appears to be it.  An impact assessment into whether in some cases a face to face assessment is not required – as in fact already happens in some cases – will be carried out.  A small step forward perhaps but a long way from the claim that assessments are set to be scrapped.  Atos still kills, for now at least.

Some of Litchfield’s recommendations will be welcomed, such as a six month time limit before someone who has recently won an appeal against a WCA decision can be called for re-assessment.  Others are more dubious, including the idea of involving the Government’s snake oil salesmen, the nudge unit, in the drafting of correspondence sent to claimants about the WCA.

Perhaps the most telling part of the Government’s response to this review is the recommendation that is rejected.  Litchfield makes the fairly reasonable suggestion that so-called Healthcare Professionals carrying out assessments of people with mental health problems should have: “suitable and sufficient previous experience of dealing with people with mental health problems”.

We’re not having that say the DWP, who have deferred agreement on this point complaining that they don’t know what suitable and sufficient means.

All of the recommendations and the Government’s response can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/296328/wca-review-year-4-response.pdf

Litchfield’s initial report is at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/265351/work-capability-assessment-year-4-paul-litchfield.pdf

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Iain Duncan Smith Should Be Put On Trial Over The Work Capability Assessment Deaths

atos_kills_bannerThe tragic death of severely unwell Mark Wood, who died of malnutrition just five months after he was found ‘fit for work’ by Atos and the DWP, was not just ‘wrong’ as the Government have today admitted – it was grossly negligent.  Whether this negligence was criminal must be urgently investigated.

Morally, and almost certainly legally, the DWP have a duty of care when making decisions which can potentially devastate the lives of those called  ‘vulnerable adults’ by care professionals.  The Work Capability Assessment, which led to the death of Mark Wood, has already been found unfair for people with mental health conditions in the courts.  Instead of halting the assessments based on this judgement, Iain Duncan Smith has brushed it aside – convinced he knows better than the courts, the medical establishment and the thousands of sick and disabled people themselves driven to despair by the current system.

Mark Wood’s death is far from the first linked to welfare reforms.  A recent report by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (PDF) highlighted another suicide which they found was directly linked to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).  In a damning report, the charity surveyed 56 psychiatrists who had treated patients facing one of these crude, computer based assessments.  Their findings are both horrifying and desperately sad:

“85% of the 52 respondents to this question told us about an increased frequency of appointments. 65% had at least one patient who required an increased dose of medication and 35% reported at least one patient who had changed medication. 40% had at least one patient who had self-harmed after the WCA. 13% of respondents reported that a patient had attempted suicide and 4% (two RMOs) stated that a patient had taken his/her own life. 35% said that at least one of their patients had been admitted to hospital as a consequence of the WCA and 4% told us about a patient being detained under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003.”

The Work Capability Assessment must be brought to an immediate halt.  Even the company in charge, the notorious Atos, finally seem to have realised this, confirming this week they will pull out of the contract early.  This is the only way to stop any more deaths, and it needs to happen now, as in this week.  Otherwise more people will die.

It is no longer enough however to call just for the Government to scrap every aspect of the bungled and brutal welfare reforms that are destroying so many lives.  People are dying in one of the richest countries in the world as a direct result of this horrifying attack on the very poorest people.  The politicians in charge know this, but are happy to let these deaths continue as part of the ideologically driven obsession with proving that people on benefits are scroungers or fakes and that unemployment is caused by unemployed people.

According to the Daily Mail, David Cameron has backed an urgent review into the Work Capability Assessment.  This review should not just look into the failures in the process but assess whether negligence has taken place and if so who is culpable and whether criminal charges can be brought.  If Iain Duncan Smith. Atos or the DWP, can be put on trial over these shameful deaths it will not bring anyone back.  But at the very least it will send a message to every politician, today and long into the future, that the UK’s legal system will not tolerate reckless cost-cutting experiments that put human lives at risk.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Huge Victory For Sick And Disabled Claimants As Atos Chased Out Of Vicious Benefit Assessments

atoskillsgrafFrench IT firm Atos saying they are planning to pull out of Work Capability Assessments, the shambolic and cruel tests designed to strip away benefits from sick and disabled people, is the most humiliating blow yet for Iain Duncan Smith’s bodged attempt at reforming social security.

In a stunning victory for campaigners, Atos say the Work Capability Assessment isn’t working, for them, claimants themselves and even the hapless DWP.  The attempt at early withdrawal from the contract comes just days after protests were held outside Atos assessment centres in towns and cities across the UK.

The astounding announcement also sheds new light on The Guardian story which revealed that the DWP were secretly plotting to get rid of Atos and bring in new contractors to run the tests.  There is truly no honour amongst these thieves as Atos and the DWP bicker in public about who dumped who first.  Meanwhile poverty pimps like Capita and G4S will be salivating at the prospect of Iain Duncan Smith stuffing their mouths with gold to try and keep his bungled welfare reforms alive.

Atos has blamed abuse and death threats made towards their so-called ‘healthcare’ professionals as one reason they want to withdraw from the contract early.  Yet Atos must have known that taking on a contract designed to impoverish sick and disabled claimants would lead to them becoming despised.  It is no surprise that a very small number of people facing the WCA displayed what social workers call ‘challenging behaviour’.  Any social care professional or even copper could have warned them  about this.  If Atos were unable to put in policies and procedures that kept their staff safe then they only have themselves to blame.

