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Posts Tagged ‘ATOS

DWP-Related-Suicide Rate Increasing?

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I seem to remember on one occasion a spokesman for the DWP, (possibly a Minister, but they seem to change fairly frequently now) referring to warnings about increasing mental health problems associated with the WCA, and dangerous effects on the vulnerable that could ‘tip them over’, contempuously dismissing such ideas as ‘scaremongering’. In the typical reverse-logic of an abuser, they went on to claim that it is the ‘scaremongering’ which is the problem, since it is it that is causing people anxiety and worse, not the actual process they’re being forced to go through.  Let’s examine that idea for a moment through the lens of common sense…

They were claiming that notions of fear, undoubtably anxiety-provoking though its accepted they can be (especially when suffering mental health problems) have a more deleterious effect than being told you are fit when you’re not, and having the only support, (and other support that is contingent on that status) removed, leaving you extraordinarily vulnerable, your only hope to obtain work that you are patently not confident of being able to do, in a time of high unemployment. Fear can be deadly, yes, when it comes to suicide-ideation. But the actuation of that fear, the bearing it out in the actual circumstances you are thrown into against your will, is the real killer.

I’ve become apprehensive about what I’m going to see on social media daily now. In this latest case, which follows on quite soon after that of Tim Salter, there can be no doubt about what caused Shaun Pilkington to shoot himself, as there was similarly no doubt about what caused Tim to hang himself, and no doubt about why Stephanie Bottrill walked onto the motorway that day. I’m glad that the Mirror described Stephanie as a suicide ‘victim’, because that’s what these people are – victims. And to all intents and purposes they are increasing at a disturbing rate. It’s such a high price for our society to pay for this pushing through of a patently contrived, ideologically driven ‘process’ that has been designed for no other purpose than to facilitate the ‘culling of benefits’, by a government which not only lacks concern for its most disempowered citizens, but appears to view their lives as dispensable in the context of their ruthless savaging of ‘welfare’.

All three victims noted above were already impaired in some way health-wise, already at a disadvantage in an employment market which with sickening predictability demands that potential employees be  ‘flexible’, ‘energetic’ and ‘willing to give 110%’. But they were also all in their fifties, a demographic group historically disadvantaged in the labour market against the young, who are viewed as more malleable, more willing and less likely to succumb to illness by potential employers. Doubly disadvantaged then. And isn’t that the profound shamefulness of these policies, that they are targetting those who have compound disadvantage, the most vulnerable  of all of us?

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ATOS and the DWP – A Performance With Smoke and Mirrors

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Just a Few Bad Apples Reports

The government has been forced by public opinion, alongside a veritable tipping point of overturned decisions, to turn a critical eye on their WCA administrator, Atos. They’ve announced that Atos must produce a performance improvement plan’ since too many of their HCP’s reports are below desired standard. Not, they quickly emphasise, that they are ‘wrong’, simply that they are not putting forward their case clearly enough. The ‘reasoning‘ underpinning a portion of ‘recommendations’ lacks ‘detail’, it seems. No mention of outright misrepresentation, or glaring errors, just the ‘quality’ of report-writing that is not robust enough to underpin the concluding recommendation (upon which DWP officers make their decisions).

Since all emphasis is on substandard ‘report writing’, with no suggestion that decisions derived from them were incorrectly made, I can only interpret this move as an attempt to make those reports ‘foolproof’ against tribunal scrutiny rather than to have them reflect more honestly the applicant’s authentic circumstances with regard to their impairments.

Progress?

Many among the disabled activists and those campaigning on their behalf see this news as a positive development. And it certainly is ‘something’, rather than ‘nothing’. As others have pointed out it is pathetically little, and is nothing like the wholesale denouncement that most would wish for. Sadly, even this last perception is wide of base when it comes to the WCA, and its construction and delivery.

In this situation the position that Atos hold in the system of administration of welfare to the sick and disabled is akin more to ‘useful corporate idiot’ and proof of this is available for anyone to see in the government’s own ESA Regulations.

