Tag Archives: atos

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.

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Another Tragic Atos Death: RIP Jacqueline Harris

atos_kills_bannerA woman stripped of benefits after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos has taken her own life the Bristol Post have reported today.

According to the newspaper: 

“PARTIALLY-sighted and only able to walk with the aid of a stick, Jacqueline Harris suffered crippling pain due to slipped discs in her back and neck. Her mobility was reduced further when a dog savaged one of her wrists.

“Despite being in agony which strong pain relief could not ease, the 53-year-old was deemed to be fit for work following a government health assessment and told to find a job.

“Her sister claims the verdict that she was ineligible for disability benefits drove her to take her own life earlier this month.”

Predictably both the DWP, and Atos have attempted to wash their hands of the affair.  There will be no apology for this tragic loss of life and Atos claim it is nothing to do with them: “we do not make decisions on people’s benefit entitlement, nor are we involved in the appeal process.”

If this were a banker, or businessman who had been driven to suicide over a Government policy then this story would be on the front page of every newspaper.  When a yuppy jumps out of a skyscraper, or a celebrity has a breakdown, we are all invited to share in their tragedy.  The rich ‘feel’ things more than the poor the media narrative suggests.  Meanwhile reports of suicides due to welfare reform are shrugged off by right wing newspaper columnists as the “act of someone in a fevered, unstable state of mind.”  If the poor cannot cope with their poverty then that is a personal failing, not a problem with how society is structured.

Only the wealthy might be troubled by losing their income – the horny-handed working class are expected to get on with things, make do and mend, or queue outside foodbanks with a stiff upper lip.  Hunger and homelessness is just a triviality compared to a dent in the investment portfolio or having to sell the second home.

When campaigners have warned that Atos Kills this has not been hyper-bole.  The problem is that the ruthless assessments for sickness and disability benefits kill the wrong people to have any major media impact.  There is more sympathy for the squeezed middle-classes having to cut down skiing holidays than there is for people driven to desperate acts due to having nothing at all.  Atos merely culls in the eyes of this Government and those who support them, and many of them see nothing wrong with that.

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Doctors Told To Snub Desperate Benefit Claimants

atos_kills_bannerThe Bro Taf Local Medical Committee which represents doctors in and around Cardiff has written to GPs asking them not to help claimants who need medical evidence for benefit problems.

The LMC claim that providing this vital medical evidence for people facing the notorious ATOS work capability assessments is impacting on GP’s workloads.

Most people might have thought that a GP’s workload would include helping sick or disabled people stay alive by ensuring they are not wrongly assessed and thrown off benefits where they could then face workfare on a Groundwork or Conservation Volunteer chain gang.

However the Bro Taf LMC are unrepentant and even seem to be trying to make doctors feel guilty for supporting their patients. The letter states: “GPs need to have a consistent approach to this issue and colleagues who do this work make it more difficult for others to resist and it spreads the belief with patients and local authorities that GPs are happy to take on this non contracted and unfunded work.”

It is not just those facing a Work Capability Assessment who will suffer as a result of this callous move. Patients facing the bedroom tax or benefit cap may need medical evidence to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments to help them to stay in their homes. The replacement of Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments will shortly see hundreds of thousands of disabled people re-assessed for vital benefits. GPs should not help provide evidence with this process either says the committee.

Instead GPs are advised to snub desperate patients who may be facing homelessness or dire poverty by handing them a standard letter. Astonishingly this letter seems to imply that claimants who have the cheek to ask their doctor for help are abusing NHS resources: “GPs are not contracted or resourced to provide this kind of service and making such requests to GPs represents an abuse of NHS resources. “

The DWP have repeatedly attempted to blame claimants for the huge number of appeals against Atos assessments. According to the skiving Employment Minister Mark Hoban, the reason for the shambles is that claimants do not supply enough medical evidence when they are first assessed. Now it seems some doctors are refusing to provide that evidence.

Increasing numbers of people are dying because of reforms to benefits. If GPs don’t want to write letters which help keep patients alive then they should take it up with the DWP and fight for an end to the brutal cuts to social security. In the meantime if they can’t drag themselves away from the golf course to make sure it isn’t one of their patients who is the next victim then they should hang their heads in shame.

Bro Taf Local Medical Committee are on twitter at: https://twitter.com/BroTafLMC

A copy of the guidance to GPs and the accompanying standard letter to snub patients can be downloaded from (Bro Taf LMC Newsletter No.3, 2013): http://www.brotaflmc.org.uk/newsletters.html

The Black Triangle Campaign have long been lobbying GPs to support patients: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2013/06/28/gps-should-provide-information-for-every-fitness-for-work-assessment-urges-bma/

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Benefit Bullshitting Exposed By Daily Mail’s Workshy Map

daily-mail-mapYesterday’s Daily Mail Workshy map blows apart the benefit bullshitting of  the right wing press, despite their best efforts to smear hundred of thousands of sick and disabled people as criminals.

