bigleyma is thinking…

Our Protest in Carlisle & Letter to Atos

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The local branch of the Socialist Party organised a protest outside the Atos Assessment Centre on 3rd August. Around 20 protestors bearing placards with messages such as “Atos – the Real Benefits Cheats” and “Atos Profits from Pain”, as well as their own personalised ones, gathered to express their disgust and frustration with the WCA. Atos’ neighbour in the building is local MP John Stevenson, who made a swift exit despite attempts to elicit his view on the situation.  Reference to him in an adjoining article on the News and Star website seems to indicate that he is more interested in Gregg’s restoration of a certain variety of Choux Bun than a process which impacts severely on the health and welfare of his constituents.

This is the letter that we handed in to Atos’ office, though they refused to open the door and we had to push it through the letterbox:

To: Atos Healthcare,Unit 2, Suite B,

Carlyles Court,St Marys Gate,

Carlisle,CA3 8RN

 There have been an increasing number of charges made against your company that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is ‘deeply flawed’ and not ‘fit for purpose’. This letter asks that Atos responds to specific questions we raise which throws into doubt Atos’ claim to legitimacy in providing impartial, objective accounts of a person’s fitness for work.

 1)    The WCA Handbook wording is constructed in such a way that it explicitly instructs assessors to avoid making statements in support of the claimant’s subjective experience of limitations to their daily activities, and encourages the HCP to search for examples which contradict this. Do you agree that instructions for your Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) are ‘loaded’ to a great degree in that they make more of a case for finding ways to portray someone as fit for work than the reverse?

 2)    How does Atos explain contradictions in guidance given to its HCPs around the experience of pain/discomfort for the claimant during the WCA?

Both the 2008 and the Revised 2011 WCA Handbook state that “Pain must be avoided during the MSO examination”. A contradictory message is conveyed within the section ‘Scope’ where “pauses made out of choice” by the claimant are to be disregarded in estimating distances over which they can ‘mobilise’, and the “end point is when the claimant can reasonably proceed no further because of substantial pain, discomfort, fatigue or distress“. Does Atos not agree that this runs counter to any idea of improving how claimants are treated at the WCA (implicit in Professor Harrington’s review), and that this instruction can only be perceived as callous, and even cruel?

 3)    How does Atos Healthcare respond to allegations of the misrecording of claimants’ testimony or of the omission of vital examples of spoken evidence which would support their claim to ESA?

 4)    A BBC Scotland report “Who’s Cheating Who?” (broadcast July 2010) contained serious allegations by an Atos-employed doctor who had been pressurised to find more people ‘fit for work’. She was said to be not meeting average targets and had been ‘too soft’. Atos and the DWP claim there are no targets, so how do you explain this situation?

 5)    If Atos are constructing objective reports on a person’s capacity to work why are so many charities, healthcare professionals (such as GPs and nurses), and health-focussed community groups up in arms about the WCA? Why is the wider medical community not supportive of your role if the material it produces is legitimate?

 6)    Why has the testimony of experts on a claimant’s health condition been consistently disregarded by Atos HCPs when it provides significant pathological evidence of a person’s illness and forms a vital part of the framework from which to ascertain, as Atos proceed to do, a prognosis i.e. derive a timescale at which a person may be recovered enough to return to work?

 7)    Does Atos agree that the WCA prior to Professor Harrington’s review (and until changes he recommends are implemented) was seriously flawed and therefore assessments carried out to date should be classed as unreliable and insubstantial – a fact which the high rate of successful appeals at tribunal also bears out?

 8)    In light of the above do Atos not concur that financial penalties should be applied to them in order to recover the costs to the public purse, to date an estimated £90 million?

 9)    Does Atos also agree that the WCA is experienced by many sick and vulnerable people as degrading and dehumanising and that this is a major factor in explaining the high numbers of people (37%) who discontinue their claim when called to face a WCA?

 10) Is Atos not concerned that as a result of the above factors many people who should be supported in a time of hardship, having paid into the National Insurance scheme, often for decades, against such an eventuality, are sinking into deprivation, increased illness due to stress and for some, destitution?


A nice young man, in Mr Stevenson’s absence, accepted a letter addressed to the MP at his office next door, together with a copy of the Atos one.

I shall update with whatever response is received to these.


Written by bigleyma

August 7, 2011 at 10:33 am

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