Posts Tagged ‘ATOS’

Political Sping on ATOS (from Crippin)

October 26, 2012 Leave a comment
Categories: Satire Tags: , ,

Announcement from Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights

October 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Bindmans human rights lawyers are looking for anyone who is disabled in any way who has had their benefits refused or removed and exhausted the appeals process. They are inviting you to put in a claim with them, using legal aid. Please email if you would like to be involved.
Categories: Announcement Tags: , ,

Get ready for work: what woman who needs constant care was told

October 3, 2012 Leave a comment

The Guardian, Wednesday 3 October 2012 18.38 BST

Cecilia Anim with her daughter Ruth

Cecilia Anim with her daughter Ruth, 27, from north London, who attends classes to learn life skills such as making a cup of tea or a sandwich. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Ruth Anim needs constant one-to-one care, has no concept of danger and attends life skills classes to learn practical things like how to make a sandwich or a cup of tea. So it came as a considerable surprise to her mother, Cecilia, that an official assessment of her daughter’s abilities classified her as someone who would be capable of finding work in the near future.

The report contained a number of factual errors, perhaps most remarkably the assessor’s description of the 27-year-old as a “male client”, but more disturbing for Anim was the conclusion of the doctor who carried out the test: “I advise that a return to work could be considered within 12 months.”

Anim says: “For Ruth to go to work is actually totally unimaginable. She can’t even cross the road without someone going with her; she doesn’t know that if a car hits you it will kill you; she has no concept of danger.” Her daughter was born with complex medical needs, learning disabilities, a heart problem and epilepsy. “She is somebody who has a one-to-one carer – is she meant to go to work with her carer?”

As a result of the assessment, Ruth was assigned to a category known as the work related activity group, and required to attend the jobcentre regularly to begin mandatory preparations for going to work.

Cecilia Anim’s amazement at the written report, describing her daughter’s work capability assessment (WCA), the test to determine fitness for work, echoes the shock felt by hundreds of thousands of former claimants of incapacity benefit over the last three years, after undergoing the stringent new computerised test to check their continued eligibility for benefit payments.

Since the test was introduced in 2008 more than 600,000 people have appealed against the assessments; the cost to the state of those appeals has risen from £25m in 2009-10 to £60m in 2011-12. About 38% of those who appeal against an initial fit-for-work finding see that decision overturned on appeal and benefits granted. Welfare rights organisations and charities have voiced consistent unease about the test and the way doctors employed by the private IT firm Atos, which is paid £100m a year by the government to carry out the test, have implemented it.

Last week Labour called for a “fast and radical” overhaul of the system, admitting the policy it introduced when in government was not working.

As deputy president of the Royal College of Nursing, Anim can project her fury about the experience her daughter endured far more powerfully than most individuals going through the system. This awareness has heightened her desire to talk about the “injustice of the process”, to educate people about how inaccurate the assessments can be.

“I am able to fight back, but what about the people who are not able to fight back? It’s causing a lot of problems for a lot of people,” she says. “My daughter’s consultant neurologist was beside himself with fury when I told him. The first question he asked was, ‘Have they done a risk assessment?’ ”

Ruth’s case is by no means exceptional. Mencap, the charity which supports people with a learning disability, says it has seen countless similarly surprising cases of misclassification of vulnerable clients, many of whom are told they are not eligible for any sickness or disability benefit and must seek work immediately.

The principle underlying the WCA is that a health condition or disability should not automatically be regarded as a barrier to work, and in theory the policy is designed to ensure that support is available to help people find work. Anim says there is nothing she would like more than for her daughter to find a job, just as she would like her to get married and have the kind of life her contemporaries have, but she argues that, given the severity of her daughter’s condition, this approach is not realistic.

The 45-minute examination was chaotic from start to finish, Anim says. Her daughter was extremely anxious and kept asking the doctor if he was going to take a blood test. She refused to sit down and hopped on and off the medical examining couch when the doctor was talking to her. Anim points to a line in the partly computer-generated report which notes “client was able to sit on a chair with a back for 45 minutes”.

