Here We Go Again – DWP to Repeat the ATOS Disaster ?

I’m sure I’m not alone in being totally unsurprised, albeit sick to my stomach at the latest revelation to be leaked from Tory proposals for Benefits, the drastic cutting of  ESA; it appears that new claimants placed in  WRAG will only receive 50 pence a week more than JSA. This has led me to wonder if this extreme reduction has anything to do with the increase in the number of people claiming out of work sickness or disability benefits?

The fact the cut was ‘leaked’ on the same day, and to the same source as the claim, Maximus will be the company taking over the contract from ATOS, also leaves me unsurprised. I can imagine the key players from DWP and Maximus sitting around the table and plotting this decimation of ESA as a part of the contract. The key aim of Welfare Reform has always been to slash Benefits, irrespective of need, and now seemingly wants to privatise all out of work benefits; therefore given Maximus’ existing  involvement in running the Work Programme, and the new Health and Work programme  this pairing seems a perfect match.

However when John Pring initially suggested, Maximus was the preferred bidder to replace ATOS, he also revealed the company’s “chilling” record of incompetence, discrimination and alleged fraud“. Thinking back to when ATOS was initially awarded the contract for WCAs, there were similar concerns around the unsuitability of ATOS, and we all know the outcome of that appointment.

It appears the DWP have completely failed to learn from the ATOS debacle and is planning to enter into another disastrous contract with a seemingly corrupt company, all for Corporate Greed.  Further the DWP seems to be continuing the rhetoric of  blaming us being ill; refusing to acknowledge their attacks on poorest and most vulnerable people through both the continuing  scapegoating and their discriminatory Policies, are in any way responsible.

The ‘leaking’ of these two announcements today suggest the DWP are maintaining their insidious behaviour, softly ensuring their plans emerge into the public psyche in an attempt to build public support:

‘the poorest people are choosing the higher paying benefit to avoid looking for work, because  they are lazy, the DWP are doing the majority a favour by stopping these idlers take the easy option, and are bringing in a company who will stamp this out’

What can we can fight back against this? Johnny Void suggests we gather the information necessary to take Maximus out of the picture and I agree; but I also believe we need to demonstrate WHY sick and disable people need the extra money to survive, lets collect your stories that demonstrates precisely what we do with the difference between JSA and ESA, because if we don’t – We Will Lose it!

 

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WAITING FOR A PIP ASSESSMENT FROM CAPITA – BEWARE

On Wednesday at around 1.pm,  I received a phone call from a woman informing me she was coming to assess me at home that day at 2.30.pm – It turned out she was from Capita.

I refused, explaining I’d had no notice of the appointment and I wasn’t prepared, after her attempts to persuade me to go along with the visit failed, I immediately phoned Capita. The woman I spoke with there stated a letter about this appointment had been sent on September 6 – I’m still waiting.

The assessment has been rearranged for October and a letter is on its way, but…as the only mail I’ve received from Capita took 2 weeks+ to arrive – I’m not holding my breathe.

I immediately posted this up in Facebook and have received several comments saying others had had similar experiences, below is one example

“i had nurse just turn up at my door wanting to do mine,no letter or phone call,was sent away with a flea in her ear,by my carer,was rearranged and on the day,they tried to move appointment forward two hours with out asking,wouldn’t see them til arranged time,its all a game to them,but they cannot treat sick people this way, hope your assessment goes ok,when you do have itx”

The messages I have are beginning to form a pattern, it appears it is not uncommon for Capita to turn up on your doorstep without warning, to carry out a PIP assessment.

If this happens to you or someone you know, I suggest you do as we have, refuse to let them in and insist they follow their procedure which states:

You will receive a letter with an appointment for a face to face consultation or  member of our booking team may contact you by phone to arrange this with you.  (their emphasis)

I was hoping Capita weren’t going to be another ATOS but…it seems the games are under way!

Please let me know if you experience a similar incident – I’m keeping an eye on this!

 

The French view of Welfare Reform

A couple of months or so ago I had a phone call out of the blue from a French journalist for Le Monde, based in London; wanting to interview me and another couple of disabled people about how we feel regarding Welfare Reform; of course I agreed.

Eric Allbert, the journalist, needed to conduct the interviews that week so I arranged for my daughter, Nicki Linney and another campaigner Kitt Bolton, to meet, Eric travelled up to Leicester to speak with is; he was at my home for almost 3 hours, and spoke at length with with of us about our experiences.

The point of this for we campaigners was to tell Trench readers of Le Monde, precisely what was going on in the UK and how the Governments Welfare Reform Act really affected disabled people.

