Tag Archives: thierry breton

Will you support the day of action against Atos?

disabilitysuicides

Ordinary people around the UK will gather outside centres where Atos administers its work capability assessments on benefit claimants next month – to demand an end to the system that is continuing to cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people across the country.

They will gather at 144 of the locations used by Atos to carry out the discredited assessments, under a contract written by the Department for Work and Pensions, on February 19.

It is known that 10,600 ESA/Incapacity Benefit claimants died within six weeks of their claim ending after Atos assessments between January and November 2011, although the DWP seems unwilling to divulge the percentage of those claims that ended because claimants were found fit for work by ATOS. Currently roughly one in four ‘fit for work’ decisions by ATOS is overturned at tribunal.

In July 2013, ATOS whistleblower Greg Wood lifted the lid on the toxic culture that existed within the organisation – carrying out assessments that were not fit for purpose, with huge pressure on assessors to fail ESA claimants. Dr Wood was shocked by the ineffectiveness of the assessment procedure.

A report from the Centre for Welfare Reform showed that informal targets were being set by ATOS which had assessors under pressure to fail around 65 per cent of claimants (Vox Political has estimated 70 per cent in the past).

A petition set up by campaign group WOW (The campaign against the ‘War on Welfare’), calling for an immediate halt to the Work Capability Assessment and an independent, committee-based inquiry into welfare reform – including the ATOS contract, excess claimant deaths and the disregarding of medical evidence in decision-making, gained more than 100,000 signatures. The WOW campaign is currently supported by 57 MPs and there is a commitment to debate the issue in the House of Commons.

Labour MP Hilary Benn said: “As the Labour opposition we have called ATOS a disgrace and said they should be sacked… The system needs to change.”

Labour Councillor Alison Lowe said simply, “I have no problem supporting this. The Government are evil and they don’t care about people who are poor.”

At the demonstrations on February 19, ordinary people will demand an apology from Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and Thierry Breton, chairman of Atos – not just the disabled, or opposition politicians, but anybody who believes that the Atos-run, DWP-devised assessment system is leading to the deaths of innocent people.

In particular, demonstrators will demand an apology to the families of benefit claimants who took their own lives following decisions made by ATOS, including: Iain Caress, Brian McArdle, David Coupe, Edward Jacques, Tim Salter, Nick Barker, Helen and Mark Mullins, and Paul Wilcoxson.

In Mid Wales, where Vox Political is based, the event will be at the Newtown Assessment Centre, St David’s Business Centre, St David’s House, New Road, Newtown, starting at 11am. Details are on Facebook here.

For readers elsewhere in the UK, details of events closer to you are on the UK Rebellion site and the Atos national demo Facebook page.

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Atos workers vote for industrial action

131018atosstrike

You know things have come to a pretty pass when the government’s own hit squad plans to strike against low pay.

It seems Atos workers who are members of the PCS union have voted for industrial action after they rejected below-inflation and conditional pay offers from their employer.

This is the company that is under contract to receive £1.6 billion from the UK government, to carry out the hated Work Capability Assessments for the Department for Work and Pensions, mark you.

According to PCS, members working for Atos IT Services and in Atos Healthcare voted to support strike action by a proportion of more than 80 per cent. More than 90 per cent supported action short of a strike.

A union spokesperson said: “As we demonstrated in 2012, members have shown they are prepared to support their elected representatives and defend their interests. Atos should be under no illusions that we are prepared to take action.”

If you’re like me, you don’t know they demonstrated anything at all in 2012 – but I have unearthed a previous press release from PCS that mysteriously doesn’t seem to have made it into the news.

It states that PCS members working for Atos were going to take action over pay on August 13 this year but suspended the action at the 11th hour when Atos made an improved offer.

This involved the immediate payment of the Living Wage (Labour must have been happy at that) to all PCS members with more than three months’ service; a two per cent pay uplift for members who already received more than the Living Wage in April this year; a £320 “non-consolidated payment” to all Atos IT Services staff and a £3100 “non-consolidated payment” to Atos Healthcare staff; a new pay process (for PCS members only – presumably other Atos staff could go whistle) in Healthcare and IT Services; a PCS and Atos working party to develop a more transparent appraisal system; and development of a joint PCS and Atos plan to promote “respect, dignity and fair treatment for all workers”.