“The whole examination was very chaotic and bizarre because she was not co-operating. But in his report he has put that Ruthie sat for 45 minutes. She never sat down for more than three minutes. She was all over the place,” she says. “At one point she went to the tap and washed her hands and started spraying the water everywhere. He raised his voice and said ‘Stop doing that!’ I said no, no, don’t speak to her like that. She’s got learning difficulties; she doesn’t understand.”

A few questions the doctor asked, about her daughter’s condition and her schooling, made Anim doubt his familiarity with the British care system. He noted in his report that her daughter’s speech was normal, although Anim had done most of the speaking. The few questions Ruth managed to respond to were answered inaccurately. “He asked her how old she was and she said 18, despite the fact that she is 27,” she says.

A few months after the medical assessment Ruth was called to an interview at the jobcentre to discuss finding work. She went with her mother, who was aghast when she understood why they had been called in. “I said ‘Are you having a laugh?'” The jobcentre adviser realised very quickly that a mistake had been made. “We sat down, and every question she asked her, Ruth raised her palms as if she didn’t know the answer. She asked ‘What day is it?’; Ruthie said Thursday, but it was Tuesday. She asked ‘What time is it?’. She said 5.30pm, but it was 2.30pm,” she recalls. “Ruth was rummaging through the tray on her desk and being disruptive. She kept saying, ‘What’s your name?'”

“They said she must come every three weeks to show that she is actively seeking work,” Anim says; but the adviser also told her that she could appeal against the decision. “It only took her 10 minutes to realise that the decision was wrong.”

Anim spent her summer holiday trying to sort out the problem, marshalling the support of her local MP, Glenda Jackson, and a welfare rights organisation, Brent Association of Disabled People, as well as contacting Atos and the DWP.

The decision caused immense stress to the whole family, she says. “As a nurse I know what effect this has on families. You have to constantly struggle to get the support to meet her basic needs. After all we have gone through, then to be told she needs to look for work. She was totally oblivious to what was going on, as usual, but we felt disbelief, frustration, stress and shock.

“It was a barmy decision. People with learning disabilities need all the support they can get. [They should] not be put in this situation where there is total ignorance about their ability to work, safety and wellbeing.”

Although the Royal College of Nursing has no official position on the WCA, Anim is clear that the policy needs urgent reform. “The system needs to be overhauled and reviewed.”

The DWP says that it has introduced numerous improvements to the testing process, but charities state that serious problems continue. A report published by Citizens Advice earlier this year found a “worryingly low” level of accuracy in the assessments. The charity, which supports many people who feel they have been wrongly denied benefits through the appeals process, has seen a 71% increase in workload relating to the employment and support allowance (the replacement to incapacity benefit) over the past two years.

Campaigners blame both the design of the policy and the way it has been implemented for the problems. The headquarters of Atos have been repeatedly targeted by disabled protesters, angry at the company’s involvement in the assessments, and the company’s sponsorship of the Paralympics caused widespread controversy.

The National Audit Office criticised the Department for Work and Pensions in August for not having “sought financial redress for contractor underperformance” and recommended that it “tighten performance requirements with Atos in relation to the quality of medical assessments”.

Earlier this year delegates at the BMA conference passed a motion stating that the “inadequate computer-based assessment” performed by Atos had “little regard for the nature or complexity of the needs of long-term sick and disabled persons”, and proposed that the WCA should be halted “with immediate effect”.

Jane Alltimes, senior policy officer at Mencap, said Ruth’s case was not particularly extreme. Mencap has submitted recommendations for improvement to the system to the DWP, and is arguing for greater recognition of employers’ unwillingness to employ people with learning disabilities. Just 7% of people who receive state support for their learning disabilities are in work.

“The evidence we’ve seen suggests an assessment process that isn’t working for lots of people with a learning disability. An assessment designed to determine a person’s ‘fitness for work’ needs to take into account the realities of the barriers experienced by disabled people in getting a job – things like job availability, the prejudices of employers, the support people need to overcome the barriers they face. The assessment in its current form just doesn’t do that.”

