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atos on the ropes (again). Benefits assessment firm causing 'fear and loathing' among claimants, says MP

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Interesting reading, nothing we didn't know of course. I look forward to seeing the report and hope it has some effect.

 

Thank you for posting it.

 

My best, HB

  • Haha 1

Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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Although they touched on it slightly, I think the journalist missed the point at how sick people are failed on the atos assessment. Atos assessments are based on assumptions from the answers given to the questions, however, the questions are designed to elicit yes or no answers - and in fact many people assessed have been told at the assessment to limit their answers to yes ans no. So lets take the questions mentioned in the article as an exmple.

 

When asked things like 'do you have pets?', most people will answer yes and maybe the type of pet - leaving it open to the assumption that they walk and feed the dog, deal with vetenary emergencies. They don't clarify whether they look after the pet, of if someone helps, and the assessor does not ask.

 

Another question 'do you do your own shopping', someone might answer yes, leaving the assessor to assume that the person walks round tesco after driving, walking, or taking public transport to tesco. The person may have their shopping delivered, but not think to mention it.

 

'Do you watch eastenders?' was mentioned as a way to find out if someone sits for at least 30 mins, but is also used to gauge ability to concentrate - but the person being assessed may not mention that they record the show, or use live pause to watch it in smaller chunks.

 

'Do you do the cooking?' leaves the person who just says 'yes', open to it being assumed they can stand for long periods, and plan and carry out a fully cooked meal - when in fact they may just put something in the microwave, or eat beans on toast. 'Do you worry that you might leave the cooker on?' might elicit a response of simply 'no', if the person doesn't use the cooker, only the microwave, but the assessor would assume the person used the cooker with no worries.

 

Even if the person stated they do not meet friends in cafes, a simple yes to having friends would have the assessor record that the person socialises regularly - even if they don't.

Again 'do you get the newspapers every day?', a simple yes would lead the assessor to record that the person leaves the house and gets the papers - even if the papers are delivered.

 

The mental health questions, do not adequately cover the descriptors, even though they tend to be more direct.

 

The roundabout method of trying to build evidence is not confusing per se - its the assumptions that are made from the answers that are so frustrating. The lack of appropriate follow up questions by the assessor, means that important evidence is often not given, because the person being assessed, with no knowledge of the descriptors involved has no way of knowing that the information is required.

 

Another trap people fall into is making an extreme effort to attend the assessment - knowing their benefit depends on it, doing things that they could not do on a daily basis, but putting up with pain, anxiety, panic etc for just one day knowing that that it is only one day, and they won't be expected to do it again. The trouble is the assessor will assume everything that the person does on that day, that the person can do every day. A person with mental health problems who is might normally struggle maintaining personal hygience, changing clothes, or even getting dressed in the morning, may well make an extra special effort to get shower, get dressed and leave the house for that few hours giving a flase impression of their normal condition. The assessor makes no effort to ascertain if the activities on the day of the assessment are unusual and unrepeatable on a daily basis.

 

People being assessed will sometimes also try to paint a picture of a person struggling with ill health now, but very much wanting to go back to work. And while this is laudable, it appears that positivity about work, particularly in the case of mental health claimants will lead the assessor to assume that the person will be ready for work very soon, and so fail them, ignoring the fact that wanting to work and being capable of work are two different things.

 

Then there's the 'box ticking mentality' by the assessors, where even if the person gives a more detailed answer, many assessors won't want to take time to write the answers in the available box, being under time pressure, so will instead select the 'closest' answer from the options on their screen - which may well not represent what the person actually said.

 

And then there are the the complete untruths that people see on their Atos reports. Statements that they never made, things that could not possibly be true. How these statements get on the reports may be due to error, or over zealous assessors trying to hit targets.

 

39% of tribunals may be successful, but many people appealing do not understand how to properly make their case, or even the descriptors that are under consideration. They don't take the time to point out the inaccuracies in the atos report, and will turn up with a simple letter from the doctor confirming their diagnosis, which has little bearing on an appeal that is only won if they score enough points on the descriptors.

 

From what I remember, with good representation, anything from 80%-95% of ESA appeals are successful, though some of this will be due to caseworkers not taking cases that won't win at tribunal, much is due to cases being better presented. Unfortunately with legal aid funding soon to be removed from benefit matters, this type of representation will become increasingly scarce.

 

Atos' protestations regarding extra evidence being presented at Tribunal as a reason for successful appeals, will be frustrating to the many claimants who are told that they cannot present doctors' letters at their assessment, or other evidence. And Atos claiming that Tribunals weigh evidence differently is troubling. Tribunals assess according the Social Security law governing ESA, and as Atos assessments do not ensure that all applicable evidence is collected in order to assess a person's capability for work, then they are in fact contravening Social Security law.