The map is based on recent figures detailing the outcomes of Incapacity Benefit re-assessments.  This is the crude computer based test carried out by IT firm Atos which has been used to strip vital benefits from hundreds of thousands of people.  This system has been justified by a relentless propaganda campaign which evoked myths of millions of scroungers, families where three generations have never had a job and whole areas of the UK ‘blighted’ by benefits culture.

In fact digging into the figures simply reveals that even in unemployment hotspots, the number of people who have been assessed as unable to work is tiny.  According to the Mail, 2,570 people in Leeds were found ‘fit for work’.  Leeds has a population of almost three quarters of a million people.  This means around one person in every three hundred was claiming a sickness or disability that they are no longer entitled to.  Even on a large housing estate this represents just a handful of people.  This number will rise as Incapacity Benefit re-assessments are not yet complete, but the figures suggest at the very most one person in 150 will eventually lose the benefit*.

And in truth most of those people are far from ‘fit for work’.  Employment Minister Mark Hoban recently revealed that 15% of ‘fit for work’ decisions are eventually judged to be incorrect – and that only includes those claimants with the tenacity, confidence, and health to successfully undertake an appeal.  Even those who do not have decisions over-turned at appeal may be anything but ‘fit for work’.  People with Multiple Sclerosis, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease and many other serious health conditions have all been judged able to work by Atos and the DWP.

The Daily Mail’s claim that all those found ‘fit for work’ are workshy is as contemptible in itself as it is dishonest. It is worth remembering that everybody who was previously claiming Incapacity Benefit had previously been signed off work by their own doctor and undergone a DWP medical.  Unless both GPs and the DWP’s own doctors have been lying on a massive scale, then none of these people could be considered to be in good health.

This is reflected in what little evidence is available (PDF) detailing what happens to those found ‘fit for work’, which shows that most people end up on the dole.  And it is this which shatters yet another myth about welfare reform – which is that this is about saving tax payers money.

Claimants thrown onto the dole lose around £30 a week and but this means a significant administration burden for already over-stretched Jobcentres.  This comes on top of the cost of the Atos assessments and the ever growing number of appeals – along with considerable hidden costs such as an increase on the burdens on GPs, hospital consultants and advice agencies.  This stress of these assessments alone has driven some claimants to suicide, whilst many more people have reported their health has deteriorated due to the system.

It is now a terrifying time in the UK to be both poor and in poor health.  It is not just those currently on benefits who will be affected, but anyone who falls ill or becomes disabled and has to leave their job.  And for what?  To make a fraction of a percentage of people lose around £30 a week because they are no longer quite as ill or disabled as this Government now insists they must be to qualify for health related benefits.  Rarely has such a nasty policy been carried out by any Government for such trivial ends.

*It is unclear how far through the assessment process different cities are.  As the assessments are just over half complete then the Daily Mail’s workshy map actually means nothing at all, except for demonstrating the revealing fact that no-one at the paper seems to know where Manchester is.

A ‘not fit for work’ map has been created by @Mylegalforum and published on DPAC’s website.

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Atos Join The Army – MOD Hand Out £25 Million Contract To Bungling IT Firm

atos_dr_nickAtos, the French IT firm behind the ruthless and bungled assessments for sickness and disability benefits have been handed a whopping £25 million contract by the MOD.

Atos will head up a team running communications and information technology strategies for the armed forces.  Taleban camp leaders in Afghanistan are believed to have relaxed the local Champagne ban on hearing the news.  Not satisfied with developing the bodged and brutal Work Capability Assessments – which has driven some sick and disabled benefit claimants to suicide – Atos now want to become involved with the war industry.  It seems like they can never have quite too much blood on their hands.

This is just one in a string of contracts the company now has with the UK Government, which also include running much of the new disability assessments for the Personal Independent Payment, countless contracts to provide Occupational Health to public sector workers and chillingly nuclear power station decommissioning.

These contracts have been awarded despite their woeful performance as providers of sickness benefit assessments which have seen over 1 in 7 (15%) of their ‘fit for work’ decisions proved wrong in the courts.  Despite this Government’s obsession with payment by results, it seems Atos are handed a never ending stream of tax payers cash no matter how much they get it wrong.

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Man Jailed After Comments Made In Atos Assessment

atos-killsUPDATE 26/04/13  Steve Topley has been bailed, has pleaded guilty and is now expected to receive a community sentence.  Seems he wasn’t such a threat to the community after all.

