Tag Archives: Atos

MP of the Year award attacked over harmful corporate sponsor. Time for a campaign to remove it?

KPMG: this corporation, part of the Atos group that has done so much harm to sick and disabled people, sponsors the Patchwork Foundation’s MP of the Year awards, Should it?

It seems the only element likely to stop Jeremy Corbyn from winning the Patchwork Foundation’s MP of the Year award is the fact that it is sponsored by corporations that have contributed to the oppression of the poor and vulnerable.

Mr Corbyn is on the shortlist of MPs for whom the public is asked to vote.

But some supporters of the former Labour leader – including his own former Shadow Chancellor – are having nothing to do with it because it is sponsored by firms including KPMG.

The controversy sprang up on This Writer’s Twitter feed overnight, springing from discussion over whether certain vested interests would allow Mr Corbyn to win, after their success in ousting last year’s popular left-wing candidate, Chris Williamson.

Paula Peters, a popular campaigner for people with disabilities and friend of This Site, raised the alarm:

It was confirmed by others:

Atos is the company that – now under an alias – carries out assessments of benefit claimants’ ability to work, when they claim sickness and/or disability benefits. It took over KPMG in 2002, and it seems some have little to say in its favour.

The firm’s record for refusing benefits to people who genuinely deserve them – who have then gone on to suffer extreme hardship and, in many cases, death – is well-documented on This Site and elsewhere.

It reflects extremely poorly on the Patchwork Foundation that it would seek – or allow – sponsorship of any of its work by a firm of such character.

KPMG’s sponsorship of the award is not well-signposted; it appears as one of many on a tickertape at the bottom of the awards’ web page.

Paula’s tweet sparked strong responses:

For This writer, the most telling comment in the discussion is Paula’s below:

So perhaps that is what should be done.

Obviously I am too busy with annoying distractions like my two court cases to take on another campaign, but would anybody like to launch one calling on the Patchwork Foundation to decline sponsorship from organisations that are known to cause harm to people?

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What did we expect? Benefit assessors haven’t progressed towards improving safeguards for the vulnerable

This should make your blood boil.

Yes, there’s a crisis going on involving the coronavirus pandemic. That shouldn’t mean work on other life-threatening issues should stop.

And this is a life-threatening issue. Jodey Whiting is only the most well-known among many people who have died because the Department for Work and Pensions ignored its own rules for safeguarding vulnerable people.

And now we find that after an entire year, the companies involved in assessing people for disability benefits have made no progress in improving their safeguarding procedures. None at all.

Last year, freedom of information responses from more than a third of councils across England, Scotland and Wales showed that Atos, Capita and Maximus had made just four safeguarding referrals to those local authorities over the previous three years.

Now a fresh series of freedom of information requests has shown the three outsourcing giants appear to have taken barely any notice of those concerns.

Despite repeated warnings about the need to inform social services departments when there are clear and significant concerns about a claimant’s safety or welfare, they issued a total of just two referrals each during 2019 and the first month of 2020 across 89 councils.

It seems to This Writer that the lives of benefit claimants mean little to these money-making giants – or to their client, the Department for Work and Pensions.

And why should they? Every time someone dies, the DWP and the Tory government sweep the facts under the carpet.

Source: Benefit assessment companies ‘have made almost no progress’ on safeguarding – Disability News Service

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Firms that falsified thousands of benefit assessments set to get contracts to falsify thousands more

With apologies to the makers of The Simpsons.

Can anyone think of a single rational explanation for the plan to renew the contracts for Atos and Capita to carry out assessments of sickness and disability benefit claims?

Between them, over the last two years, these firms deliberately falsified around 7,300 claims in order to deny disabled people vital payments, forcing them towards poverty and the worsening of their conditions.

Who knows how many of these people have been induced to end their own lives as a result of this discrimination?

But instead of penalising the perpetrators by removing their contracts, the Tories are planning to pay them more than £1 billion to continue their persecution for three more years after their current contract runs out in 2021.

Who knows how many more claims they’ll be able to falsify, doctor or otherwise fake in that time? How many deserving people they’ll drive to poverty? How many will die?

Source: Discredited firms poised to rake in more than £1 billion from new PIP contracts – Disability News Service

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After all these years, the DWP is still trying to convince us that amputated feet heal

Repeat a lie often enough, and people will believe it. That’s what the Tories think.

Right?

But it’s quite difficult when we’re being told that this has healed:

Tommy Weir’s leg was amputated due to a bone infection which led to life-threatening sepsis.

But – no worries! – the DWP told him that the amputation was just a wound on his left foot.

Not only that, but the report claimed it had “completely healed” – and cut his Personal Independence Payment.

Weirdly, a spokesperson for Independent Assessment Services Ltd (formerly Atos), said: “We understand this was an error and would like to apologise to Mr Weir, as the wording should have read that his wound had healed.”

Can anyone explain this? His wound was the amputation of his foot. It was never going to heal!

Oh, and the Department for Work and Pensions itself said Mr Weir had asked for a reconsideration and it would contact him as soon as it had reconsidered his case.