This indicates that Atos workers receive a very low wage for what they do. You may find this surprising, considering the size of the contracts awarded by the Coalition government; in 2011-12 Atos received £112.4 million to carry out 738,000 assessments. That comes out at £152.30 per hour-long assessment.

If this money is not going to the so-called ‘medical professionals’ who carry out the assessments or their support staff, it could go a long way towards explaining how Atos boss Thierry Breton managed to bump up his pay package by £280,000 to £2,329,250 this year.

It also shows that the ministers at the DWP (after this blog was upbraided for insulting gutter vermin with a previous comparison, let’s call them pond scum this time around) and their allies at Atos, including Mr Breton, seem to have no problem with treating their own staff almost as badly as they treat claimants of sickness and disability benefits.

The DWP, in partnership with Atos: Making Work Pay Less.

Only you can close the Atos slaughterhouse

If any MP, government representative or stooge tells you the UK is bankrupt, or close to it, ask them why we can afford to pay Thierry Breton £1.9 million to preside over a company running a flawed system that leads to the deaths of 73 of us every week.

Mr Breton is the boss of Atos, the company that has been “reassessing” people who used to be on Incapacity Benefit, in a bid to clear the vast majority of them from the government’s welfare benefit bill within a year of assessment.

Only between 12-13 per cent of those who go through the Atos ‘work capability assessment’ keep their benefits indefinitely, going through to the ‘support group’ of the new Employment and Support Allowance. This means they have conditions which mean they will never be able to work in any way – and, in practice, many are likely to die in the near future.

Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions say this figure should be 30 per cent, but that seems more likely to be the percentage transferred from IB. In regard to new cases, I’ll stick with what the Atos trainer said on Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary in July.

The others are either put into a ‘work-related activity’ group and told to get better within 12 months, or marked ‘fit for work’ and told to get looking for a job. These are where the controversial deaths take place, due to stress exacerbating people’s illnesses or suicide because they cannot see a way to go on.

For this, Mr Breton is being paid around £1 million per year. His bonus – nearly another £1 million – means he pocketed £1.9 million in total (before tax – although he could always seed it away in one of the tax havens the government is assiduously failing to close down).

This is why disability specialist Samuel Miller needs to hear from people whose family members or friends have suffered at the hands of Mr Breton’s company. Mr Miller is putting together a file of atrocities which he intends to send to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations.

The aim is to show that austerity measures are violating British people’s human rights. His best hope is in receiving coroners’ reports where the cause of death is found to be destitution and/or suicide.

He can’t do this on his own.

I reported Mr Miller’s plan last week and as a result he has received some responses – but many more are needed. He needs you to get in touch – if you have been affected.

If nobody does anything, the government will merrily assume it is right to persist with a regime that leads to 73 deaths, of your loved ones, every week. And they will continue. If you are disabled, you may be next.

So don’t leave it to somebody else. If you have been affected, get your story in to Mr Miller. You could also contact your local news media and get them to run a story about this, with his email contact details: [email protected]

If they don’t run anything, ask them why. There does seem to be a media blackout and this must be overcome as well.

Otherwise you, or someone you know, could end up like Susan Atkinson, who died of cancer last year, aged 37, after Atos told her she was fit for work.

A friend of hers, Donna Thornton, wrote: “I’m not saying they caused her death but they did add  more stress and worry, which I do think helped her give up the fight.

“Her quality of life before she died was so very sad for me to watch – instead of her last few weeks of life being happy ones, they were sad and upsetting. I couldn’t even help her as I was going through the same.”

Donna, who has been in three car crashes, has fibromyalgia, nerve damage, has had shingles and suffers depression, wrote: “I just received a letter saying I have got to got to court this time to appeal.

“Not only do I feel like a criminal but feel sick [that] I’ve got to go through all this to prove I am sick and disabled.

“This system is so wrong; they have got me in so much debt over the past two years, I now want to give up the fight. Life is hard enough being sick, never mind going through all this.

Please help before I end up on Atos’ death list.”

Is this familiar? [email protected]

It’s not just the Atos assessments that are pushing people to the brink, of course. How many of you will be affected by the so-called ‘bedroom tax’? [email protected]

Pressure from the public can stop the insanity of Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions, and the other government “reforms” (what a cheek, to suggest changes that will ruin the lives of millions of people are improvements).

But it’s not going to happen if people can’t be bothered to lift a finger.

All it takes is an email. If you can read this, surely you can do that?