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Atos: Minister finally agrees to meeting


July 19th, 2013


It’s taken long enough, like 6 months, to coax the Minister responsible for Atos under IDS, Mark Hoban, finally to come round to receiving a delegation from those with deep and lengthy experience of Atos/DWP procedures over WCA. But it look as though he is now prepared to see us soon after Parliament returns on 2 September.It has been a convoluted journey. First he tool exception to certain words used by Prof. Peter Beresford in his foreword to the People’s Review of WCA written by the Spartacus network, a report of more than 100 pages. That caused me to apply for an Adjournment debate in the House to press the Minister on why it was not reasonable to reject a delegation to discuss a carefully drafted report of over 100 pages because of a single sentence that wasn’t even part of it. The Minister however did not attend because his plane developed engine trouble in Glasgow, but his junior minister read out his speech and after repeated pressure seemed to agree to a meeting provided it was a ‘constructive engagement’.


Still nothing happened, so I waylaid Hoban in the lobby and asked him why he still hadn’t responded to my earlier requests. He said he wanted to hear from Spartacus themselves as to what they were proposing. I therefore asked Sue Marsh to write to him direct, which she duly did in a detailed letter, together with a systematic background report which turned out to be the latest assessment of the evidence 68 pages long. Still we waited another 6 weeks without any reply, and I therefore stopped him again in the lobby and asked why we hadn’t heard from him. He said he’d never received the letter! I was amazed, but promptly sent him a copy of Sue’s letter plus the full accompanying report. Again there was no immediate response, but this time after a week I confronted him about it. He said he had received the letter, and added that he had now ‘fished the original out of the system’! I again pressed for an early meeting, and he provisionally agreed to a meeting in September which I’m confident will now take place.


It shouldn’t have to be like this, but this is certainly now an opportunity we should grasp with both hands. As Sue herself said in her letter to him, Spartacus “aimed to offer solutions to extremely complex issues and to provide reasoned and helpful research. Our work is written by respected individuals and academics who are all sick and disabled themselves and is based on real life experience. We always hoped this would help government to make compassionate decisionsâ€.


From here -



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Government's welfare benefits and tax changes amount to 'speeded-up Thatcherism'

The economy may be growing, but inequality is rising more quickly than in 1980s, report warns


The Government's welfare benefits and tax changes will widen income inequality between rich and poor on a scale similar to that of Margaret Thatcher, new analysis will reveal this week.


Research for the Fabian Society claims cuts to benefits and tax credits, particularly for working-age families with children, will amount to a “speeded-up replay of Thatcherismâ€, with inequality increasing twice as fast by 2015 as it did under the former Conservative prime minister.


Full article here -




No surprises there :!:

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Cost Of Sickness And Disability Benefit Appeals Soars To Record £66 Million


The cost of appeals against Employment and Support Allowance decisions (ESA) – a benefit for sick and disabled people unable to work – has soared to a record-breaking £66 million, up £21 million since 2009/10.


The information came to light following a parliamentary question from Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Liam Byrne MP.


Responding to the question, Justice Minister Helen Grant said that the number of appeals had increased by 66% from 279,000 in 2009-10 to 465,500 in 2012/13.


Benefit claimants have the legal right to appeal against decisions they believe to be wrong: firstly by asking the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to reconsider the decision and secondly by appealing to have their case investigated by a Social Security Tribunal.


Labour’s Liam Byrne MP laid the blame for the soaring cost of benefit appeals firmly at the feet of the private french firm Atos, who are paid £150 million per year to carry out disability benefit assessments on behalf of the government and the DWP.


Speaking to the media, Mr Byrne said:


“Atos is now spinning out of control and it is costing the taxpayers millions to clean up the mess.


“The hard truth is that more decisions are wrong than ever before, and the result is more and more appeals and a price tag that has soared by 30 per cent in just the last year.


“DWP have got to get a grip of this fast before more public money is wasted.â€


A number of protests have been carried out against Atos by campaigners who accuse them of making mistakes when assessing sick and disabled people for ESA and figures suggest that Atos could be getting it wrong in as many as 1 in 5 cases. Despite this Atos insist that the DWP always make the final decision on benefit eligibility.


News reports have shown growing examples of cases where Atos have allegedly gotten their recommendations wrong, and where sick and vulnerable people have died or taken their own lives shortly after being found fit for work. The website Calums list has documented many of these examples.


Campaigners have demanded that the assessment, known as the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), be scrapped in favor of allowing a persons own GP or other health professional to make the decision on whether a person is ‘fit for work’.