But in the meantime, he has lost Personal Independence Payments worth £479 per month.

Source: DWP stop man’s PIP support after assessor claims amputated foot has ‘healed’ – Politics and Insights

Tories pressurised benefit assessment company to find sick claimants fit for work, says doctor

Despair: Harsher criteria in benefit assessments led to sick people being found fit for work, pushing them to despair and suicide.

Let’s be fair: The Conservatives put Atos under immense pressure to find claimants ineligible for out-of-work sickness benefits.

Disability News Service attributed the pressure to the Department for Work and Pensions but, like all government departments, it only carries out the orders of the government of the day.

DNS stated that a new document unearthed by the family of Michael O’Sullivan, a disabled man who took his own life after being found unfairly fit for work, shows that a doctor working for the private firm Atos, contracted to carry out benefit assessments, made it clear that the Conservative-run DWP was partly to blame for the decision to find him ineligible.

The doctor’s representatives told General Medical Council (GMC) investigators: “Following the conversion of Incapacity Benefit to ESA, the DWP put immense pressure on Atos disability analysts to deem claimants fit for work when they previously would have qualified for benefits.”

They also told the GMC in their evidence that Atos assessors, who “had no formal psychiatric training”, were not required by DWP to use a medical tool that evaluates the severity of a person’s depression.

They also claimed that the criteria applied during Work Capability Assessments had been “altered” by DWP to make it more difficult for claimants to be found eligible for ESA.

We know this to be true; Iain Duncan Smith demanded that these criteria should be made harsher when he took over as Work and Pensions Secretary in 2010.

DNS reminded us that Mr O’Sullivan’s death in September 2013 led to a coroner blaming failings in the notorious work capability assessment (WCA) system for his death, and writing to DWP to request urgent changes to prevent further deaths.

Those changes were never made, and further deaths have continued to be linked to the WCA over the last five years.

The O’Sullivan case also illustrates an excellent reason Labour wants to end the involvement of private companies with the benefit assessment system.

The team investigating the death submitted questions to the DWP – only to be told last year that some of them must be directed at Atos.

Those questions were passed to the company in January and it still hasn’t answered, according to DNS.

This indicates that the privatisation of benefit assessments is a mechanism to allow buck-passing between the government, the civil servants of the DWP and the company to ensure that nobody has to take responsibility for an entirely avoidable death.

That is the most despicable aspect of it.

Source: WCA death doctor: DWP put ‘immense pressure’ on Atos to find claimants fit for work – Disability News Service

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Are PIP assessments being botched because they are being rushed by government contractors?

[With apologies to Matt Groening.]

Both Atos and its employer the Department for Work and Pensions say there is no pressure on employees to carry out Personal Independence Payment assessments quickly.

But the average time taken on assessments, which varies widely across the whole of the UK, not just in the southeast of England (the example below), suggests a ‘postcode lottery’ in which a claimant’s chance of getting a good assessment depends on where they live.

We know that large numbers of these assessments are flawed – consider this court case in which Atos had to pay £5,000 after botching one, or this one in which Capita (which also carries out PIP assessments) had to pay out £10,000 for maladministration in a case involving a death.

Until botched results that may lead to the early deaths of claimants are eliminated, it ill-fits Atos, Capita or the DWP to make light of the issue.

The amount of time that nurses and physiotherapists spend carrying out face-to-face disability benefit assessments can vary hugely, depending on where the test takes place, according to analysis of new Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures.

The figures show that the average time spent on face-to-face PIP assessments in one part of the south-east of England in August 2018 was just 43.5 minutes.

In the same month, the average time spent on face-to-face assessments in another part of the south-east region was 62.6 minutes, more than 40 per cent higher.

And Atos insisted yesterday (Wednesday) that there was “no pressure on staff to complete assessments quickly” and that any variation shown in the figures was not “untoward”.

Data released through a parliamentary question later revealed that the proportion of assessment reports completed by Atos that were found to be significantly flawed reached more than 36 per cent last year.

Source: New figures raise fresh questions over Atos PIP assessments – Disability News Service

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Disability benefit assessors hired ‘security guard’ to beat up claimant’s husband

This is scandalous on several levels. A government-employed benefit assessment company hired a man to assault the husband of a benefit claimant and then denied responsibility for the injuries that resulted.

Firstly, Independent Assessment Services (you know this company as Atos), hired a “security guard” to remove Keith Langham from an interview about his wife Karen’s PIP assessment after an incident at a previous meeting.

Secondly, this man refused to identify himself, making it possible for his employers to disassociate themselves from him. But then, what would he be doing there, if he wasn’t working for them?

Thirdly, this man committed grievous bodily harm on the 62-year-old grandfather for no readily-apparent reason.

Fourthly, the employers of the “security guard” did disassociate themselves from the offender and allowed him to take the fall for doing exactly what he was hired to do.

Fifthly, why is this matter only being reported now – more than a year after the incident?

Finally, how many other benefit claimants are being greeted with violence?

Atos – or whatever the company is calling itself these days – needs to take responsibility for its decisions.

