Atos in the Dock

Patrick LynchFrom Public Interest lawyers via Disabled people Against Cuts

A disabled man who was wrongly found fit for work under the government’s disability benefit assessment scheme is launching legal action to try and stop more disabled people being wrongly kicked off the social safety net.

Patrick Lynch, a former social care worker who was forced to quit work because of his impairments, is seeking a judicial review of the controversial disability benefit assessment scheme run by Atos.

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which determines eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for people whose health or impairment stops them from working, is at present hugely unreliable, with many people wrongly found fit for work despite severely debilitating and in some cases life-threatening conditions.

The legal action is seeking a ruling that would require Atos, the private firm that runs the WCA process on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), to grant all ESA claimants the unequivocal right to have their assessment recorded and to receive their WCA report before a decision on their eligibility is made – both key safeguards against people’s health conditions being misreported or ignored altogether.

DWP research and a survey conducted by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) both show widespread demand from claimants to have their WCA assessments recorded, to ensure their medical conditions are not misrepresented in order to wrongly strip them of benefits. But while the DWP granted the right to request a recording earlier this year, there are considerable bureaucratic obstacles to both securing a recording and then using it in an appeal, with Atos recently introducing a restrictive ‘consent form’ for those wanting a recording of their assessment.

The case is being brought by Public Interest Lawyers, and draws on research by Disabled People Against Cuts and the TUC-backed campaign group False Economy.

Mr Lynch wants the DWP and Atos to adopt the following safeguards:

a)    Universal recording to ensure that all claimants undergoing a WCA or an assessment under the new PIP benefit system will have the right to have their assessment recorded;

b)    Claimants will get a copy of the WCA report before a decision is made on their eligibility for ESA, and will have the chance to raise any concerns with the DWP decision maker;

c)    The DWP/Atos will be responsible for obtaining medical evidence from the medical professional named by the claimant;

d)    The DWP ensures that all assessment centres are fully accessible.

Taken together, these measures would address some of the inaccuracy inherent in the disability benefits system. Disability campaigners have raised repeated concerns over how the WCA process causes huge stress for ESA recipients, with many disabled people’s lives ruined after wrongly having their benefits removed.

Mr Lynch, now a campaigner with DPAC, was found fit for work following a flawed WCA report in 2010, before the DWP reconsidered and reversed the decision. His most recent WCA this year upheld his benefit entitlement, but even then Atos’ report of his assessment contained inaccuracies.

In bringing the action Mr Lynch notes

Disabled people and the poor in this Country have always struggled to get what they are duly entitled to. The fight must go on to address the injustice caused by this out of touch Government.

A DPAC spokesperson said:

The evidence is clear – more than 98 percent of those responding to our survey said they wanted their assessment recorded and that they believed it would provide a better account. However, many reported a whole host of barriers in getting a recording in place.”

Blogging will be lighter than usual probably until the New Year.

20 responses to “Atos in the Dock

  1. Pingback: Atos in the Dock | Welfare, Disability, Politics and People's Right's |

  2. Good post, but why are people not fundamentally questioning the need for any Work Capability Assessment on the basis that £1000s has usually already been spent by NHS on diagnosis and treatment for people? All well documented, most I know have files inches thick. I know the ideological basis for it (TY Unum, Liam Byrne before the last few months, IDS etc etc) but the reality is that whoever does WCA is essentially paid to ignore all that expensive expertise. People who don’t care about the terror these interviews strike in the hearts of the vulnerable might be more interested in the huge waste of time and money.
    Really we need a basic unconditional income, with extra for disabilities & children. We all have the right to exist, whatever our circumstances, and the benefit system as it stands – as well as the plans for Universal Credit, benefit caps etc – is complicated, demeaning, wasteful of both money and human potential. And the jobs are simply not there.

  3. Litigation on behalf of the sick and disabled will only serve to separate the sickness/unemployed lobby fighting for benefits to be reinstated when sanctioned or signed off the sick. Both are worthy of representation from a legal aspect (depending of course on what the law determines the outcome should be), these community lawyers will have to work within the legal framework set out by a government that is only interested in depriving people of benefits they are entitled to.

  4. Very similar to the propaganda from the NSDAP in 1930’s Germany.

  5. For A read this very interesting!

    B, not sure unfortunately some of us can not cope with this process. Having 6-9 months to refute/get advice/gather evidence after receiving the DWP appeal pack for the tribunal may still be better.

    C, should be by specific request of claimant and could actually back fire unless person contacted understands the ESA process which the vast majority of them do not!

    D goes with out saying it’s a winner and a disgrace it hasn’t already happened.

    Just my musings !

  6. something survived...

    Thought of a ‘rebranding exercise’: Atos Origins:
    Anus Origins.

    Shitting on the disabled forever!

  7. The government is in the process of repealing the liability of a company over mistreatment by one of its employee’s on a protected characteristic.
    it is surprising legal action has not come earlier,many complaining of bad treatment by this outfit is an understatement.

  8. Ian Lavery MP during Prime Ministers Question time today held up a suicide note from somebody who had just taken their life after having his disability welfare payments cut. He also mentioned that across the U.K he knew of more than 1,000 people who had died within months of being declared fit for work. It can be viewed on BBC iplayer.

    • Not making light of this tragedy, but what was his money cut to? £71, £0. Besides, people are dying all the time, 4,500 people (working or not) die in the UK EVERY DAY, they come in from work and are dead the next morning, so it is to be expected that *some* people declared “fit for work” will die in the natural course of events.

      • I think the issue is that many who are found to be fit for work by Atos are not as judged by the success rate of appeal. I am told that the DWP work on the asumption that a proportion of people who are routinely found able to work just simply accept and do not argue even though they have a very strong case. It’s a percentage game for people who mutter platitudes about tragedy and express sympathy for the disabled. To me it is wicked.

  9. some advocat you would make – NOT.!!!!!!! So people are supposed to work with illnesses whether known or unknown until they drop?

  10. Pingback: CAB Chief Executive Gillian Guys Response to My Letter Regarding Audio Recording of Atos WCA Advice Given By CAB Advisors… | Atos Victims Group News

  11. Pingback: Atos use veiled threats to those who record their own Assessments… | Atos Victims Group News

  12. Pingback: The Fear of The WCA. The Fight For Justice. | Atos Victims Group News

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