French 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.