Their calls were strengthened last year when GP’s unanimously voted in favour of a motion calling for the WCA to be scrapped, during a British Medical Association (BMA) conference.


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Vicky Cooling, 31, of Greenhaze Lane, Great Cambourne was sentenced to 24 weeks at Cambridge Crown Court today (Monday), of which she will serve half behind bars.


She had claimed benefits as a single parent but failed to tell two councils and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that she had a partner living with her who was in full time work.


Cooling denied two charges of dishonestly failing to report changes in her circumstances and two charges of dishonestly making false statements to obtain benefit in May and the judge ruled today she would serve four 24 week sentences concurrently.


The prosecution was brought by South Cambridgeshire District Council on behalf of itself, Borough of Broxbourne Council and the DWP.


Cooling fraudulently claimed £41,590 in housing and Council Tax benefit while living in Broxbourne between 2007 and 2011, and £7,956 while living in South Cambridgeshire. She was also found to have been overpaid £31,941 in income support and Jobseekers allowance from the DWP.


A further hearing will take place in October to decide on confiscation of her assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act to repay fraudulently claimed benefits.


The case was the largest benefit fraud case South Cambridgeshire District Council had taken to court.


Cllr Simon Edwards, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “Fraudsters rely on honest people not reporting them but it is important to remember it is not a victimless crime. It takes money away from our communities and services and affects us all in some way. We take a tough line on fraud and it’s not a question of if we catch fraudsters, but when.â€

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Government issues ministerial statement over Atos


But will any 'improvement' plan be just another whitewash?

Of course it will.


Government is just oh so predictable. People will no doubt be jumping with joy over today's ministerial statement that Atos is at long last going to be subjected to having to put in place an improvement plan. You've only got to read the small print before you see how yet another corporate global giant will be offering Atos some 'independent advice' as to how to go about making the much needed improvements.


The DWP has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers "to provide independent advice in relation to strengthening quality assurance processes across all its health and disability assessments. In addition, and in the longer-term, increased provider capacity will ensure that a greater focus on quality can be achieved alongside enabling the number of assessments the Department requires to be delivered."




PricewaterhouseCoopers are no strangers to Atos as clarified by an excerpt from yet another Atos glossy leaflet entitled "e-invoicing - speed-up your process - take cost-cutting initiatives"; it's hardly encouraging that the accent is on even more cost cutting. The glossy goes on to highlight the close working relationship with Atos Worldline (another Atos derivative) and PWC:


"Atos Worldline studies European and worldwide constraints from a legal and fiscal point of view in collaboration with Price-waterhouse-Coopers Tax Consultants SCCRL office who is the leader studying rules to be applied to e-invoicing and e-archiving at international level. e-invoicing covers fiscal and legal prerequisites in more than 30 countries over the world"


Await the whitewash and clean bill of health to appease the select committee; after which it'll be business as usual. Here's Lord Freud's ministerial statement:


Written Ministerial Statement

Monday 22 July 2013




New providers to deliver Work Capability Assessments


The Minister for Welfare Reform (Lords) (Lord Freud): The Department for Work and Pensions is committed to continually reviewing and improving the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process, to ensure that it is as responsive to the needs of claimants as possible. As part of this and to bring down waiting times for claimants, DWP has decided to change its approach to contracting for the WCA, by procuring additional providers on a regional basis. This is in keeping with the Department’s current commercial strategy and will provide increased capacity. These arrangements are likely to be operational from summer 2014.


The WCA process is currently subject to a system of quality assurance and audits by both Atos Healthcare and DWP. A recent DWP audit identified a reduction in the quality of written reports which are produced by Atos following assessments and are then used by the Department to form part of the decision making process on benefit entitlement. This is contractually unacceptable. The Department is considering all its options under the contract and will apply all appropriate contractual remedies to ensure quality and value.


Atos has been instructed by the Department to immediately enact a quality improvement plan. Measures include retraining and re-evaluating all Atos healthcare professionals, with those not meeting the required standard of written reporting either remaining subject to 100% audit until compliant or having their approval to carry out assessments revoked by the Department.


The Department has also engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers to provide independent advice in relation to strengthening quality assurance processes across all its health and disability assessments. In addition, and in the longer-term, increased provider capacity will ensure that a greater focus on quality can be achieved alongside enabling the number of assessments the Department requires to be delivered.