An Atos Healthcare spokesperson said: “We apologise for any discrepancy in our report and any distress this may have caused. We carry out around 15,000 assessments each week and work hard to provide the DWP with as much detailed information as we can to contribute to them making an accurate decision on benefits.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “The work capability assessment is under constant review to ensure it is both fair and effective, and it is in everyone’s interest to get the system right. We are committed to help thousands of people move from benefits and back into work while giving unconditional support to those who are most in need.”

Categories: Disability, Health Tags: ,

Tom Greatrix, The Daily Record: Disabled need help but Atos is failing them in the worst way possible

September 28, 2012 1 comment

Disabled need help but Atos is failing them in the worst way possible

TOM GREATREX, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, says Atos is making patients feel punished for being ill.

I AM not surprised that the Daily Record’s exposure of the failings of Atos has had such a strong response from people across Britain.

I have been campaigning about this chaotic process for nearly two years, and know from my own surgeries just how much anger and frustration there is about the assessments.

The principle of checking whether someone is fit for work is a sound one. The benefits of work are clear, not just to the individual’s health, social and family life, but for wider society too.

So people who can work should be helped to work. But those who can’t should not be hounded by a process that is not working properly.

Like many of the cases the Record has reported over the past few days, I have heard from constituents who have found themselves unable to work but trapped in a chaotic system of assessment, appeal and

It is not their fault, but they feel like they are being punished for being ill.

The test as it stands fails to properly take into account the complex circumstances of those with Parkinson’s disease, mental health problems or patients recovering from cancer. People are left concerned, confused
and anxious about their own experience.

When the Labour government introduced an assessment, it was designed to help people get back to work. The Tory-LibDem Government have turned it into a chaotic mess.

They renegotiated the contract, ignored the trials and accelerated people moving from incapacity benefit without fixing the problems.

The resulting chaos of delays in assessment, triple booking appointments, a backlog of appeals and thousands of those decisions being overturned is down to the Government’s failure to get a grip of this mess.

As well as wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, behind every statistic is somebody whose life has been made a misery through no fault of their own.

The system must be changed to work for those who need support at a time in their lives when they are vulnerable, as well as those whose taxes are paying for it.

The process was designed to help, not hound, those unable to work.

At the moment, it is failing the sick and disabled in the most shameful way imaginable.

Daily Record: Nurse makes heartfelt apology after Atos forced her to trick disabled people out of benefits

September 24, 2012 Leave a comment


By Heather Greenaway, 24 Sep 2012 00:01


SCOTS nurse Joyce Drummond reveals how thousands of genuinely ill people were set up for a fall before they had even been assessed by benefits firm Atos.


A NURSE has revealed how her own life was ruined after under-fire benefits firm Atos forced her to “trick” disabled people out of cash.

Joyce Drummond’s medical training meant she knew claimants were unfit to work.

But she was told to mark people as fit if they could write or show up for an interview properly dressed. Eventually, Joyce was carpeted by bosses for being “too nice” to claimants.

After five months, she was signed off with stress caused by “having to trick sick people out of their benefit”. She quit in July 2009 and hasn’t worked since.

Joyce said candidates were marked down if they:

*looked well-presented, with neat hair and make-up.

*turned up with a toddler.

*could sign the application form.

Public fury is growing against Atos, who have assessed thousands of people with terminal illnesses as fit for work.

And thousands with genuine chronic conditions have been dragged over the coals repeatedly by their inquisitors.

Mum-of-one Joyce, from Mosspark, Glasgow, said Atos decision makers paid no attention to her professional clinical opinion and were only interested in cutting down the number of claimants.

She reveals all the questions she was told to ask were loaded.

Joyce said: “I stopped working for Atos three-and-a-half years ago but I still feel sick every time I think of those people deemed fit for work, when they quite clearly were incapable of doing so.

“I apologise from the bottom of my heart to all those people I had to assess during my five months in the job but the decisions were out of my hands.

“Once I realised how manipulative the assessment system was, I got out immediately. The stress of it all made me ill and I have not worked since.”

Joyce, who worked as a staff nurse at the city’s Southern General for more than 20 years, added: “I only took the job so I could help vulnerable people get the benefits they needed.