The article was printed last month, and unfortunately when translated, takes some concentration due to grammar differences;  all I can add is I hope you agree, we did us all justice

 

Jayne Linney call it “syndrome brown envelope.” Severely disabled after two car accidents, this 52 year old woman, met in mid-April, lives with the fear of receivingin his mailbox a summons to a medical examination to assess their disability.“Whenever I hear the postman, I have a lump in the stomach. 

His fear follows the traumatic experience she had during its last assessment. In 2010, Jayne had stopped working , reluctantly, but her physician. The aftermath of his accident worsened, and also serious difficulties in walking and a partially paralyzed left arm, she suffered from incontinence and fibromyalgia, a disease that causes severe pain throughout the body.

“NURSE ME screamed”

In 2012, she was summoned to a medical examination by the French companyAtos , which carries out the assessment of disabilities on behalf of the British government. “Nothing had prepared me to face someone as openly hostile. One of the exercises was to put on tiptoe. I am incapable, but the nurse yelled at me, accusing me of not making effort. “Test result: zero point, then it takes five havethe right to disability allowance. Jayne might lose her only source of income and she grabbed the justice . A court ruled in his favor eighteen months later. “The judge looked at my file and I immediately questioned my incontinence, which is a simple criterion to evaluate . In three minutes he ruled in my favor. 

It was only the beginning. Two months after her court victory, Jayne was called for a medical examination. In total , it has been tested five times in three years by Atos. With one exception, the experience has been extremely unpleasant. When she finally got satisfaction, it was necessary to fight against a system it deems organized against the disabled.

This system was developed by the British government, who wants to make money by pushing disabled people who can to return to work. If the goal may be laudable, the method to achieve this is denounced: the tests are rigid and thousands of false cases have been documented.

A MAN IN COMA DEEMED FIT TO WORK

Among those deemed able to work were a man in a coma, people who died shortly after, and others who were unable to walk more than a few tens of meters withoutregain their breath … Nearly 40% of people who appealed the decision have won against the courts.

If the final decision on the allocation of social benefits is the government, medical examinations are outsourced to Atos, a company led by Thierry Breton, the former economy minister.

Since it is at the heart of the scandal, accused of incompetence and insensitivity.On 27 March, it announced that it was abandoning the contract signed in 2005 and which was come to an end in August 2015. The company said s’ stop voluntarily.She wants to put an end to many insults and threats received by its employees.More importantly, the French company withdrew to stop the financial bleeding.

ATOS SAYS DOES HAVE MADE NO PROFIT

There are two years, as the scandal began to take momentum, a written evaluation of disability to perform the medical staff was added to the test, which previously consisted of boxes to check . This has made the grade in the assessment of the patient, but it has increased by one third the length of treatment of each case. Atos, profitability dropped into the red.

“Ultimately, the entire contract, since 2005, we have made ​​no profit,” says Michel-Alain Proch, CFO of Atos. Contract between a loss and a tarnished public image, the French company wanted to cut short the disaster.

“IF YOU ARE NOT in a wheelchair … “

“I do not think a single person with a disability will be sad to know that Atos no longer supports these assessments, “said Richard Hawkes, director of Scope, an association of aid for the disabled. He believes, however, that the departure of the company may not change much. Atos simply to apply medical examinations developed by the British government. The questionnaire, inflexible, tends not totake into account the obvious handicaps, questioning the symptoms less noticeable. “If you’re not in a wheelchair, we do not believe you,” says Nicky Linney, the daughter Jayne, who also suffers from fibromyalgia.

But the two women also believe that Atos has made ​​no effort to make the process bearable. Together they created a small association to support disabled during their medical evaluation. With two slogans: never make one test, and alwaysrequire registration.

Thus Kitt Boulton, achieving myalgic encephalopathy (chronic fatigue), was accompanied. “For years, I was terrified at the idea of being called for these exams. When I received the letter in November 2012, I was panicked. “It has been successful, but after a harrowing period.” Rules have been put in place by the government, and he is primarily responsible for the current situation, “she says.

Real issues with Welfare Reform

Wearing my DEAEP Company hat, last week I met with a lovely man, I’ll call him Adam; Adam is in his 60s and worked all his life until last year, when his health deteriorated to such a point he could no longer physically manage. At this time he completed his claim for ESA, he heard nothing and then, out of the blue last month, Adam was called for an appointment with ATOS. He initially asked about home visit as he loves 12 miles outside the City centre but was told he needed a letter from his Dr to support his request; as this was not possible, Adam informed them he was happy to attend but he wanted the assessment recorded, ATOS assured him this was fine and he arranged a date.

He contacted me wanting support for the assessment and, after Adam struggling to make his way into town for 10.30 we met prior to the assessment to discuss his requirements. We sat at a coffee shop 3 doors away from the assessment centre, and in the time it took us to finish our drinks Adam received 2 phone calls, both from the same Nottingham number and each time he answered his phone the line went dead. We both recognised the area code and knowing the regional ATOS office is based here, Adam returned the second call, only to find the call could not be completed at the receiving end.

Experience called us both to speculate if ATOS actually had organised for the recording equipment to be there, and chatting about this we entered the building ATOS use to carry out the ESA assessments for Leicestershire. ATOS are based on the first floor of a sixties office building which has no access/egress for wheelchair users in an emergency; knowing this we were both on sticks. Using the lift we emerged on the first floor to be met by a door with no automatic functions, causing us to engage into some form of strange dance to pull open the door when neither of us have full use of our arms/hands; achieving access we were then met with a second, this time fire retardant door, again with no automatic function. Having recreating our dance anew we proceeded through into a small space with a third non automatic door, thus we repeated our caper finally emanating in the reception area for ATOS.

Noting how extremely quiet the waiting area was, with only one other person in the room, we made our way to the desk, where we were met by a very friendly woman who after taking Adam’s details said he was “more than welcome to have the assessment but…”; yes, the recording equipment wasn’t there! She apologised and said they had tried to call him to which we both explained what had happened at our end. She went on to say as Adam didn’t want the assessment without it being recorded, he would receive another phone call in the next 2/3 weeks to rearrange it.

By this time we were both exhausted and in pain, so much that before we left Adam was forced to resort to his default position for managing extreme pain on his hands and knees; when Adam’s pain had returned to its regular level, we made our way our of the building, this time going backwards through the three doors, our backsides providing the impetus required to push them open.

The real irony of all of this is Adam retires in July, that’s correct, he has to go through all this again just to receive ESA for three months!

I met with a second DEAEP customer today, who I’ll call Alex; Alex is going to Tribunal next week, the reason being having fought for two years to be placed in the support group due to the progression of Parkinsons, the DWP decreed the were wrong and have done precisely that; but they insist he must continue with his appeal and attend the hearing. It seems the purpose of the Tribunal, which is being held at a local hotel instead of at the Tribunal centre, is for 17 months worth of Back pay, the difference between basic rate and the enhanced rate Alex is now receiving in the support group! I’ll report back on this next week.

What the DWP and the Politicians who have devised the immoral and unjust Polices ignore is the anxiety and stress both of these men are going through, as they are forced to fight their way through the broken Welfare Reform process; and what really sickens me is the total amount of money involved in these two cases is far less than the pathetic amount Ms Maria Miller has been instructed to return following her fraudulent expense claims!!

 

 

 

New Childcare Contract for ATOS – WHY

I know from the number of press articles, I’m not the only one astonished that ATOS – the now infamous IT Company with more trading arms than an octopus and renowned for both its part in the disastrous Border Agency computer meltdown in 2012 and its failure to administer the equally beleaguered Work Capability Assessments (WCA) for the DWP, have now been given the contract for delivering the Coalitions Childcare Voucher scheme. What I don’t get is WHY?

Before anyone tells me about the links between ATOS, and the extensive range of links – I’ve seen the speculation; but what I don’t understand is, given the recent scathing reports from both the public accounts committee, and the Work and Pensions Select on ATOS; WHY has the Treasury backed NS&I decided that ATOS are a suitable company to deliver anything?

I find the Government outsourcing any contract worrying enough, as it removes even more money from the UK into offshore accounts but even with that; what is particularly disturbing about ATOS with its proven inability to deliver and, is that it indicates this Government believes itself above its own scrutiny?

The whole point of having a democratically elected Government is to hold those in power to account, and within Parliament this is undertaken by Select and other Committees, these are the scrutiny groups composed of cross party membership and exist to “hold to account individual departments and the Government as a whole“. The Committees do this through undertaking 10 core tasks which include the investigation of documents and reports, and via interviewing relevant Civil Servants and Politicians; the findings are then reported to Parliament.

ATOS have featured negatively in a number of reports from Committees, and in a copious number of Early Day Motions all offering hard evidence of the company’s ineptitude, which brings me back to the question of WHY, against evidence and advice of Select Committees and despite the concerns of so many individual MPs, have they been appointed yet another contract?

To this end I’ve decided to send this to Mr Andrew Tyrie MP, chair of the Treasury Committee, who apparently “played a major role in the examination of bank bosses over the banking crisis in 2009“; maybe he’ll be able to answer why one of, if not the the most, incompetent companies fleecing the nations money via outsourcing has received yet another lucrative contract.

