bigleyma is thinking…

Purple Persuasion’s Blog: “And The Score From Glasgow is..Nil Points”.

with 2 comments

I can’t say I ever intended my blog to contain example after example of outrageous WCA ‘decisions’, or if so I intended to do it in a much more scholarly way, collect and collate data and so on, within its own secton of the site. I can’t seem to muster that degree of discipline of late. I would attribute that to my mental health issues, except that according to Atos Healthcare I don’t have any.

So, occasionally I do post some of the worst stories that I come across, courtesy of activists who are blogging and tweeting more conscientously on this very aspect, and of course the items that by their extreme nature actually make it into, if not mainstream news, the regional variety which serves that particular victim’s locality.

This latest is Ms W’s personal account, and I’m posting it because I relate strongly to her experience which seems to typify the Atos approach to mental health assessment. I say that because not only is this account similar to my own, but to many others that I have seen online. Assuming that we were not all assessed by the same aberrant ‘HCP’ it can only be concluded that this is their preferred protocol for that area of health.

One definitive aspect of this shared experience, which it is not easy to admit to in our stiff-upper-lipped society is of having ‘broken down’ and wept at the assessment, but then to have been supposedly observed to have, in my case, “Coped well at interview”, despite strong evidence to the contrary. That simple untruth, together with a recorded absence of any cringemakingly described and potentially sectionable behaviour such as “sweating, trembling or rocking backwards and forwards” are apparently the only things needed to disqualify a claimant in that area.

I’m not much given to the humiliating experience of public weeping, though the way in which I was interrogated at my subsequent tribunal stimulated much the same result, which, too, was similarly dismissed as irrelevant to my claim to mental ill-health. They must have just had me pegged as an unecessary ‘weeper’, though I tend to think of myself as much more of a survivor, and somewhat of a warrior, when I am in good health. Personal history has no place in the WCA.

But, this is not about me. This is Ms W’s account of receiving the regulation ‘Nil points’ following her assessment by Atos despite suffering what appears to be quite severe Bipolar Disorder. Well that’s what we lay(wo)men might conclude. The ‘disability experts’ at Atos certainly have a, shall we say, less conventional,  perspective on what makes a person ‘fit for work’.

An extract from Ms W’s account:

The Decision Maker notes my ESA50 explanation that I am not always aware of everyday hazards due to my sedating medication, that when I am manic I can do things without thinking, and that when I am depressed I can barely get out of bed. However, because I said at WCA that I was able to wash and dress unaided that week, had my own bank account and could meet a friend for coffee most weeks, and because in the HCP’s opinion my mental state examination “was within normal limits”, I was given nil points. What I find particularly disturbing is that I sobbed throughout most of the assessment, and was visibly anxious and distressed. This is evidently what Atos considers being in a “normal” mental state.

Evidently, Ms W, evidently.


2 Responses

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  1. Hi, thanks so much for linking to my post. What irks me most is that I have spent my career – before losing my job to ill health – undertaking assessments on public sector clients. I strove to be fair, open-minded and represent the client honestly and realistically – while Atos’ WCPs refused to even tell me their full names, refused to say whether they were a doctor or a nurse and whether they had specific training in mental health, and initially refused to let me take notes on my own assessment! My partner (who also works in public sector health and social care) and I were utterly appalled. We are awaiting Atos’ response to our complaint about the assessment experience itself (which I detailed here

    Then to get the decision and find that the WCA had been so untruthfully recorded… The whole thing is stacked against people with mental health disabilities – don’t turn up, failure to comply, no benefits. Turn up, clothed and washed, well, you must be fine, no benefits. Best wishes, Charlotte


    September 5, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    • “Untruthfully recorded”, yes. This is what has baffled so many people, that these assessors coming from a discipline that has such a strong emphasis on ethics can behave this way in that kind of situation. It brings medicine into disrepute. I think that’s why the medical community is now up in arms about Atos. Its been good to see that recent development.

      The misrepresentation of my circumstances was shocking to me, as I can see it was to you. You go there in a vulnerable state, with no understanding of what’s behind this, and have that vulnerability cynically exploited for profit, and for a government agenda and ideology. It’s particularly cruel for those with mental health issues, when you’re struggling already with self-perceptions, to have someone misrepresent your situation. That’s why I’ve described it as Kafka-esque. That said, can there even be many of the physically sick or disabled that don’t have an element of associated mental/emotional challenges to do with living with their condition? So it really affects all.

      I didn’t complain to Atos about the really bad quality of my assessment and the so-called report that she produced. I concentrated on building my case for the tribunal, expecting them to see the glaring inconsistencies at least. But when the legal panel member said at the beginning that it was a shame that there was no representative form the DWP attending, because they “could have explained things to me” I knew which side the odds were weighted on. The tribunal was a farce, though I know some have the opposite experience. That’s why I think its best to have an advocate, as it seems to lend ‘authority’ to your case, no matter how capable you are yourself. In fact, being capable seems to be a mark against you in a similar way to actually turning up to the WCA is 😦

      I sincerely hope things work out for you, Charlotte
      Gill x


      September 6, 2012 at 9:20 am

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