Chris Bryan would not have been at the Carlisle assessment centre if Atos had not invited him.

Staff there approved of and supported his attack on Mr Langham, and tried to hide the incident on the day – one of the nurses is said to have told Mr Bryan to “get them out through the fire doors”.

Karen Langham had been told by an Atos representative that people like her needed to learn to help themselves, at her previous appointment. It seems clear that Mr Langham had intervened in that interview and it would be worth knowing what happened then.

But all the company had to say afterwards was that Mr Bryan had been removed from duty by its delivery partner and an investigation was taking place.

This is not good enough. It is another example of the persecution of people with disabilities by the Conservative government and its contractors.

Here are details of the story, by the Daily Mirror:

“Keith Langham was left with blood pouring from a head wound after helping wife Karen, 61, with the interview for her Personal Independence Payments. She was told that people like her ‘needed to learn to help themselves’ amid ugly scenes at her first appointment.

“At the second interview, Keith, who is 5ft 5in tall and 10-and-a-half stone, had to be taken to hospital after he was grabbed by powerfully-built six footer Chris Bryan, then aged 30.

“Semi-retired Keith, a services manager said: “He was a very large guy, I would say he was about 6ft 4in tall and 16st, heavily built, shaven headed. He said he was security and we had to leave the building. But he was not wearing any ID.

““I asked who he worked for and he told me he did not have to tell me and we had to leave. We were heading towards the reception when one of the nurses said ‘get them out through the fire doors’.”

“The couple, of Haltwhistle, Northumberland, now realise the second appointment had been ‘flagged’ by the assessors due to problems with their staff at the first interview, and the security guard was brought in as a result.

“Northumbria Police were called to the incident on Aug 18, 2017. Keith was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, where he received seven stitches in the head wound.

“Independent Assessment Services stressed their delivery partner managing the site had immediately removed him from duty and a ‘thorough investigation was conducted’.”

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Data shows multiple complaints made against scores of PIP assessors

This information is worth having – not necessarily for what it says in its own right – but certainly because of how it could reflect on the current PIP reassessment.

It seems to me that reassessors would do well to check the identities of the Atos/Capita staffers who carried out the original assessments.

It would be useful to see if particular assessors were responsible for more people being denied benefits, and if they were assessors about whom complaints had been made.

Sure – it’s entirely possible that only one per cent of assessments have attracted complaints.

But how many were wrong? And how many caused harm? And were the same people responsible?

Scores of healthcare professionals may have been able to continue carrying out disability benefit assessments despite being the subject of multiple complaints about their behaviour, competence and honesty, confidential new documents have revealed.

The official reports, prepared by outsourcing giants Capita and Atos for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), show that up to 180 personal independence payment (PIP) assessors were the subject of at least four complaints each in three-month periods in 2016.

The documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that 161 assessors working for Atos had more than three complaints made against them in a three-month period.

And 19 Capita assessors were also subjected to at least four complaints in a three-month period in 2016.

Neither Atos nor Capita, nor DWP, will say what action was taken against these assessors and whether they are still carrying out face-to-face assessments of disabled PIP claimants.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “During the period you’ve outlined above, [Atos] and Capita completed a combined total of 945,000 PIP assessments.

“The total number of complaints that assessment providers received was less than one per cent of the total number of completed assessments.

“The PIP assessment providers thoroughly investigate all complaints and take appropriate actions.

“In addition, the PIP assessment providers have a target for customer satisfaction of 90 per cent, which they have consistently met since it was introduced in 2016.”

Source: The PIP Files: Data shows multiple complaints made against scores of Atos assessors


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Sickness and disability benefit assessments: Has anything changed in the last five years?

Unhealthy: Theresa May insists on employing private contractors Atos and Capita to assess benefit claimants’ fitness for work according to criteria that are not fit for purpose, and this has caused huge problems.

The video clip below resurfaced on This Writer’s Facebook page today; apparently I posted the link to it five years ago.

Has anything changed – other than the fact that Atos has been joined by Capita in carrying out the assessments?

Comments from people who have had assessments recently will be illuminating, I think.


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Court orders Atos to pay disabled woman a derisory £5,000 over dishonest PIP assessment

Only £5,000?

This was an opportunity to make an example of those who have been abusing the disability benefit system for too many years – and the courts have not taken it.

A larger, more punitive award would have sent a much stronger message – especially if other people who have been similarly wronged are lining up to fight their own court battles.

A court has ruled that a disabled woman should be awarded £5,000 compensation by the government contractor Atos, after a dishonest report by one of its assessors led to her being awarded the wrong level of benefits.

Vanessa Haley, from Huddersfield, told the county court in her written evidence that the assessor had tried to “impede her entitlement” to the enhanced rate of the daily living component of personal independence payment (PIP) by “falsifying” her assessment report.

The assessment report also led to her being denied any PIP mobility support.

She was awarded the compensation after the court upheld her claim of maladministration against Atos and her allegation that it was responsible for causing her health conditions to worsen.

Source: Court orders Atos to pay disabled woman £5,000 over dishonest PIP assessment


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