 

The assessment at present is unfit for purpose, and until Atos are penalised for each appeal won, nothing will change.

 

Couldn't find a comments section at the Guardian, so emailed this to them. I've never written to a paper before - maybe I'm becoming a 'grumpy'.

Edited by leemack
Added extra stuff

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Even if the person stated they do not meet friends in cafes, a simple yes to having friends would have the assessor record that the person socialises regularly.

 

Yet, this socialising may only extend to interacting online and not that often. Or in some cases, (as is mine; but has nothing to do with either persons disabilities) is that whilst I have friends and we try to talk often, it's not always practical. Even then, it's only 5 minutes here and there. Yet, it would be classed as socialising.

 

I do watch TV - but don't ask me what on earth is happening - because I lose concentration. I also tend to have to get up a lot. I also tend not to sit up when watching TV - doing so is sometimes painful.

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Yet, this socialising may only extend to interacting online and not that often. Or in some cases, (as is mine; but has nothing to do with either persons disabilities) is that whilst I have friends and we try to talk often, it's not always practical. Even then, it's only 5 minutes here and there. Yet, it would be classed as socialising.

 

I do watch TV - but don't ask me what on earth is happening - because I lose concentration. I also tend to have to get up a lot. I also tend not to sit up when watching TV - doing so is sometimes painful.

 

This is true, but many people would not mention it at the Atos assessment - or would find that they were requested to limit answers to yes and no.

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in July he received a letter from jobcentre officials stating that he was not eligible for the benefit (worth around £95 a week) and would be fit to return to work within three months

 

I'm confused. I thought that if they decided you would be fit for work in x amount of months, you get into WRAG?

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as is because I lose concentration

 

this is where i have problems also i start reading and my eyes start to wonder and the concentration goes,when starting the work programme i was handed a brochure of high power job searching tips,i couldn't concentrate though all that.

 

as mentioned above regarding pets these are very therapeutic and recommended,these are expensive to keep and if a sanction is applied the cost of keeping them would have a reverse affect and the stress of worrying about them on top. if i have to sign off because of the work programme if it becomes to much i don't fancy being faced any of whats been said.

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Here the

The role of incapacity benefit reassessment in helping claimants into employment - Work and Pensions Committee

 

Reports...

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmworpen/1015/101502.htm

 

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmworpen/1015/1015vw01.htm

 

A quote from a reader of The Guardian,about ATOS assessments..

 

The tests were very simple - if you were well enough to get there, you were well enough to work, if you couldn't get there, you were unco-operative and crossed off the benefit list. A system worthy of the Inquisition
Edited by 45002

Please use the quote system, So everyone will know what your referring too, thank you ...

 

 

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The report's been published today in 2 volumes. Here's a link to the reports page with both parts shown. It's going to be a long read.

 

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/publications/

 

My best, HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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I like this bit,

 

113. One witness disagreed and argued that, having read the ESA Handbook for 2011, she

was concerned that:

The criteria for being “fit for work” or “fit for work related activity” do not correlate

with criteria of “fit to be employed”. The criteria only demonstrate that the claimant

has an absolute minimum amount of functionality, and this bare minimum will not

be acceptable to employers [...] those who are found “fit for work” or “fit for work

related activity” are actually only being assessed to be working at a work station.

Hence they are actually only being assessed as “fit for work, or work related activity

that occurs at a work station”. Until the assessment criteria tests for ALL work types

it is actually not a test for work, or employment.

 

MrH


Hopefully one day all dca's will be history

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Thanks HB, its made me go cross eyed trying to read it all!

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Thanks HB, its made me go cross eyed trying to read it all!

 

There's a lot to absorb, isn't there? HB x


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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deleted


Please use the quote system, So everyone will know what your referring too, thank you ...

 

 

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Well guys, I've read about as much as my eyes can stand for one day. There's reams of it.

 

The committee seem to have asked some relevant questions and taken some excellent opinons from charities and experts. I really hope Atos and the DWP do something about the recommendations. I'm not sure if they have to?

 

I have to say I think the DWP are naive about the subtleties of assessing ill people with different conditions and seem to have thought a 'one size fits all' system would work. And they don't seem to have communicated well with or trained the people trying to implement any changes.

 

They think public perception is improving, or words to that effect, but I don't see it shining through on this forum.

 

My best, HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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I like this bit,

 

113. One witness disagreed and argued that, having read the ESA Handbook for 2011, she

was concerned that:

The criteria for being “fit for work” or “fit for work related activity” do not correlate

with criteria of “fit to be employed”. The criteria only demonstrate that the claimant

has an absolute minimum amount of functionality, and this bare minimum will not

be acceptable to employers [...] those who are found “fit for work” or “fit for work

related activity” are actually only being assessed to be working at a work station.

Hence they are actually only being assessed as “fit for work, or work related activity

that occurs at a work station”. Until the assessment criteria tests for ALL work types

it is actually not a test for work, or employment.

 

MrH

 

its a good point and shows the risks of someone being in the job centre for some considerable time and having not only to deal with the disability and then having to battle organisations like jobcentre plus on top."the real world"they are sending people for the work programme regardless of prospects of employment and are placing unreasonable expectations on those that claim small amounts of benefits expecting them to travel unreasonable distances to find work (you can halt this by complaining and its important to do so) having own transport and expecting to perform miracles with no thought for the effects on the customer either financially or emotionally.

 

people who hire want the best person with the experience,they are not interested in the dwp's vision,the companies they employ.the economy is in a terrible state as we know and their seems to be policy of not focusing publically on this,instead feeding negative statements as in another guardian article but its customers'.being on benefits like jobseekers doesnt mean someone is going to find work.

 

the atos scandal will have adapt it has no choice the costs/burdens of its actions and decisions again are not in the real world.

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They think public perception is improving, or words to that effect, but I don't see it shining through on this forum

 

I post on a few other forums where ATOS have been talked about many times. (these are forums aimed at disabled people and their carers / relatives) I don't think I've ever read anything positive about ATOS. Yet, when IB was in place, you heard much less about "I was turned down and need to appeal. What next?"

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I have copied and pasted this because it's from a website that wants you to pay to join. Sorry if it repeats points already made.

 

"Anne Begg, chair of the work and pensions committee, has taken the almost unprecedented step of publishing openly a letter to the employment secretary Chris Grayling. It expresses her concern at the way employment and support allowance (ESA) statistics he is releasing have continued to fuel anti-claimant press stories. In her letter Begg notes the ‘​coincide​nce’​ that the latest ESA statistics were released on the same day as her own committee’​s report, which heavily criticises the way that ESA medicals are being carried out.

 

In its report released this week, the work and pensions committee savaged the way the work capability assessment is carried out by Atos Healthcare and condemned the repeated media portrayal of claimants as ‘​workshy’​ and ‘​scrounge​rs’​. The report also criticised the government for failure to “​take greater care in the language it uses when it engages with the media and in particular when it releases and comments on official statistics on the IB reassessm​ent.”​

 

Yet on the very day the work and pensions committee report was released, Grayling’​s department once again fed ESA statistics to the media, which duly obliged with more hate-fuelled misrepresentations of sick and disabled claimants.

 

The Express carried the headline’​ Sick benefits: 75% are faking’​, whilst the Daily Mail’​s headline was ‘​The shirking classes: just 1 in 14 incapacity benefit claimants is unfit to work’​. Both were a deliberate mangling of the truth and whilst both papers carried details of Begg’​s report, its impact was destroyed by the headlines above it.

 

In her letter to Grayling, published on the parliament website, Begg notes that in the committee’​s report “​we highlighted the concern amongst incapacity benefit claimants about the negative public perception of them. We deprecated the coverage of the reassessment in some sections of the media and in particular the use of terms such as "​scrounge​r"​ and "​work shy"​. We drew particular attention to the way in which releases of official statistics about the reassessment process were covered in the media”​

 

Begg goes on to note that, although in his evidence to the committee Grayling had denied any part in feeding negative stories to the media:

 

“​By what I assume was a coincidence, the Department chose to release statistics on new Employment and Support Allowance claims yesterday. The coverage of the statistics in some newspapers, notably the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, was a particularly egregious example of the way they can be misused.”​

 

Begg says that she trusts that Grayling will be “​contacting newspaper editors again to urge them to ensure that the reports they carry about ESA claims are factually correct and that they avoid pejorative terms such as "​shirkers"​ and "​scrounge​rs"​ which are irresponsible and inaccurate.”​.

 

Of course, as Begg knows only too well, the hate-provoking headlines make continued cuts to benefits much easier to introduce. And the government will undoubtedly continue to collude in creating them for as long as it can get away with it.

 

The reality is that, until sick and disabled people have the same protection under the law as other minorities, there is likely to be very little that can be done to prevent the publication of disablist propaganda that, if aimed at other minorities, would attract a substantial period of imprisonment."


Benefits rules are complex, and although I do try to inform and support people, I may get it wrong because the rules apply to individual claimants and their particular circumstances.

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Ditto for this:-

 

"A report published today by the work and pensions committee urges the government to end Atos Healthcare’​s benefits medical monopoly and heavily criticises many aspects of the way the multinational carries out its contract.

 

The report, "​The role of incapacity benefit assessment in helping claimants into employment"​, supports the government’​s aim of moving incapacity benefit claimants back into work. However it criticises the portrayal by the media of the reassessment as a process to weed out the ‘​workshy’​ and ‘​scrounge​rs’​ as inaccurate and unhelpful. The report also criticised the government for failure to “​take greater care in the language it uses when it engages with the media and in particular when it releases and comments on official statistics on the IB reassessm​ent.”​

 

However, the committee reserved its biggest criticisms for Atos Healthcare. In relation to the Atos call centre system for arranging medical assessments, the committee found that:

 

“​Evidence suggests that many people have experienced problems with the call-centre service. In one extreme case it took 135 telephone calls to get through to Atos.”​

 

There is also a heavy reliance on overbooking of appointments for medicals:

 

“​Atos routinely overbooks WCA appointments by 20% on the basis of the non-attendance rate for new ESA claims, which was 30%. However, the non-attendance rate in the IB reassessment trials was much lower, at around 9%, although it is too soon to say whether this low rate seen in the trials will continue in the national roll-out.”​

 

The result of this overbooking is that claimants are sometimes turned away without having their assessment and then subsequently have their benefit stopped because they are wrongly marked down as having failed to turn up.

 

The committee was also hugely unimpressed by the number of assessment centres which had poor or non-existent disabled access and at the apparent unwillingness on many occasions of Atos to provide reasonable adjustments.

 

“​It is unacceptable that disabled people should be called to attend an assessment at a centre which is inappropriately located, inaccessible to them or where reasonable adjustments cannot be made to accommodate special requirements arising from their health condition. We note DWP'​s assurance that Atos Healthcare is "​moving rapidly toward"​ a situation where this is no longer the case. We request that, in response to this Report, the Government sets out progress towards this aim.”​

 

MPs also expressed concern that the Atos contract has been extended from 2012 to 2015 and that the basis of this extension was that Atos would be "​delivering substantial savings against the current estimated cost of £​100 million per annum"​. That costs are going to be cut at a time when the service has already been found to be very poor in some regards and when the number of assessments has greatly increased can only be bad news for claimants.

 

The committee noted that decision makers reject Atos reports as being unacceptable in only 1 in 500 cases and considered that “​Such a low percentage would seem to indicate that this aspect of DWP quality control over Atos'​s service is not functioning as it should. It also reinforces Professor Harrington'​s point, discussed in Chapter 5, that decision-makers rarely question the advice provided by Atos.”​

 

The MPs have recommended that when the contract is put out to tender in 2015 that there are stringent penalties for failure to produce high standard reports that get things right first time.

 

The most dramatic recommendation, however, is that the government should, once the current incapacity benefit to ESA assessments have been completed, introduce a second supplier of medicals. The committee believes that the introduction of competition will drive up standards and wants the government to publish proposals on how this can be achieved before the end of 2012.

 

It is a recommendation that will cause real dismay amongst Atos executives, who have benefited from a lack of meaningful scrutiny of their company’​s performance ever since they won the original contract to carry out personal capability assessments. What effect it will have on claimants’​ experience of the assessment system remains to be seen."


Benefits rules are complex, and although I do try to inform and support people, I may get it wrong because the rules apply to individual claimants and their particular circumstances.

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I was at a meeting last night to discuss combating Welfare Reform. I have to admit my naivete around ATOS but on hearing they operate in 42countries around the world and have 8.7billion in assets I was amazed.

 

This is the real face of privatization and it is only due to get worse. A wholesale dismantling of disabled persons benefits is in its 2nd reading of parliament.

 

Time to take to the streets.

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The company I work for uses ATOS to assess if an employee is fit for work or has had an unauthorised absence.

 

I'm waiting for a call from them in about 15 minutes. My past experience hasn't been great. It makes me so angry that they are going to write a report that could decide my fate at work based on a phone consultation! Ugh.

 

Rant.

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Said it for years this ATOS company are just plain corrupt , taking to the streets is the only way to get results today !!

Us brits never do anything just bitch and moan to one another , take a leaf from the students protests I say even if it means riots !

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Now, I cant remember if this has been mentioned in this section, or this particular thread...

 

I am a member of another forum, its a Sci Fi one :redface: but I tend to hang round in the politics/real world section as there are some serious nuts about.

 

Anyway, we have a lot of "professionals" who also post in those sections, social workers, Civil Servants, some at highish grades, including a chap that works for DWP.

 

In a thread regarding "fit to work" ATOS etc, he has dropped this bombshell, apologies if it has been mentioned here before.

 

Guess who decides whether ATOS have met their targets or more importantly should be subject to financial penalty for the high number of "Fails" that then lead to a successful appeal at Tribunal?

 

Its a good one.

 

Yes. ATOS itself decides whether it should be financially penalized... their contract it seems does not allow the DWP to make this decision.

 

It used to get overused, but I think this very definately deserves an "Only in the UK" :evil:


[sIGPIC][/sIGPIC]

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That's absolute madness. That's like someone declaring themselves (un)fit for work with no professional backing.

 

How wrong is it that I'm not actually that surprised?

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