I’ll keep you posted, but if you fancy asking the same question – Mr Tyrie can be contacted at tyriea@parliament.uk, but please don’t just forward this or else we’ll be accused of being vexatious!

ATOS tentacles

National ATOS Demo – A personal Account

Yesterday I was spokesperson for ATOS DEMO, the day started with a home interview on local radio at 8.00 am, which in my world meant getting up at 5.00, to allow my drugs enough time to work for me to coherent; I then had 2 hours to recover to attend my local demo at Leicester.

Arriving slightly early to meet up with my fellow organisers, we were immediately approached by a police officer with a community support officer, asking who the organiser was; we informed them there was no one person locally, we were a group of ATOS survivors protesting about the companies role in Welfare Reform. This really surprised them, I really don’t think they’d come across a protest that wasn’t organised by a Party or group before; on refection the age of both officers might have something to do with this, they were too young to remember what genuine community activism is – the coming together of individuals against/for a common cause, without a Political agenda. Later during the Demo, my carer was speaking with them about the day and reasons behind it; he says the were actually interested and not only sympathised with us, but were impressed by our campaign, I believe this showed in the way they remained at a discreet distance through the programme.

The Demo started promptly at 11 am, and was reasonably well attended with approximately 50 people all with a story of ATOS treatment to tell; Nick, another of our organisers had put together a great 2 + hour programme of speakers, poets and singers, if you’re interested the whole thing was captured by Down Not Out, an amazing local homeless project; and made the local press. It was also fantastic to meet up with people from different groups in the City who came out to support us – Unite, Left Unity, TUC, and others I admit I’ve forgotten the names of.  But what doesn’t make even this fantastic coverage were many of the horror stories I heard when speaking to people there, personal tales of humiliation, sanctions, suicide and more; what makes it even more tragic (if this is possible) is the Fact, we’ve all heard it all before, not once but over and over.

I passed out about an hour after I got home, the price I pay for less than 3 hours out; and today I feel I’ve wrestled with the Olympic Judo team; In truth the day has seriously cost me in terms of energy and pain but…was it worth it YES YES YES!!!

The fact that 2 young police officers learnt something from what we did says to me that this type of collective peaceful protest has a positive empowering effect not only on those involved but others around, and I remain convinced this is THE way forward. The video and press coverage we achieved will forever remain in the ether of the internet, and can be utilised to maintain the spirit of the day. We will, as DEAEP  and through Down Not Out, be able to offer appropriate support to those people with personal issues with ATOS and DWP; and the organising group of the Leicester Demo has already booked a venue for a follow up meeting to continue the campaign for justice and equality with vulnerable people locally.

The only other thing I want to say is THANK YOU – to Tom Smith, who had the idea and called for this day, to Each of the Host organisers at the Leicester Event, to ALL involved in covering the day & most importantly to EVERY SINGLE PERSON who attended, including those who stopped to listen,even for a while – YOU made MY Day xx

Attending ATOS? WE Can Help – Update

As many of you are aware from the original post, I am the founding director of Disability Enabling and Empowerment Project (Leic’s) (DEAEP); this project came about from a discussion I had with my daughter and my best friend (both disabled) regarding how we three would manage to get through the ESA/DLA assessments and other such troubling appointments, without the mutual support of each other.

Currently we have written all the paperwork necessary to run a 10 week part time course, and have been desperately trying to find a venue to pilot this in Leicester, thanks to Unite community this is likely to start mid April ; we’re also investigating how we could offer the same as an on-line course. The course will be free for anyone willing to then, pass on the skills by supporting others through the trials of assessment or other similar stressful situations.

Like everything else, in this greedy age we currently live in, we’re unable to source funding for this Social Enterprise; despite the fact we’re contacted almost daily by disabled people struggling to get through. Therefore we’ve decided to take a chance on you.

From this post we’re looking for similar minded people who are willing to help us make the on-line option a reality. Are you brave enough to commit to meet with me on-line for three hours a week (day to be confirmed) and trial our course;  unfortunately this will have to be on wiggio.com & via email and there is currently no accreditation for this due to the cost. Having a proven pilot completed will give us the data and evidence we need to submit funding applications, potentially allowing us to gain accreditation and buy the suitable website to make this a reality.

If you are share our belief that we disable/vulnerable can help ourselves deal with the stress of ATOS/CAPITA etc. by passing on skills; and are seriously interested in either joining us at Unite. or to work with me on-line, please respond to either to this post or via our website by Friday 1 February.

I’m looking forward to all your replies 🙂 xx