Assessment reports, such as those provided by Atos, form only one part of the WCA process, which has a number of checks and balances built in to ensure the right decision is reached for claimants. After the Atos assessment DWP Decision Makers make the final decision on claimants’ benefit entitlement based on all evidence provided during the claim. If the claimant disputes the decision or appeals there is then a reconsideration process where another DWP Decision Maker will reconsider the decision. If the claimant is still unhappy about the decision made, they can appeal. It is important to stress that DWP’s audit activity showed that claimants whose reports did not meet our rigorous quality standard were no more or less likely to have been found fit for work or appeal against the Department’s decision than other claimants.


The Department also remains committed to the ongoing process of annual independent reviews of the WCA. From the three reviews already carried out by Professor Malcolm Harrington, over 50 recommendations have been, or are being, implemented to ensure the WCA is as fair and as accurate as possible. For example, we are currently carrying out an evidence-based review of the WCA descriptors with a number of major charities and we are working closely with the First-tier Tribunal to better understand the reasons for upheld appeals.


A further independent review of the WCA is currently being undertaken by Dr Paul Litchfield, a respected Senior Occupational Physician, and we expect Dr Litchfield to make recommendations before the end of the year to further strengthen the WCA.


The above measures show our commitment to continually improve the assessment, and to take decisive action when it becomes clear that there are issues which need addressing. We will come back to Parliament in the autumn with a further update.


Another excellent write up from "nickd" on ilegal.org which can be seen here -




"An interesting development and can only hope that it is a step in the right direction" :?

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And also reported in the Guardain


Disabled benefits claimants test: Atos reports found 'unacceptably poor'


DWP to get additional providers to administer work capability assessments after review finds assessors' reports wanting


The Department for Work and Pensions is to bring in additional providers alongside Atos Healthcare to administer the work capability assessment (WCA) for disabled benefits claimants, after a government review admitted that reports by Atos assessors were of unacceptably poor quality.


The announcement by the employment minister, Mark Hoban, follows months of criticisms of Atos which the government had so far either rejected or sought to address through fresh reviews of the scheme.


The announcement is likely to lead to new firms being brought in on a regional basis from summer 2014. Hoban said the extra firms will also help provide extra capacity to help tackle waiting times.


There have been long-term concerns that the system was unfairly weighted against people with health conditions that fluctuate, as the test assesses whether they could work on "the majority of days". There has also been criticism of the time it takes for appeals against decisions to be either upheld or rejected.


During interview, Atos assessors award claimants points reflecting the apparent severity of their condition and a computer program then calculates the score. Claimants who score 15 points are likely to be found eligible for support, while those with a lower score are not entitled to employment support allowance (ESA).


About 30% of those refused ESA support go to appeal and are subsequently granted the benefit. There have been more than 600,000 appeals since the WCA started, costing about £60m a year.


Hoban said he had already directed Atos Healthcare to put in place a quality improvement plan following a DWP audit which identified an unacceptable reduction in the quality of written reports produced following assessments.


Apparently drastic measures include retraining and re-evaluating all Atos Healthcare professionals, with those not meeting the required standard continuing to have all of their work audited until they do, or having their approval to carry out assessments withdrawn by the department.


The quality of the reports produced by Atos following an assessment are graded A-C, and the audit showed that the number of C-grade reports was around 41% between October 2012 and March 2013. A C-grade report does not mean the assessment was wrong, and the recommendation given in a C-grade report may well be correct but, for example, the reasoning behind that recommendation may lack the level of detail demanded by the DWP.


Full article here -



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And Atos strike again :(


Mum-of-three was told to find a job by Atos chiefs.. weeks later she died of a brain tumour

22 Jul 2013 07:31


ELENORE TATTON had been ordered to find a job by the disability assessors but just weeks later she died from the brain tumour she had had since she was a teenager.


A MUM-OF-THREE died of a brain tumour just weeks after ATOS told her she should be looking for a job.


Elenore Tatton, 39, had never worked after being plagued by the tumour since she was 15.


Despite telling ATOS about her serious health problems, she was told to begin the process to find employment.


A scan then showed Elenore’s tumour had returned and this time was terminal. She died in a hospice within weeks.


Her dad Ian said: “Even though she told the ATOS assessor that she had the brain tumour, they started the process to get her back into work.


Full story here -



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daveh, really? Let's not go there again :!:



Whilst I agree with you in principle, your argument may be more valid if it didn't use misleading images.


For example by comparing the green and red circles (with apologies to those red/green colour blind folk) by using a circle of twice the diameter (approximately) for the red you are actually showing an area four times larger (approximately).

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