A Nottingham man has now been held in custody for two weeks after he was accused of “threatening behaviour”* due to comments he allegedly made during his Atos benefits assessment.

Steve Topley is a 49 year old father with multiple serious health problems who was required to attend a Work Capability Assessment with the notorious IT firm Atos – the company responsible for stripping benefits from hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people.  During the process Mr Topley made some comments about someone not present at the assessment.

These comments led to Atos staff calling the police and Mr Topley was asked to attend Queens Medical Centre (QMC) in Nottingham.  When he refused to do so he was arrested.  At QMC he was de-arrested and received a mental health assessment but no reason was found to detain him under the mental health act.  He was then re-arrested and taken in handcuffs to Nottingham police station where he was later charged.

He has now been refused bail twice in closed courts which his family say they were not permitted to attend.  His sister Gina Topley, who says the family are being kept in the dark about the legal process, has said:

“My brother has not been given any opportunity to speak and give his side of the story to a judge and he was not offered an appropriate adult to accompany him when he was arrested.”

His family have not been allowed to visit him in prison and have raised concerns that his medication may not be being administered properly.  Mr Topley will face another appearance in a closed court tomorrow (Friday 26th April) and there are major fears that he will be remanded once again pending psychiatric reports.

His family and supporters have called a demonstration outside the court tomorrow calling for his immediate release.

Meet outside Nottingham Crown Court on Friday 26th April from 9.30-11.00am – please help spread the word.  For more details and the  latest news visit: http://freestevetopley.wordpress.com/

Thanks to 3monkeys in the comments for spotting this.

*Clarification:  Mr Topley was finally charged with making a ‘threat to kill’.  This can be a very serious charge which can result in a long sentence depending on other aggravating factors, however in this case it seems this was not the view of the Judge.  According to Mr Topley’s family:

“The Judge on the day appeared to accept that Steve was not a threat to anyone, however the ludicrous charge of ‘threatening to kill’ is still hanging over him. Police have not so far informed the alleged ‘victim’ of any plot against him, and cannot seem to find them, demonstrating how seriously they actually take this.”

One point worth making is that this incident happened in the middle of an Atos assessment which are notoriously stressful and frightening for claimants.  If he hadn’t been put through that, it is unlikely he would have said whatever he said, which it seems was not a very credible threat at least as far as the Judge was concerned.  When people who are marginalised are subject to this kind of shit then it can make people react irrationally or angrily and they end up doing things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.  The context these events take place in is often ignored by ‘professionals’, because to them it is all just a job and they can’t understand why people are not being reasonable.  The stark terror felt by some people facing courts, benefit assessments, arrests, bailiffs, prisons or even more seemingly benign institutions such as social services, Jobcentres and community mental health teams can often cause people to destroy themselves.  This can happen even if ‘professionals’ concerned do their jobs properly within the constrain of the system and no-one is really personally culpable.

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Member of ‘Fit For Work Coalition’ Brought in to Scrutinise Atos

paul-litchfieldThe DWP have brought in a member of the ‘Fit For Work Coalition’ and the neo-liberal think tank the World Economic Forum, to carry out a review of the brutal assessments for sickness and disability benefits.

Dr Paul Litchfield will replace Professor Malcolm Harrington who was sidelined after being mildly critical of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), the relentless health and disability tests which have driven some claimants to suicide.

As well as his membership of the sinister sounding World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council – who promote more capitalism to deal with the problems created by capitalism – Litchfield is Chief Medical Officer at BT.  He is also a member of the aptly named Fit For Work Coalition which: “brings together healthcare professionals, policy makers, employers, and patients to improve the productivity of Britain’s workforce, by empowering and supporting people, including those with long-term conditions, to remain in or return to work and be economically active.”

Litchfield has long been working behind the scenes with both the current and the last government in a bid to dismantle the welfare state.  Way back in 2006 he was a member of the Mental Health Technical Group who were involved in proposals to ‘transform’ the old Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) – the previous assessment regime for Incapacity Benefit.

He then went on to sit on the Technical and Consultative Working Group involved in the creation of the Work Capability Assessment, along with Angela Graham of Atos Origin and Sue Godby of Unum.

He will now prepare a review on the shambolic Work Capability Assessment which is seeing more seriously unwell or disabled people than ever successfully appealing Fit for Work decisions.

Litchfield has already given an early indication of his true role at the DWP , which appears to be that of a glorified spin doctor.  He claims in a statement on the DWP website that “Any assessment not only has to be fair but must be perceived as being fair.”

He’s not there to change the assessments, but to change people’s minds about the assessments.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid