Benefits test company ATOS to leave work assessment contract early. ATOS, the French IT company contracted out by the Tory led Condem Westminster Government to cut the sick, disabled & elderly’s benefits to nothing, is to finish its contract early, Government ministers have confirmed. The early termination of the work assessment contract with ATOS – who were branded “Contract Killers” in hearings at the Scottish Parliament ten days ago, comes amid mounting criticism of the company’s treatment of disabled people and media investigations that linked ATOS to the deaths of hundreds of Scots & thousands of the disabled, ill, vulnerable & the elderly across the UK.
However there is mounting speculation that some kind of back door financial deal has been done between the Westminster Government and ATOS to get the company out of the headlines before next year’s General Election, and this year’s Independence Referendum in Scotland, where ATOS cuts to benefits claimants have particularly hit hard among Scots communities of the vulnerable, long term ill and disabled, leading to hardship, poverty, homelessness and rising numbers of suicides.
The early quit notice from ATOS, who were due to finish their contract in August 2015 follows feeble UK government criticism over "significant quality failures". Commenting on ATOS desire to end its contract, Disabilities Minister Mike Penning said a new company would be appointed in early 2015. Mr Penning also claimed Atos would not receive "a single penny of compensation".
BUT ATOS will also continue with assessments for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit in Scotland, the north of England, London and the south of England. Another company, Capita, provide PIP assessments in central England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
PIP, which replaced DLA (Disability Living Allowance) is another controversial reform introduced by the Condems who want to cut all benefits claims from disabled persons for even the lowest level of payments which could make all the difference in their lives.
ATOS claimed in a statement it would "work hard to support transition to a new provider", adding: "We will be transferring our infrastructure and employees to ensure consistency of service to those going through the process. "There will be no change for those applying for Employment and Support Allowance."
Last month, ATOS said it was seeking to end its government contract under which it carried out the Work Capability Assessments in Scotland, England & Wales. However, ATOS will continue to carry out the assessments in Northern Ireland under a separate contract.
All claimants applying for Employment and Support Allowance must undergo the ATOS Work Capability Assessment to see how their illness or disability affects their ability to work. Atos has been criticised over the number of these assessments it has made as well as for lengthy waiting times and refusals which have led to many deaths of people throughout the UK, a figure put at a staggering 32 benefits test related deaths every week. Disability campaigners have described the work tests as "ridiculously harsh and extremely unfair".
Public and Commercial Services union general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said the assessments were "designed to harass vulnerable people and take their benefits away rather than provide support and guidance".
"Doctors, MPs and disabled people all believe the tests should be scrapped so, instead of replacing the failed Atos with another profit-hungry provider, the government should bring the work in-house and invest in it properly."
And charity Sense called for a "root-and-branch reform of the system to ensure disabled people are judged fairly on their ability to work".
PETITION TO HOLRYOOD SLAMMED ATOS AS CONTRACT KILLERS:
MSPs heard company linked to deaths of disabled claimants should be dropped from Commonwealth Games sponsorship. A PETITION to the Scottish Parliament calling on the organising Committee of the 2014 Commonwealth Games to drop the ATOS sickness benefits assessment company as the games sponsors was heard by MSPs at Holyrood on Tuesday 18 March 2914. ATOS has been linked in the media to the deaths of hundreds of Scots & thousands of the disabled, ill, vulnerable & the elderly across the UK.
The petition, which readers are urged to support, calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the organising Committee to drop ATOS as a sponsor for the 2014 Commonwealth Games because ATOS have taken disability and sickness benefits away from poor and vulnerable people, reducing them to penury and extreme poverty.
The petition further states that “In addition, many people have died before the ATOS Fit for Work Assessment has been completed. The practices of this company are not compatible with Scottish social democratic values and therefore we call on the Petitions Committee to put our case to the Scottish Parliament so that the Parliament can reflect the opinions of many people in Scotland that ATOS be dropped as a sponsor for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.”
Sean Clerkin, and Iain MacInnes, Secretary, Glasgow against ATOS, gave evidence to msps on the practices of the ATOS company contracted by the Westminster ConDem coalition to cut benefits spending. ATOS have been widely linked in the media to deaths involving disability victims after they had been judged fit for work and had their benefits taken away.
Petitioner Sean Clerkin told MSPs he believed Atos were "contract killers" who were "not fit" to sponsor the 2014 Commonwealth Games, on 18 March 2014. Mr Clerkin's petition calls for the Scottish Parliament to urge the 2014 Commonwealth Games' organising committee to drop IT company Atos as a sponsor. He told the Public Petitions Committee the company, who assess whether benefits claimants are fit to work, were a "toxic brand".
Scottish Law Reporter has previously reported on difficulties in the benefits system, where it was revealed in an earlier report of the deaths of over ONE THOUSAND PEOPLE who had been declared ‘fit for work’ as a direct result of ‘fitness for work tests carried out by ATOS on the orders of the Conservative Liberal-Democrat Coalition Government in Westminster. Further reports on ATOS are HERE
In November 2012 The People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment was published by the Spartacus network of disability researchers and campaigners.
This supplementary report of December 2013, which Ekklesia is pleased to make available and endorse, contains further compelling evidence of the need for change.
After introducing the issues and the annual reviews of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), it documents the reality for those directly impacted: deaths and suicides; accounts from MPs and advisers; the direct experience of sick and disabled people; views expressed by medical and other professionals; opinions from public bodies,;views expressed by Church leaders; and views expressed by charities and Disabled People’s Organisations.
The report then looks at the policy context: the UK’s human rights obligations under UN conventions; monitoring of standards; the financial cost of the WCA; contractual and audit issues; work-related obligations and sanctions; training of WCA assessors; progress on the audio recording of assessments; the long-delayed 'Gold Standard' Evidence Based Review; the Court of Appeal ruling that the WCA is discriminatory; a final summary and conclusion. (72pp., PDF format)
The Sunday Mail newspaper has previously reported on how badly the UK Government & ATOS are treating Scots in need:
Jul 17 2011 Mark Aitken, Sunday Mail
A PRIVATE firm hired to slash benefits are promising "a brighter future" to claimants whose payouts are stopped. Atos Healthcare are being paid £100million a year by the Tories to reassess people on disability and sickness benefits and drive them back to work.
They pay doctors up to £60,000 a year to assess whether claimants are fit to work. In a job advert for doctors, they claim: "You could make the difference that gives someone on incapacity benefit a brighter future." The advert, published on the British Medical Journal website, adds: "It's a vitally important role that aims to change lives for the better."
Labour MP Tom Greatrex, who has campaigned on the issue, branded the ad as "insulting". The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP said: "The Tory-led government need to get a grip on Atos as a matter of urgency. "This advert is an insult to the thousands of people across the country who have been let down by the shambolic way Atos conduct their assessments.
"The idea that Atos are giving people on incapacity benefit a brighter future would be laughable were it not causing so much distress and pain to those who have been unfortunate enough to go through the process of their assessments."Rather than advertising for more highly paid staff, the Tory-led government should demand Atos sort themselves out, so their assessments are fair and reasonable."
Last week, the Sunday Mail revealed bungled rulings were costing taxpayers £50million. Around 30,000 people appealed against their decisions, with 40 per cent of them successful, which has cost the government around £50million. But UK employment minister Chris Grayling has admitted no money has been claimed back from the firm for poor medical advice.
An Atos spokeswoman said: "We have no comment on the advert."
Chemo patient's despair at ruling : Maggie Mackay was assessed by Atos as "fit to work" when she was still recovering from chemotherapy. The 51-year-old, from Glengarnock, Ayrshire, was a furniture restorer before breast cancer stopped her in her tracks.
She had radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery but was then assessed as being to fit to work by Atos and taken off disability benefit. Maggie, who bravely took part in our Breast Cancer Care Fashion Show last year, has launched an appeal.
She said: "Two weeks ago I had more surgery as my scar was not healing properly. My side effects include fatigue, not being able to sleep, very sore bones and memory loss. "The young woman didn't seem interested. I can't squat because I have two slipped discs."But she wrote in her report that I could squat. She made out I was perfectly fit and healthy. "Everything you say is twisted to make out that you are fit for work. I now have £8 a day to live on."