Labour and Atos – is it a distraction from the main issue?

Real change required: Sacking Atos would be a cosmetic difference if DWP policy remains unchanged under a Labour government. Let's have an announcement about that! [Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

Real change required: Sacking Atos would be a cosmetic difference if DWP policy remains unchanged under a Labour government. Let’s have an announcement about that! [Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

Having had time away to think about this, it has occurred to me that in discussing whether Labour is right to say it will fire Atos – or whether it will even fulfil that promise – we are barking up the wrong tree.

Atos does what the DWP tells it to do. We can all say it does this work very badly, but that would be splitting hairs. The orders come from the Department.

Getting rid of Atos won’t make any difference if the policy stays the same – and Labour’s record on social security has not been good since neoliberal ‘New Labour’ took office in 1997.

So I reckon more pressure needs to be exerted on Mr Miliband and his front bench, to expel all traces – not only of Atos, but of Unum, the real influence, and to put forward a new policy that is, above all, humane to claimants of disability/sickness/incapacity benefits.

What he says on this subject will be very interesting. But he must be pinned down.

New policy.

No Unum.

No Atos – or any other unqualified overseers of our medical health.

Humane treatment for benefit claimants.

(And sack Liam Byrne!)

22 thoughts on “Labour and Atos – is it a distraction from the main issue?

  1. Stephen Bee

    Totally agree your final demands..especially the last one..wouldn’t trust byrne as far as I could chuck him given his record in opposition so far…words are ‘cheap’

    1. anon

      Following the UN condemnation of the bedroom tax (and the fact that Atos and other benefits victims have been invited to contact the UN for consideration) the lay of the land has been made clear enough for Liberals and Labour alike.

      No wonder they are backing off rather than getting tangled in defending the indefensible.

      Reading between the lines of Hoban’s conciliatory responses to Spartacus, it seems too that the former has expectations of stepping into the (repeatedly disgraced and discredited) IDS’s shoes in the not too distant future. Longer term, Hoban may have ideas of marketing himself as a firm-but-fair, John-Majorly, and sexily 50-shades-grey leader of a decimated Tory party in opposition.

  2. Florence

    You took the words out of my mouth! Sacking ATOS is part of the process, not the end game. Liam Byrne is a liability as he has already pinned his colours to the mast – he thinks the reforms are right, but not implemented quickly enough.

    This IDS clone needs to be sacked. Even if he recanted and promised to review the laws that have sheltered IDS and his thugs at the DWP, I would not be able to trust him to really change.

    Jack Straw was the same – he was a typical self-serving right winger when president of the Students Union, and he just got more so once in government. They don’t change. I agree with you on the posts elsewhere that we have to accept that Labour will have the right policies going forward, and that we should engage actively if we want to be heard properly, but I do make an exception for Liam Byrne. Oh yes, and Chukka Ummana.

  3. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7)

    Thank you for mentioning Unum Group, which has been advising the UK government since the Thatcher era.

    For much of the past decade, Unum has been under a cloud because of shoddy and unprofitable policy underwriting that has forced it to boost its claim reserves. Moreover, its former practice of denying coverage to disabled clients resulted in an expensive settlement in 2005 with attorneys general in 49 states. Another settlement in 2006 ended a probe led by then-New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer into “pay-to-play” broker compensation and incentives.

  4. bookmanwales

    Very true.
    ATOS is not the problem but the whole regime of WCA and Workfare and the ideology behind it.

    If we had sufficient employment capacity then one could argue that the welfare state is a last resort for those truly unable to work.

    However since the 1980s, mass unemployment of around 2 million has been a permanent feature in the British economy – regardless of immigration issues or political party in power.

    New Labour’s wholehearted embracing of Tory ideology was obvious from the start; failure to repeal anti union legislation, implementation of WCA and Workfare, failure to oversee the banks, and failure to crack down on tax avoidance. And ultimately the anti terror legislation.