The Convenient Shield of Atos

Atos is the government’s shield in the symbiotic relationship between them and the DWP. From this relationship Atos draws status, legitimacy and above all massive profits. In this way it is similar to the companies who administer the Work Programme, which itself has been proven to do little more than line private pockets with massive amounts of public money (its actual results assessed as “worse than doing nothing”).

Sadly Atos’ activity, by contrast, definitely does more than nothing. It helps to cast people, whose only offence is to be ill, off health related benefits and either into destitution, or to join the competitive arena of seeking work against the able-bodied and healthy. The latter will, after a year, proceed onto the afore-mentioned, and certified useless, Work Programme, where they are likely to be ‘parked’ in favour of those it is more easy to find work for.

Atos Just Make the I.T., That’s All

What the government get in return from Atos, which is a ‘black box’ in itself, since scrutiny is inhibited by ‘commercial confidentiality’, is a defensive buffer against criticism of their policies. Atos are, in the final analysis, only the administrators of the government’s instrument. The government, through their ESA Regulations, say “This is how you assess people”, “These are the criteria to be used”. The computer driven LIMA system is simply the interface through which the government’s set criteria is ‘operationalised’, made digital. The WCA, as delivered, is an IT construct that is merely the government’s word made technological flesh, the digitalised manifestation of DWP-designed instructions. Because: Atos is an IT company. That’s what they do. They apply their undoubted expertise and experience to produce computerised IT ‘solutions’ to meet real world criteria. They don’t invent the criteria themselves, its provided to them, in this case by the UK government’s DWP.

The DWP Created the WCA

So what’s happening now? Its taken deaths, suicides in increasing numbers, at least two solid years of intensified activity by mainly sick people, who are derided as ‘extremists’ for their efforts, to arrive at this point. This point at which the evidence is so damning, so incriminating, that the facade of legitimacy of the WCA can no longer stand. The outrage that Atos draws from a sizeable portion of the public has become publically visible. But the shield which is Atos, which protects the government, which deflects from government criticism of their instrument, their descriptors, their model of sickness/disability, their deliberately designed construction of what they  will acknowledge as a sick or disabled person in need of help, still stands.

The Slickness of the Hand Deceives the Eye

Direct all your ire at Atos, they say, have said, these past years. It is the administration which is flawed, not the foundation, they claim. But that is not the case. In truth Atos are simply IT specialists who have accurately interpreted their government bosses’ instructions and are now ‘taking one for the team’. And its not a particularly harsh ‘one’ at that; some reports are not up to scratch, its a ‘quality control’ issue, bring in more ‘experts’, retrain the assessors. What a wonderful misdirection, a stage magician’s sleight of hand using smoke and mirrors. Atos is as insubstantial in the WCA process as smoke. The cards are, and have always been, the government’s own, designed, printed and laminated by them in the dark, shadowy recesses offstage. Their construction of the WCA (with the help of dispreputable insurance company, UNUM) will never be seen as long as a company like Atos is available to take the flak. And if Atos are ‘phased out’, as it seems is being prepared, the new Atos will then be the expediter of the government’s hidden programme. A programme that has a compound objective:

  • To choke off the outflow of public money to the sick and disabled, and, as a direct consequence, deter people from perceiving themselves as ill, worthy of support, and therefore inhibiting their take-up of entitled benefits. But possibly incentivising them to take up private insurance instead. (See Unum below)

  • To pull away the safety net of social security, without disturbing the inflow into government coffers of National Insurance contributions. (Another magician’s trick, coincidentally UNUM’s choice of visual metaphor for their ‘Backup Plan‘ tv ads -‘Whip away the tablecloth, but leave the crockery undisturbed’)

  • To change the very definition of sickness/disability itself, limiting qualification for benefits to only the most, and I mean most, seriously impaired – the paraplegic, those with only six months to live (I struggle to find any other categories deemed worthy, at this point).