“But it wasn’t long before I realised no one cared about my professional clinical opinion. It broke my heart and I went home in tears every night.

“People trusted me as a nurse and they confided in me. I felt I was having to stab them in the back.”

Joyce said many claimants were set up for a fall even before they came into her office in Cadogan Street, Glasgow.

She said: “If they made it in by themselves, that was seen as a sign they could function.

“They also had to fill in a form. If they did it, it showed they could think, write and were capable of managing.

“We also had to assess their appearance. If a woman was wearing make-up and was nicely dressed, she was deemed as functioning and capable.

“If someone came in with a toddler in tow, they were doomed because if they could manage a child, they could surely work.

“If someone had a pet, they were able to function and if they smiled while talking about a pet, I had to mark down that they smiled spontaneously and were therefore not depressed.

“It was so unfair. There could be a very depressed or ill person sitting in front of me but on paper, thanks to the leading questions I had to ask, they could be judged fit to work.”

Joyce says Atos bosses expected assessors to get through 10 cases in a day and reprimanded her for being too nice. She said: “It was impossible to do 10 a day as each claimant had a 44-minute slot. The medical director called me in one day and told me I was too nice.

“I never found out how the decisions went but when I was doing the interview, I knew what the outcome would be.

“Atos went by the philosophy that if you had a finger and could push a button, then you could work. Ridiculous.”

Last week, a Panorama documentary revealed that each week between January and August last year, 32 people died who the Government had declared could be helped back into work.

Appeals against decisions are costing the Government £50million a year.

Atos have a £206million contract from the Department for Work and Pensions.

The leader of the Scottish Parliament’s welfare reform committee pledged to dig deeper into the Atos scandal. Labour MSP Michael McMahon said: “There are serious questions about how Atos manage work and the growing reports of how they have caused distress to so many vulnerable people.

“Whistleblowers have an important part to play in showing just how these reforms are hurting those in genuine need. My committee will continue to investigate the workings of Atos.”

Atos last night defended their role in the benefits process. A spokeswoman said: “Our trained doctors, nurses and physiotherapists use their clinical knowledge and apply the Government’s policy and criteria to each assessment.

“They make no decisions on benefit entitlement and look at each case on an individual basis.

“We understand that applying for benefit can be a difficult time which is why we try to make the part of the process we’re responsible for as comfortable as possible.”

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,


September 19, 2012 1 comment

Zoe Williams, The Guardian: Atos is doing a good job – as the government’s flakcatcher

September 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Two things surprised me, the first time I saw Atos emblazoned all over the Paralympic Games: first, what a bizarre idea, for a company that is the single biggest identified threat to disabled people, to want to sponsor the event. ; second, what’s in it for them? They already have incredible brand recognition. Anyone with even a passing interest will have heard wordplay (“they couldn’t give a tos”). It is well known that the value of their contracts from the UK government currently stands at £3bn. We know from Dispatches and Panorama that Atos assessors are being given targets for removing people from the benefits “support group” – effectively, Christ-like, pronouncing them not disabled, in the hope that they will thereafter no longer be disabled.

It doesn’t appear to work – 40% of people have appealed the decision, and 38% of those were successful. It’s a mistake to infer that the rest were, therefore, caught bang to rights. Some of them simply give up, some die of their lack of illness, some take their own lives. The appeals process costs the government another £50m, but that comes out of some other budget (it will probably be used, somewhere along the line, as an argument for legal aid being too expensive).

There is no reason to suppose that a large number of disabled people are faking it. The DWP’s figures give a preliminary estimate for 2011/12 of benefits overpayment through fraud and error at 2%, but wait: 0.8% is customer error, 0.5% is DWP error. Only 0.7% of claimants are fraudulent.

On the subject of appeals, we know that you’re more likely to be successful if you’ve got audio of the assessment. For “security reasons”, Atos will not let claimants use their own recording equipment, and has purchased only 11 machines, to be split between 123 centres, to interview 11,000 people a week. At the last check, several machines were broken, but “unfortunately” assessments couldn’t be postponed until they were mended.

We know that Atos requires no mental health training from its assessors, has no specific test for the mentally ill, and takes no account of fluctuating conditions; so that’s a discrimination case waiting to happen.

Sorry to recap, when all of this has been established – but it underlines the puzzle. This is a company for whom scrutiny, indeed any kind of attention, can only lead to greater unpopularity. So why do they put themselves through it?

Because it’s part of the deal – they are not simply the government’s henchmen. They are its flakcatchers.

At a public meeting in Westminster Hall last night, various Labour MPs put questions about Atos to Chris Grayling; John McDonnell MP tweeted “Protesters sum up exactly what this debate is all about. The Atos system is causing immense suffering & killing people.” It’s true but it’s also wrong: all Atos does is enforce a government policy that causes immense suffering.

People at the coalface of the work capability assessment already know this. Disability campaigners protest outside the DWP as much as Atos headquarters. Tony Smith, spokesman for UK Uncut, pointed out: “Atos are doing the government’s dirty work.”

Analyst Rachael Stormonth, of NelsonHall, calls Atos “whipping boys” for the government, which I quote not to make anyone feel sorry for them – rather to point out that the very visibility, the signposting of this firm’s deficiencies, should wise us up to the fact that it’s a diversionary tactic. There is nothing easier than to dislike a faceless foreign corporation with apparently no attachment to the people whose lives it wrecks. But they wouldn’t do it if they weren’t being paid to; all our ire should go to the people who are paying them. The spectacle of the minister appearing in public to defend a company of his own commission, which enforces policies of his own devising, is ludicrous.

On the one hand this is an inevitable side-effect of outsourcing. When services go wrong having been contracted out, of course questions are going to be asked about the company that undertook them. The Olympics security debacle was a G4S failure; while there was debate about the nature of the contractual process, G4S remained the culprit.

But what’s interesting is that these failures are rewarded with more contracts. About £400m of Atos’s contracts with the government were won last month, by which time the deficiencies of their work capability assessment had been widely flagged. G4S is apparently set to win £2bn worth of contracts for five prisons, its recent shambles notwithstanding (this has yet to be announced: I hope I’m wrong. I bet I’m not) And welfare-to-work firm A4e was repeatedly awarded new contracts despite an abysmal record. It looks like mismanagement from a distance, but the more often it happens the more obvious it becomes – this isn’t an accident. These firms take the fall, and their reward is that they are lavishly paid to enforce other unpopular and/or ill-considered policies, for which they will again take the fall. It’s the perfect division of labour, since the government needs popularity and will throw money at masking its unpopular decisions, while the firms care nothing for popularity and will hoover up the money.

At root, this is an attempt to privatise our anger – take it out of the public domain, where it might mean something, and direct it towards the private sector, where it means nothing. The flaw in this calculation is that anger is a limitless resource. You might as well try to privatise air.

Twitter: @zoesqwilliams

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Atos bring ‘bad news to the poor’ says Christian network

August 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Christian campaigners have backed nonviolent direct action against Atos, a company accused of wrongly declaring thousands of disabled people to be fit for work to meet government goals of slashing the welfare bill.

Atos is facing a string of protests this week, triggered in part by the company’s sponsorship of the Paralympic Games. The sponsorship has been slammed as cynical and hypocritical by Atos’ critics.

Supporters of Christianity Uncut are backing the protests against Atos, including an attempt to close the company’s London offices tomorrow (Friday 31 August). The action has been organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and UK Uncut, who have dubbed it “the Closing Atos Ceremony”.

“Jesus said he had come to bring good news to the poor. Atos bring bad news to the poor.” declared Christianity Uncut today (30 August).

The company has £3.1bn of government contracts. Over 40% of appeals against Atos decisions are upheld, suggesting the company is either incompetent or deliberately conducting biased assessments. However, legal aid for most appeals will be scrapped from April.

At least 43 doctors and nurses working for Atos have been reported to professional regulators for misconduct, according to evidence published by the Independent newspaper yesterday (29 August). There are countless stories of people being forced to miss meals or turn off heating after having benefits cut.

Sian, a disabled Catholic who was assessed by Atos, said that the cross over her bed was noticed by the Atos doctor who asked if she went to church.