    Saying they will scrap ATOS but keep the same policies is a total sellout and really means ATOS will just change their name to some other foreign unnaccountable corporation

    The billions used to hammer the sick and unemployed could have created tens of thousands of real jobs that would have helped the economy grow rather than taking money off people and making the economy shrink. Common sense is never as complicated as politicians would have us mere mortals believe.

    A first step in Labour’s revival is the sacking of Liam Byrne and his expulsion from the Labour Party, quickly followed by others of the same ilk. No labour member, MP or supporter should in any way or under any circumstances agree with a single thing these right-wing Tories propose that affect poor and working class people only.

    These “traitors” should be dealt with as expediently and with all the finesse that was shown militant tendency with their “too left” policies.

    Rather a “too left” Labour than one that embraces a right wing “hammer the workers” policy seen since Tony (B)liar and cronies managed to weasel their way into the top spots.

  5. Adam Clifford

    There is a stark absence of the mention of increased tax revenue to be collected from those who are not paying their due on profits gained from British markets, who are using tax havens to secrete profits gained from British markets, from spurious tax avoidance schemes used to maximise profits got from Britsh markets. It has been obscene how the tories have publically flayed, abused and punished the most disadvantaged, whipped into a near frenzy by a brutal media. When all these tax dodgers, corporate and individual, are floating around. It’s been disgusting. And then the almost depraved MPs talking about a pay rise. It’s like p*ssing on the electorate. Such contempt for people. A not unfamiliar road.

  6. Levinas

    Assessments have always been a part of disability and illness claims so I don’t think the WCA is going. It does however need reform, change, to be made a genuine assessment of individual capability, not a way of removing benefits to bring down costs. As for Atos, yes bye bye to them. Unum should also go but more than that we need to get them to look at how advisors, lobbyists, etc are acquired, what they stand to gain from the advice they give and ensure that never again are private individuals or companies allowed to cajole or coerce government depts or ministers to act in a way that is detrimental to the country and population purely to further that individual or company’s own interests… and then convince ministers or depts that its in UK’s best interests. Personally I’d like to see Freud reduced to Mr not Lord, after all he only got ennobled to further Conservative policy – not because he actually deserved it or had owt to offer beyond assisting the Tories.
    As for Byrne, he’s on the wrong side of the house; he should go. And after Chuka Umunna’s comments calling for the criminalisation of squatting in non residential properties – does he not realise this anti squatting law has already led to deaths? Get him out. I’m Florence on that.

    1. #EndWCA

      Any assessment should be focused on verifying that a claimaint is indeed suffering from the medical condition claimed by his or her doctor on their sick certificate (perhaps in the unlikely event of suspected identity theft), or to check on someone remaining on the sick for a sprained ankle 12 months after the event.

      In fact it seems that with the exception of a tiny number of claims that get referred to the DWPs fraud team (not Atos!), the basic sicknote from a GP is still accepted as legal proof of disability. PEOPLE DON’T GET REFERRED TO ATOS UNLESS THE DWP ALREADY BELIEVE THIS EVIDENCE.

      The WCA is a “second tier” filtering exercise afterwards.

      Atos says, (literally – as disclosed by a whistleblower) “Yes but, even a paraplegic with movement in one finger could lay in their bed and press a button with that finger
      for eight hours a day.” According to Atos and the DWP they have a career ahead of them as a Button Wallah and need not claim ESA.

      But the real marketplace has no jobs for button wallahs, empty-cardboard-box wallahs, or even pound-coin wallahs. There are no Musical-Chairs-ologists crying out for people to get up out of one chair and then sit down again in the one next to it, the day long. And no room for the sick and disabled either, in the current economy.

      Atos’ Work Capability tests are a scam shoehorned in to gov’t policy by a corrupt insurance industry touting for business, and it serves as a backdoor for the DWP to strip entitlements from people who they KNOW can never support themselves.

      The Tories killed Remploy, they killed the right for the sick to try out a return to work with the safety-net of being able to resume benefits without hassle. Disability Advisors no longer liaise with local employers to negotiate opportunities for their clients. Instead they are just brokers for the Work Programme.

  7. Steven Goodman

    Then if successful don’t stop there….begin legislating against the financial rapists of the pubic funds (International Corporations) and their collusive national traitors – The politicians of all mainstream parties. IE Amazon turn over = 2 billion Profit yield for tax calculation 0% (How does that happen?)

    Block access to UK or EU (Better whipping stick) markets, till contract of national agreement of adherance to laws and service of host nation, payments required (Tax) community and social responsibilty.

  8. Lynn

    We have hospitals, we have medical staff unemployed, why can’t we do our own assessments and stop paying out stupid money we can ill afford to all and sundry.

  9. anon


    Also they must:

    – ABOLISH WCA (the Work Capability Assessment)

    – Abolish DISABLED WORKFARE and “Work Related Activity”

    – Dump UNIVERSAL [dis]CREDIT
    Just reinstate Incapacity Benefit and DLA – which did not KILL people and
    was efficient. The computer system is still up and running so costs and
    waste would be minimised.

    – Abolish BENEFITS SANCTIONS for ANYONE disabled, vulnerable or at risk

    Reframe them as FINES issued by the court after obtaining social reports etc,
    and which can be appealed at TRIBUNAL before any attachment to
    benefit is made

    – MAXIMUM sanction should be 7 days within any 3-month period
    – IOW let responsiblity, sanity and common humanity replace sadism

  10. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    This is the follow-up to Mike’s previous post on the subject. He states that any sacking of Atos will only be cosmetic if Labour continues the present, Conservative policies in the DWP. These should be ended, and the real malign influence, Unum, should also be thrown out of government. This is much more difficult issue for Labour, as it was New Labour, who introduced them in the first place, and many Right-wing Labour MPs are probably no doubt looking forward to jobs on their board after their career as MPs ceases. Nevertheless, Unum’s contract with and influence on government should be stopped immediately. In the meantime, the news that Labour intends to get rid of Atos is extremely welcome. It indicates that in this respect, at least, Labour is at last beginning to listen to the people who really matter, not some rich and complacent corporate policy wonk or parasite.

    1. #EndWCA


      IIRC it was Peter Lilley who first got into bed with UNUM under John Major.

      Unfortunately NewLabour continued the affaire – under cover of a years-long media blackout on UNUM’s involvement, according to what journalists have told researcher Mo Stewart :

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  12. victhemike

    Absolutely. Just watch DWP turn ATOS into the scape-goat in the run up to the election (in fact it’s already started) in order to deflect blame. I suspect ATOS will be effectively sacked by the ConDems soon anyway.

    Labour need to fundamentally reform the WCA and look again at how especially mental health issues are assessed.

  13. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady

    Atos are just the veener in all this….a private company who are in it for the money.
    It is the government and their henchmen DWP who are the villains in the piece.
    There is NO need for Atos or any company like it!
    The GP/Medical professional makes a decision on fitness to work and that should be the end of it and then all that taxpayers money spent on the sham contract with Atos would not be wasted!