And meanwhile, even more public money is directed into corporate coffers, through the commissioning of ‘consultants’ Price-Waterhouse-Coopers, brought in to ‘provide independent advice’ on this purported ‘quality-assurance’ issue.

Fortifying the Bad Decisions

Does anyone really think this government agenda, this pogrom programme is going to be affected in any way by cleaning up a few reports, improving grammatical and ‘reasoning’ skills? Its more akin in actuality to a further sharpening of the blade that is already being used to cull the sick. This is what Grayling meant when he resolved to address the problem of so many overturned decisions at tribunal. Its not about getting the decisions right at assessment stage, as any reasonable person would conclude. Its about making the bad decisions stick.

Atos are the necessary blind that disguises government intent. The sad thing is that all that is required is to draw back that blind and the intent is there for all to see, in the government’s own ESA Regulations. “No need for bending, kneeling in the modern workplace”. I’ll leave you to contemplate that absolute gem of contorted, deluded thinking by your government, and consider whether you think it meets the rigours of your own experienced reality.

Written by bigleyma

July 24, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Unum Update on the Regulatory Settlement Agreement « Lindanee’s Blog

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Unum Update on the Regulatory Settlement Agreement « Lindanee’s Blog.

Still at it apparently. Indications are that they have simply become more underhanded and are heading for another day of reckoning where they will again be held accountable for similar bad practice.

Written by bigleyma

July 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Posted in Unum Provident

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Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi Announces Major Settlement and $8 Million Fine Against UnumProvident Over Insurer’s Handling of Disability Claims

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Written by bigleyma

July 14, 2011 at 9:45 pm

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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,

Westminster,

London,

SW1A 0AA

 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

Who am I? ‘Who *is* she?

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The ‘About’ tells why I’m doing this.

Very simple.

Like a growing number of people I have fallen foul of something new and pernicious in our society.

I am old enough to remember something called Sickness Benefit (a nice simple clear title, did what it said on the tin: paid benefit while you were too sick to hold down a job, certification through your GP, contributed to via your NI). Though I have never been disabled the impression I held was that that concept too was fairly clear. Can there really be much controversy over whether someone is disabled. Surely not. We have an instinctive understanding of what that means.

Well all that was in the past, the ‘old’ methods according to thisgov, can no longer be trusted to be ‘accurate’ enough. New models of illness and disability must be created. Models that can take account of an updated modern mind and body presumably, and different notions about such things as ‘capability’ and ‘work’.

And seeing as we are living in such a digital world we can rely on the good old pc to make sure things are most efficient and objective. Because computers are incapable of error, isn’t that right kids? Unless, of course, you have actually had any experience with software and understand the term: ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’.

Cut a long story short:

I.T. company ATOS created software not to diagnose conditions, breathe a sigh of relief, that’s still in the hands of actually trained medical personnel (for the moment) but to assess physical and mental functionality. Aha.

Pick up a pen? You can pick up a hundred pens (an hour, on an assembly line, perhaps). Walk across the floor? You can walk across a hundred floors, madam, today, tomorrow and the next day. In fact that could be your next career. Frankly we don’t care what happens to you as a result of our assessments because we simply tick the boxes and pass the buck to the good old DWP ‘decision-maker’, who only has what we give them to go on, but frankly, not our problem. We are ‘functionality‘ assessors and the computer is in charge, therefore no responsibility can adhere to us.

See how it works.

Well, part of it.

I don’t want this to be too dry and academic from the outset, but obviously there are some complex reasons as to how this has come about, and how ideas have been selected to feed into it. I will try to highlight these in time. Some contributory factors arise from political ideology, some from (dubious) academic perspectives on illness and work. Some are historical continuities, and I mean historical, as recent as New Labour, but as ancient as hell, too.

So, enough of that. On with the show. I’m fairly new to blogging so it will be a learning curve how best to organise and present things and finding WordPress’ limitations, but I’ll do my best.

Written by bigleyma

July 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Posted in General

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