When people have been driven to suicide by the vile activities of this company, their whining about few scabby doctors being slagged off on twitter rings a little fucking hollow.  The truth is that Atos have seen their brand made toxic all over the world by their involvement in these tests – which only represent a very small part of their business.  This is almost certainly the real reason they have decided to embarrass the DWP by very publicly trying to abandon this contract.

This announcement does not represent the end of the WCA, but it could be the beginning of the end.  Anything that at least slows the bastards down should be welcomed.  This victory should be used as a springboard to escalate the campaign against whichever odious profiteers decide to take over the hated WCA.

If Atos think they are off the hook however they are sorely fucking mistaken.   There has been no announcement from the company about their involvement (along with Capita) in assessments for Personal Independence Payments – the replacement for Disability Living Allowance designed to cut benefits from 20% of disabled people.  These tests have barely begun and already are a shambles with claims taking months on end to administer.  It will be those in and out of work alike who face these assessments which are little different from the WCA that Atos have just condemned.  If the company think they’ve had problems with out of work sick and disabled people just wait and see what happens when they are assessing lawyers, other doctors, and even MPs.

Atos are also expected to be involved in George Osborne’s mass workfare scheme which begins in April.  Claimants already found ‘fit for work’ by Atos could be abused by company again and forced to undertake 780 hours of unpaid ‘community work’ just for the crime of being unemployed.

Atos may be on the run, but they should be ruthlessly chased down until they pull out of all government contracts designed to bully, impoverish and harass sick, disabled or unemployed people.  Until that day comes, Atos should remain firmly in the firing line.

DPAC, Black Triangle & WOW Petition: Joint Statement on the Bizarre ATOS Exit Strategy http://dpac.uk.net/2014/02/dpac-black-triangle-wow-petition-joint-statement-on-the-bizarre-atos-exit-strategy/#sthash.Yq28TezO.dpufFollow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Don’t Blame Us For The Suffering We Cause Say Atos, We’re Just Making Money

atos-bannerPoverty profiteers Atos have published a whining blogpost asking for people to blame the Government, not them, for the shambolic and cruel assessments for sickness and disability benefits.

The statement comes in advance of a day of action tomorrow which will see protests outside Atos assessment centres throughout the UK.  The company, who have made hundreds of millions out of welfare reform, yet still pay no fucking tax, have pleaded:  “Atos Healthcare has no control over welfare policy, the design of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), or the specific eligibility criteria for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).”

Not for the first time, the excuse I was only following orders has been replaced with but I was only trying to make money.  It is  truly a sign of the times that a company like Atos would even dare attempt this as a justification for their vile activities.  There was a time, when war profiteers and others who made money exploiting human misery, were the lowest of the low.  Now simply having lots of money in itself is seen as a moral virtue, no matter what you did to get it.

The Work Capability Assessment is making people’s health worse and has led to an increasing number of tragic suicides.  Atos cannot simply wash their hands of this by claiming they’re only in it for the money.  And neither can their so-called healthcare professionals who are all breaking the fundamental medical principle of ‘first do no harm’.

Atos are fully culpable for their actions and their pitiful whinging should be treated with the contempt it deserves.  Their bosses are lucky not to be facing trial along with Iain Duncan Smith and his murderous henchmen at the DWP.

Join the Day of Protest Against Atos tomorrow and show the bastards what you think.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

No More Deaths! Join The UK Wide Day Of Protest Against Atos On Wednesday February 19th

atos_kills_bannerSomeone recently commented that there was once a time when a government policy which led to spate of unintended deaths would have been halted to find out what the fuck was going on.

Yet the death toll linked to the horrific Atos run Work Capability Assessment grows ever higher with a spate of tragic suicides reported throughout December.  Life is cheap under neo-liberalism and neither the Tory Party, or Labour – who merely say they will replace Atos but the assessments will continue – are opposed to this terrible regime facing sick and disabled claimants.

Barely any of those found ‘fit for work’ by Atos have actually found jobs, despite Iain Duncan Smith’s magical Work Programme.  The number of successful appeals against decisions made to throw people off benefits remains sky high.  The stress and suffering caused by Atos is more than well documented by hundreds, if not thousands of people on the internet.

Atos once pretended to be one of those fake-fluffy IT firms like google or twitter but are now famous for cruel incompetence.  It has only been the hard work of sick and disabled claimants themselves that has made this happen.  The pressure must be kept up and all of those who want to live in a fair and humane society should join the fight to rid ourselves of these private sector parasites and bring the Work Capability Assessment to an immediate end.

A day of action against Atos is taking place this Wednesday 19th February.  Protests are taking place in towns and cities across the UK including Leeds, Glasgow, Manchester, Croydon, Hull, Birmingham, Truro, Portsmouth, Edinburgh, Wimbledon and many more.  To find a protest near you visit: http://ukrebellioncom.ipage.com/atosdemo/

In Central London protesters will gather outside Atos’ gleaming corporate headquarters in Triton Square near Euston from 10am, more details at: https://www.facebook.com/events/675411662480344/

Please share, blog and tweet details of all events.

And if you can’t make the nearest one to you then @Atos are on twitter where they’ve been unfairly neglected recently.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid