bigleyma is thinking…

Archive for the ‘Talking to thisgov’ Category

leave a comment »

My letter to Chris Grayling, that’s him on the right >:

Chris Grayling MP
Minister for Employment
The House of Commons,

Dear Sir,
My attention was drawn recently to a press release originating from your
department earlier this year. It concerned the numbers of people (stated to be the
‘Majority’) ‘found fit for work’ by the Work Capability Assessment, which is presented
as objective fact, despite certain ambiguities around the interpretation of the
statistics provided, and the existence of contradictory evidence which disputes that
interpretation. Not least an example of the latter is the independent report by
Professor Harrington which exposed the many failings of the assessment procedure,
describing it as ‘badly malfunctioning’. You omit to mention the growing numbers of
people who have had that decision overturned and those who point to explicit
structural flaws in the WCA which make it both unfair and unfit for purpose.
You were quoted subsequently as saying that you don’t control the editorial
tone of newspapers. Forgive me my scepticism Mr Grayling, but in these media
savvy times are you suggesting that ministers are anything but intensely aware of
exactly what the respective newspapers will make of what the government feed

I don’t know if you are aware just how much condemnatory material of the
WCA is accumulating online, and how many people are sharing their experiences of
the flawed WCA delivered by ATOS. Those people recognise the falsehoods within
this release, and so do their families and their circle of friends. This propaganda
against the sick may work with those who have yet to suffer the misfortune of being
taken ill or having an accident, or the development of a work-related disability or
illness, but it does not wash with those who have undergone this process. To
encourage hostility in this way towards the sick and vulnerable is nothing short of
wicked and it is manifesting in an increasing number of disability hate crimes. To
force people who are impaired, physically or mentally to compete with the ablebodied
for the shrinking number and quality of jobs is nothing short of callous and
cruel. It is a shocking indictment of this government, and the society that it is helping
to create, that suicides are beginning to happen as a result of the withdrawal of
support from many, many of the sick who have paid into a system that they believed
would cushion them should they fall into difficult circumstances.

I am a recent Social Science graduate (First Class hons) who studied fulltime,
while working a part-time cleaning job and, additionally, in the final year of my
study, becoming a carer for my, previously hard-working, cancer-stricken brother. I
am therefore eminently qualified on several levels to make a realistic appraisal of the
devastating effects that your government’s actions are provoking. Much more, it
seems, than those who devise the social policies that subject vulnerable people to
the indignities and demonisation that now prevails in our society.

Your conservative government is engineering a society that not only fosters
an uncaring attitude in general but singles out for hostility those who are least able to
defend themselves against it. The casualties arising from this will continue to mount.
I hope you are ready to deal with the society that you are helping to create, because
it will not be a stable or a pretty one. I do know there is a growing body of people
who can see through the kind of disinformation that that press release represents,
who know the truth and reality of being sick and disempowered. Many will not rest
until the unfair WCA system has been exposed as a sham. I am one of them.
I should hope you would do me the common courtesy to provide a personal reply to
my letter, specifically addressing the points I have raised.
Yours sincerely

The response:


Written by bigleyma

July 23, 2011 at 10:45 am

Posted in Talking to thisgov

ATOS and the surprising bounce

leave a comment »

A FOI response from the DWP to a Ms Blair-Jordan dated 5th November 2010 stated the following:

“The clinical examination results are structured according to the findings of evidence based medical research carried out by Atos Healthcare to determine the functional consequences of specific clinical signs.”

This paragraph followed the defense of the phrases used to construct a medical history of the claimant, detailing the ways in which they had been ‘quality assured’ and deemed relevant. They claim to have subjected the material to accredited panels and that it was agreed in consultation with what was formerly Corporate Medical Group (now DWP Health & Benefits Division). Mansel Aylward was leader of the Corporate Medical Group, a post he seems to have left to take up the UNUM funded post at Cardiff.

Mansel Aylward

“led the Corporate Medical Group on the UK Government’s Welfare Reform initiatives and made a major contribution in establishing the new postgraduate diploma for doctors in Disability Assessment Medicine.”

As I would very much like to examine this primary research I emailed ATOS Healthcare on 22nd July to request identification of it. I imagine such an important piece of research must have been widely disseminated and peer reviewed considering the bearing it has on people’s wellbeing.

My email:

Dear Atos Healthcare,
In a FOI response to a request for information regarding the Work Capability Assessment it states that the structure underpinning it is derived from “evidence based medical research carried out by Atos Healthcare to determine the functional consequences of specific clinical signs”. I assume that this research has been subject to the usual academic rigours and has been published widely, being such an important work. Can you therefore provide the context in which this has been done, point towards editions of journals etc containing these findings, in which peer review and scrutiny took place.

With thanks,

Their response:

Thank you for your e-mail below. I can confirm that I have forwarded your Freedom of Information Act request to the appropriate Freedom of Information Officer who is

Commercial Management of Medical Services
Department for Work and Pensions
Room 306
Block 3, Norcross
Norcross Road

Any further communication regarding this request should be sent to them.

Yours sincerely

Gemma Bowes
Customer Relations Manager

Now this is interesting on two points. First it was not a FOI request, though I reference one. I was requesting info about medical research, you know stuff that is published in medical journals, at conferences etc, material that should be available academically. I have academic access at the moment and would like to scrutinise it.
Secondly when I received my second letter from the Correspondence Team in response to my letters to Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling I was advised to contact ATOS Healthcare with my concerns (and not ministers presumably). Their full response, along with my letter to Grayling, is in the ‘Talking to thisgov section of my blog.

So, it seems I have been ‘bounced’. The gov have bounced me over to ATOS, ATOS have bounced me over to the gov. Like a hot potato.

I will, of course be writing a follow-up email to ATOS highlighting their misunderstanding of the purpose of my request, which concerned material generated independantly by their company and which had nothing to do with the DWP. It is claimed to be medical research and I want to know who carried it out and where it was published. I may be surprised and the ‘Commercial Management of Medical Services’ at the DWP may provide this. We’ll see.


My follow-up email to ATOS, sent today 23rd July:

Thank-you for your response. I feel, however that you have been misled somewhat by my reference to FOI. What I in fact was requesting was information about your company: ATOS Healthcare’s, evidence-based medical research which underpins the Work Capability Assessment.

The DWP state, and I quote:

“The clinical examination results are structured according to the findings of evidence based medical research carried out by Atos Healthcare to determine the functional consequences of specific clinical signs. “

Therefore there exists, whether in journal form or reports from conferences or other material a body of published medical research carried out by ATOS, accessible through academic access, if not publicly. Especially in such an important area as Public Health research must be impartial and withstand academic scrutiny. I wish to be informed of what this research consists, researchers involved, methods, conclusions drawn etc. The research was conducted by ATOS and has nothing to do with the DWP. It is a very straightforward request. If the research exists please direct me towards it, or explain why it is unavailable.


Their response, 25th July 2011:

Thank you for your enquiry. Further to the action taken by my colleague, Gemma Bowes, I can confirm that any enquiry related to an area of Atos Healthcare’s Business is a FOI. Under the terms of our contract with the DWP, CMMS (Commercial Management of Medical Services) are responsible for dealing with such requests.


Lesley Hemingway
Customer Relations Team 

I am only seeing muddy waters over this, and can only think that this is what happens when the corporate is mingled with the public/state. Why should the fact that a company has a contract with the DWP prevent it from releasing the sources of its research? Why does it fall to the DWP to release these sources of research through FOI? It seems as if ATOS have had written into its contract that they should be shielded from any analysis of their practices.



Decided not to wait for Atos’ forwarded FOI request to the DWP – did it myself ^

We’ll see how that pans out by no later than 26th August. I am so looking forward to getting to grips with Atos’ research and seeing how they link underlying medical pathology with functional capabilities! This must be some huuuuuge body of work to cover all those conditions, physical and mental, providing evidence for all the precise differentiation of categories, the strengths of the various ‘capacities’ within them and the subtle nuancing required for interlinking between condition and functionality. Some body of research that, like.

Written by bigleyma

July 23, 2011 at 10:33 am

leave a comment »

This is Iain Duncan Smith. He is Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

I recently wrote the following letter to him:

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Iain Duncan Smith MP

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The House of Commons,




 Dear Sir,

 I write to you as I await a date for my ESA appeal tribunal against ATOS Healthcare’s assessment of my fitness for work. As you will by now, I’m sure, be well aware there is a significant amount of information being shared on forums and among social networks about people’s experiences with ATOS and their ‘Work Capability Assessment’. Were I in a position of being responsible for the health and wellbeing of people in this country I would be taking this situation quite seriously, as in my opinion issues which begin to question ATOS’ legitimacy and legality are being raised. There are signs that the media is waking up to this, as they are no longer able to ignore the force of anger and despair being expressed by claimants.

A large body of evidence is beginning to accumulate which, in more authentic medical situations would be taken for malpractice by ATOS, with the most damning situations concerning deaths to which the stress of undergoing the contortions of this malignant process has evidently contributed to.

The specific reason I am writing to you, is that you bear ultimate responsibility for ATOS Healthcare’s behaviour and I believe there is one singular outstanding problem with their process which I would like you to clarify. As this problem has already led to one publicised suicide and another death due to added stress I feel it requires your most urgent and grave attention.

The situation, which I expect to face myself, should the tribunal find in my favour follows. I am sure you will agree that it exposes not simply a flaw or weakness in the process, but demonstrates a hostility and in fact cruelty towards already vulnerable claimants. I was shocked when I realised how inevitable this situation would be.

A person makes a claim for ESA on the basis of their perceived unfitness for work. This is supported by their GP, or other health professional, otherwise they would not pass the first stage of their claim. Within (a proposed, but not necessarily achieved) thirteen weeks they must attend a Work Capability Assessment. An unusually high number of claimants are then found ‘fit’ for work (as I am sure you are aware). The next stage is to appeal, which an unusually high number of claimants proceed to do. They must then wait around six months for their appeal to be heard. An unusually high number then have the ATOS based judgement overturned, which I imagine, being a tribunal, constitutes a legal basis. At this point all benefits are brought up to one of the higher rates that ESA entitles. As this process has gone on so long, within a month or two the claimant is then called in by ATOS for another assessment, found ‘fit’ for work, loses not only the ESA entitlement, but also associated benefits such as for Housing and Council Tax. At a stroke. And must begin the process again. I am sure you share my shock and disgust at this state of affairs. How torturous for a sick person to undergo this not once but in an endless cycle of repetition.

I now seek your advice on what a claimant should do having been successful in the lawful process of a tribunal when they attend that soon-to-follow subsequent WCA with an ATOS employee. They have been legally vindicated a month or so earlier, presumably are in possession of a document which legitimises this. Do you feel the claimant is within their legal rights to insist that the ATOS employee take note of the tribunal’s judgement? Would you back up a claimant if they insisted that the DWP ‘decision-maker’ privilege the tribunal judgement over ATOS’? It seems to me to be a very serious legal point which needs your explicit judgement and advice if sick people are to be protected from this ‘black magic roundabout’.

I request your most urgent attention and response to this as I know there are many, many people on the networks who are facing this very situation right now and who will be impatient to receive your response.


The response:



Written by bigleyma

July 14, 2011 at 5:12 pm