“She said she was asking this because I should have freedom of religion and be able to go to church,” explained Sian. “She lied. She wrote ‘claims cannot leave house even to church’. She was checking to see if I was’really’ disabled. I had my Disability Living Allowance stopped.”

Christianity Uncut urged churches to take sides with the poorest members of society “who are losing out most from cuts while the very rich remain largely unaffected”. They accused David Cameron of snatching away the livelihood of thousands of disabled people at the same time as welcoming the Paralympics to London.

Symon Hill, a Christian writer and associate director of the Ekklesia thinktank, said he would be at the protest at the Atos offices in London tomorrow.

He added, “Ministers could save billions by cracking down on corporate tax-dodging and ditching Trident, instead of attacking the poorest members of society. Many Christians recognise that there can be no neutrality in the face of injustice. Now is the time to act on that conviction.”

Christianity Uncut is an informal network of Christians campaigning against the UK government’s cuts agenda and what they regard as the injustices of capitalism. They say they are inspired by Jesus and his nonviolent direct action in the Jerusalem Temple in solidarity with people who are poor, exploited and marginalised.

Earlier this year, members of Christianity Uncut were dragged from the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral as they knelt in prayer during the eviction of Occupy London Stock Exchange.


Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Atos employees to be investigated over Facebook remarks about disability benefit applicants

August 28, 2012 1 comment

From the well known social issues crusader, Computer Weekly….

Kathleen Hall Wednesday 17 August 2011 05:00

Two Atos Healthcare employees are being investigated over allegations they made inappropriate remarks on Facebook about the people they assess for sickness and disability benefits, and are accused of separately referring to them as “parasites” and “down and outs”.

Atos Healthcare, a division of IT services firm Atos Origin, is sub-contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to carry out re-assessments on 1.5 million people claiming sickness and disability benefits.

The incident follows a critical report from a House of Commons Select Committee which found that tens of thousands of sick and disabled people had been wrongly declared “fit for work” by the French-owned outsourcing company. Appeals are estimated to cost the taxpayer around £50m a year, said MPs.

A spokeswoman from Atos confirmed the company was investigating one administrative worker and one nurse alleged to have made the inappropriate remarks on Facebook.

Disability rights activists have called for the immediate dismissal of the nurse who is alleged to have repeatedly referred to the people she assessed as “down and outs”.

Sasha Callaghan from disability campaign group the Black Triangle said: “This just goes to show how the assessment regime [at Atos] has managed to thoroughly de-sensitise those who work in it from the consequences of their actions.”

In a written statement Atos said: “Atos Healthcare is committed to providing a high quality, professional service to the DWP and expects the same of all its employees. Where it is found that these standards are not adhered to, this is taken very seriously and appropriate disciplinary action taken.”

In November 2010 Computer Weekly’s Inside Outsourcing blog reported that disability rights campaigners believed many people have wrongly had their benefits cut because of the system that Atos uses when assessing them.

Categories: Democratic Accountability Tags:

The continuing legacy of Compassionate Conservatism and Tough Love (copyright Grayling 2012)

August 28, 2012 Leave a comment

‘Atos forced me to crawl on the floor in tears’

Issue: 2318 dated: 1 September 2012 News
posted: 4.56pm Tue 28 Aug 2012

This article should be read after: ‘Seven medals but now the Tories want my benefits’

‘Atos forced me to crawl on the floor in tears’

comment on article | email | print

| | digg|

Dave Sewell on the horrific letters that expose how Paralympics sponsor Atos treats disabled people

“I was forced to crawl across the floor in tears of pain and humiliation.”

Those are the words of one disabled person who was assessed by Paralympic sponsor Atos Healthcare.

“I had to absolutely struggle to get up with one arm on a chair. I could not put pressure on my knees and ankles and my right arm was numb with trapped nerves. The doctor just looked at me and said ‘Oh, can’t you get up? I should have helped you’.”

This nightmare is revealed in just one of the personal letters set to be delivered to Atos by Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac) as part of their protests this week.