  14. moondancer

    I agree with everything you have said. The DWP and therefore the minister and his boss are behind the decisions that ATOS make. Its clear to me that ATOS get paid a lot of money to make the real agenda look respectable and paletable to the right wing voters, and the media propaganda machine have added to it. 24 years ago, I was told not to worry anymore about trying to work or hold my head up above water financially because the government decided I was to be taken out of the system and given an income for my disability and not to afraid anymore of being bullied or teased because of it. 24 years ago the system finally recognised what my parents had been told when I was born, that I am a waste of space and useless, but that as an individual, have have a right to expect my government to care for me and make sure I didnt starve to death and that I had a life. I was a person, a human being. It took me a long time to adjust to that, all my previous life I was treated like dog muck, called spazzo and been bullied and taken the piss out of, just because my voice is crap and my movements are shite. 24 years ago I became a person.
    My GP could not believe what I had been through. He signed me off, got an asssement done of my condition from the University of Neurology in London and the goverment, a Tory one at the time coughed up disability benefit. None of this stopped me being a problem to my family but I lived with it, or rather didnt, I became independant and left home.
    Life moved on, as it does. I married had a family and became a parent, a real person with something to contribute to society.
    Then the government changed. The Tories got in, or rather they didnt, they had to kiss butt to get in and stay in, all because the Labour party couldnt reign in their war lord leader or barking mad bonkers banker who couldnt handle the job he wanted so badly he stuffed up the entire country to the degree they thought it was funny to leave a note saying sorry, theres no money left. Yeah bloody ha ha. We are all laughing so hard now arent we?!
    This government who we didnt vote for have torn down the fabric of our country and done such a good hatchet job on society to turn working people against one another according to how much they earn, or if they recieve tax creidts, how many children they have, if they can afford them oh and if you are sick or disabled, you are a lazy worthless peice of shite and you should die. Since the government cant kill everyone off legally in gas chambers, (the Nazis tried that, look at the political row that caused*) they continue to pay ATOS to make the sifting out of civilised society the sick and disabled and make it look legitimate and politically sound ideolgy, hence all the rhetoric and media propaganda laying down the foundation for this philosophy.
    THIS government, yes, should be ashamed of themselves, but they arent. WE sick and disabled are a problem they cant solve, so they have told ATOS to make their tests so hard to pass we die in the process of stress, anxiety, suicide, heart failure, cancer, and everything else we are not able to work because of, our doctors cannot fight back, nor do they seem inclined to do so, so much for the hippocratic oath of do no harm or whatever the bull shit is, and in my case I cant even get to see my doctor anymore let alone discuss this ATOS shite.
    Yes, I would be better off dead, I often wish I was, I wish I had never been born, I have had a crap life thanks to being born with cerebral palsy, thanks to the nursing home i was born in not beleiving my mother was in labour and doing something about it, but they baptised me because i was supposed to be dead.. wasnt that nice of them? but I could not sue them… why? nursing homes dont exist anymore, you cant sue what isnt there… like many babies of the 60s thats where I was born. They f’d up my birth and I have to suffer as a result.
    And now, this government has realised they have too many eu migrants in the country they have to look after instead of its own people.Oh shit.. what do we do? cut back benefits for everyone, that will stop the migrants from claiming everything, and also the people who are entitled to it, you know those who are too lazy sit at home with ten kids watcing day time tv swigging beer instead of working at the jobs that the migrants now have. No one will say anything we’ll call em all liars and racists if they do, lets add the pr spin to it and set everyone against each other as well… they’ll be so busy arguing they wont be able to fight back, too poor to do anything other than worry about money and bills, too scared to complain and too ashamed to claim any benefits at all. We”l get rid of the whole bloody lot of em, all those tax credit families the labour prats supported, they wont support them again, not if we blame and punish both party and people… and we”l have a whole new bunch of workers, being paid slave wages, or bugger all, we’ll make em into slaves for £57 a week dole money and those who are migrants we can toss out when we’re done, no pension no health care just f off thanks for the tax and the rolls royces in the drive way thanks to our fat cat wages and theft of public funds from the treasury and NO ONE CAN DO A THING ABOUT IT HA HA HA!

    Think this is a rant? think I am highly strung? overly angry? become sick or disabled, physically or mentally, loose your job to an underpaid migrant (my partner did 4 years ago) and see your kids school begging for money for equipment and heating oil for the winter as well as wondering how the hell you can heat your own home, feed your kids and clothe them (this is the next generation the government are screwing over by the way…) whilst your partner earns less now for more hours and is never home in the evening or weekends or bank holidays, and THEN tell me I am wrong.

    My kids are the only thing keeping me alive, without them I would be dead by now, thank you ATOS. I HATE this government and all previous and future governments to come, I will not vote again until someone sees what we can see and stops the persecution and hatred of the sick and disabled and gives us back our human rights and dignity. I have never been so ashamed to be British, ever. This counrty and ‘government’ disgust me.
    Good night.

    *deliberately flippant but only to illustrate the point that the tories have no respect for life and see the sick and disabled as a ‘problem’ to be solved any way they can get away with.

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