Atos is a private firm that the government pays to decide whether disabled people are “fit for work”. If they are, they lose their benefits.

In a procedure that has been slammed by the doctors’ BMA association, Atos scores disabled people, giving them “points” for each task they can’t carry out.

“I scored nil points for ‘can get up off the floor unaided’,” the testimony continues. “My assessment was a complete work of fiction and I won an appeal 14 months later.”

Others tell similar stories. “My impression was that it didn’t matter what I said, the decision had already been made,” writes Kevin from Northampton. “I felt humiliated, a scrounger, a cheat.


“Several weeks later the report arrived. I started to read it and thought that I had got the wrong person’s. They made it seem like I was Superman—but I can’t get my sock and shoe on.

“I could not believe what I read, but worse was to come. I was then told that my benefits had already been stopped a week before I got the letter. I broke down and cried. I sobbed like a baby. Why was I being treated like this? How was I going to pay the bills?”

For many disabled people, the name Atos has become forever associated with death. “Rest in peace my Davy,” one widow writes to Atos. “He was very, very ill. He could not work because of his condition. You told him that he was ‘fit for work’ and were signing him off sickness.

“He died. You, Atos, called him to ask where he was as he had an appointment with you. I told you that he died the day before and you slammed the phone down on me.”

The writer herself was chronically ill even before her bereavement, and accuses Atos of “hounding” her disabled son. “Will he become another victim of your number crunching? And what about me? All you want is to move us off sickness, tell us we are ‘fit for work’ and get rid of us.”

Other letter writers say they have considered suicide. “Please don’t worry about me complaining too much,” writes one person with multiple sclerosis (MS). “I anticipate becoming just another boring statistic in the mounting death toll.”

Like many, this anonymous writer lives in fear of Atos ignoring the implications of their condition. “I wake frequently with nightmares that I am ill, homeless, and penniless,” they write, “due to having all my benefits stopped and nobody caring or believing a word I say.”

The letters are to be delivered in a coffin, while activists read out the names of some of the more than 1,000 people believed to have died after Atos assessed them as being capable of “work-related activity”.

Centre’s layout is hostile to disabled

Even the layout of Atos’ assessment centres shows the firm’s contempt for disabled people, an accessibility expert has told Socialist Worker.

Adam Lotun, an advisor on disability adjustments, visited the Atos centre in Wimbledon, south west London. He says the problems start before you even get there as there is no disabled parking.

The tube and train stations are “at the other end of Wimbledon”. Atos’ front door opens outwards, with an electronic lock but no power opening assistance.

Adam says, “By the time I am trying to pull the doors open towards me and move my wheelchair out of the way, the electronic lock has locked shut again. It’s almost impossible.”

Inside there is a sign in Braille above the reception desk—almost ten feet up. Adam adds, “Unless someone is seven feet tall and able to stretch their arms up fully, they would not be able to read it.”

The examination rooms have a litany of problems. Many doors and corridors are too narrow for wheelchairs, Adam explains. There are also no hearing aid loop systems, and staff sit behind computers, making lip-reading impossible.

After all this you might want to complain. But notices telling people how to make complaints are not accessible to sight impaired people or those with learning difficulties—they are not easy-read versions.

Figure it out

  • 85 pages of disabled people’s Atos horror stories
  • £80m profits for Atos in the first half of this year alone
  • £9m spent by Channel 4 to buy the British broadcasting rights for the 2012 Paralympics
  • 4 billion people are expected to tune in worldwide

Time to take the fight to Atos

The Coffin delivery is part of a week of action, with protests every day this week. On Tuesday there were protests outside Atos offices across Britain.

“It went really well,” said John McArdle from the Black Triangle Campaign in Edinburgh. “There were about 40 people and we surrounded the building.”

And on Friday Dpac and UK Uncut are preparing for mass direct action at Atos headquarters. Previous actions have blocked Oxford Circus and Trafalgar Square.

“This will be the closing Atos ceremony,” said Andy Greene from Disabled People Against Cuts. “We will close Atos down. We need everybody there.”

The following should be read alongside this article:

‘Seven medals but now the Tories want my benefits’

%d bloggers like this: