The truth about how we’re deprived of benefits, from inside Atos…

Exclusive: ‘Sick firm told us to catch out disabled people’

The ruthless Tory drive to remove thousands of seriously ill and disabled people from benefits was exposed this week as a nurse employed to assess them spoke out to Socialist Worker.

Jean, a former employee of Atos Healthcare in Scotland, exposed a process she described as a “sham”. Atos is a multinational firm contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions to screen patients.

“I worked for Atos as a ‘disability analyst’ thinking I would be helping vulnerable people to access their benefits,” she said.

“I soon discovered that nothing could be further from the truth. The rules laid down by the bosses are designed to catch people out.”

Jean says that anyone deemed capable of looking after themselves or a child, however difficult they find it, is judged to be capable of work and taken off benefits.

“If you turn up to your claimant interview in nice clothes, you’ve failed,” she says.

“If you turn up washed and with your hair neat, you’ve failed.

“And, if you turn up with your kids, you’ve failed.”

She described the way that claimants with serious lung ­diseases were regularly assessed as capable of work because they could sit in front of a computer and type.

“We’re not supposed to ask about how they would get to a workplace, or whether they have special medical equipment that would make daily travel difficult.”

Bosses are so keen to process claimants quickly that staff are given just 45 minutes to assess people and write up a report about them, says Jean

“While training, we worked with actors who pretended to have just one serious illness. We then had to assess and report on them.

“But in real life, people often have multiple health problems.

“How are you supposed to assess all of them, and the impact they have on a person, and then write up a full report in just 45 minutes? You can’t.

“And, because it is not done properly, thousands of people are losing the benefits they are entitled to.”

After more than 20 years in the NHS caring for patients, Jean says she could not carry on working for Atos and left shortly after she started.

“The job was making me sick,” she said. “It’s against my principles to treat people with long term illnesses in such a disgusting way, so I had to give it up.

“People go into those interviews and talk openly to you because you are a nurse and they trust you.

“Then your skills are used against them, to take away their benefits and destroy their lives.

“I can’t be a part of that.”

Republished from SocialistWorkerOnline, with permission.

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23 thoughts on “The truth about how we’re deprived of benefits, from inside Atos…

  1. That’s shocking! and no less than I already suspected. I am not disabled nor a claimant myself but I feel for you and all who are going through this. When my subscription to your blog landed this in my inbox a few minutes ago, I read it in shock! Hopefully, someone can do something about what this brave lady had to say! Good Luck.

    • Patiently waiting for Atos to try and shut me down, though as this is in the public domain, I don’t think they have an argument. We’ll see,

      • They have no legal recourse for shutting you down. If they try, fight them, that is what I would do and what I think you will do, from what I know of your strength of character from reading your blog. I know this, if I was in that situation, I would not wash my hair, wear no make-up and look a right mess in dirty clothes if that is how stupid their assessments have gotten of late. The more i read on this subject, the more horrified I am becoming.

        • Sadly, it’s not up to me. Last year Atos lawyers shut down a bunch of blogs, as well as one support site, by panicking the hosting services – who should have told them to sod off and come back with a court order – into taking them down. claiming they were libellous (in fairness, some were, but a court order is still a prerequisite).

          At the time I contacted WordPress about their policy, and they said, categorically, that they wouldn’t act without a court order which means, in effect, one issued by an American court, as UK courts have no power in the US.

  2. So because I shop for clothes on-line, and my husband helps me shower and washes my hair, I’ll be deemed fit for work, because I look clean and tidy!

    Fair enough, as soon as I know when my interview is, I’ll not go near soap or shampoo, and I’ll ask my husband to wash my clothes in a muddy puddle and I’ll wear them to the interview.

    If it wasn’t so serious, it would be a joke!

  3. Interesting, I had a home medical assessment for DLA where the Atos medic was uninterested and wasnt bothered about how i managed with anything, just noted that it was done ie dressed, washed, fed.
    Of course my claim was turned down even though I challenged his report which was so biased, this is because I work full time, often in great pain but saving the state a fortune in benefits for me and hubby.

    So the post above is all very true and very clear in what they are trying to do.
    Good luck to everyone still trying!!

  4. I guess I should start preparing for the day where my entire life is destroyed and everything is taken away from me … simply because I TRY to live … to overcome the obstacles and difficulties my illness causes me… an illness which is incurable by the way… it doesn’t require assessment… it will always be the same … unless it somehow magically vanishes

    and the TRYING to have some sort of life, is of course instead of the other option….

    staying in bed miserable and exhausted … and allowing my symptoms to be the only thing that I ever experience … never doing anything other than feeling like a worthless excuse for a human being and allowing myself to rot away until I finally decide to take my own life. … hmmm wait a minute… that’s exactly what I used to be like before I found some sort of stability and the strength to try and live which is only made possible because of the ‘hand out’s’ I so ‘unfairly’ receive.

    Why don’t you just start killing disabled people at birth Cameron?
    Oh no wait … that would have included your own child too wouldn’t it!
    Damn your child is so lucky because he has a rich daddy and will never need to receive the benefits that some of us depend on.

    Maybe the NHS should stop supplying my medication as well?
    … In fact why don’t you just shoot me in the head right now?

    This country is such a f**king joke. The whole world is a f**king joke
    and when this happens to me I guess I will happy to go ahead and
    leave it all behind … I will have no other option you see because
    I CANNOT JUST EXIST … I NEED TO LIVE!!!!

  5. I had an assessment this week I knew by the nurses attitude from the outset that the system is designed to pass everyone attending fit for works its a con !

  6. I make no apology here for using tricks like ‘not washing’ or ‘wearing old clothes’ or ‘smelling of alcohol’ or ‘not taking my pain meds that morning’ when I’ve had these assessments.

    I *am* genuinely disabled, but Atos are throwing so many of us genuine claimants off ESA that we are forced to use a bit of ‘method acting’ just to make sure of our claim.

    It’s not underhand, because they ARE underhand. Atos staff have individual targets for failing people.

    And you MUST tell the interviewer what it’s like on your worst days, not smile and say “I’m fine!”. These people are not your friends.

    • Advice which I’ve repeated here ad nauseam, but it’s staggering how many people don’t heed it.

      In addition, if you’re a wheelchair user you don’t get out of it for any reason. If doors are too narrow, tell somebody – do not, as has happened, unbelievably – get out of your chair and walk in. The same thing applies if the building has no lift – you DO NOT walk up stairs (that applies even if you don’t use a chair), and if the building has a lift, but Atos has posted a sign banning chairs from lifts, either ignore it – such a sign contravenes the law – and use the lift, or go home. If you have a contact number, use it to tell them what you’re doing, then go home. Under no circumstances leave your chair and walk – it’ll be an instant fail.

      And it’s not just ESA of course – the same deeply deeply flawed and incompetent assessment system is to be used for PIP.

  7. I’m sorry, but I’ve got bowel disease. I shall wear clothes I normally would, nice shoes and make up. I will sit up straight, look the examiner directly in the eye and list in unemotional graphic detail the life I live. I might even do a little jig for him to prove my point.

    I know I wont get ESA, I knew that ages ago, so I’m buggered if I’m going to play their game.

    Come what may I will be true to myself. As the commenter above says I WILL keep trying

  8. hi ron what do you think about using private firms like benifit & answers to help with your claim,they charge of coarse.or just ask welfare rights people .cheers adgeboy.

      • hi, been reading your pages for a while, while i accept peoples concerns regarding Cameron, ATOS etc, where are the people who can oppose, stop this action. seems nothing being done to fight the wrongs that are taking place. surely comments from former ATOS nurse, buddy involvement to cameron with an agencygo some way to exposing the under hand actions taking place. action needed by some clout laden group bfore its too late. steve

        • Hi Steve,

          ESA is so designed that anyone filling in the application form as it’s presented, is almost guaranteed to fail – that can’t be legal – I’ve covered how to get round that in several places here, particularly in this post http://ronsrants.wordpress.com/2009/07/07/claiming-dla-and-esa-some-tips/ .

          There must surely be a millionaire, or at least someone wealthy enough, who has a less well-off relative who’s fallen foul of the system and who could afford to mount a legal challenge. Or a law firm prepared to do so pro bono.

          Because it’s way beyond the scope of anyone actually on benefits, despite the constant screams of “We have to do something!” on Twitter – and it’s odd that the most vociferous have nothing to offer in the way of ideas as to what we can actually do that will make a real difference.

          There was a demo against the benefit cuts at Trafalgar Square on Wednesday, but if you weren’t on Twitter you very likely heard nothing about it at all, as the media were totally silent (the Guardian eventually gave it a brief mention at 18.35). There seems to be a conspiracy of silence, doubtless orchestrated by the government, which renders demos and marches mostly futile – they depend on publicity to get their point across to the public, but if the government successfully shuts down media involvement, then they can’t do that, which leaves them just preaching to the converted.

          Ron

  9. atos are awful! I have schizophrenia and they have made me start ‘work related activity’-voluntary work which I find very stressful as the voices and problems with people make it so hard to concentrate-my nurse told them I can only do afternoons due to the sedating meds(-I normally lie down a lot in the afternoons too), but they keep wanting me to be at appointments at 9 am, they do not take into account that you still have symptoms while on the meds-but if they had done any research into schizophrenia they would know that the vast majority of us only have a reduction in symptoms, but still have voices ect.

  10. It is a complete joke …people know this is going on and we are powerless to stop it ! Im disabled myself suffering from psoriatic arthritis since 21 , i had two babies and ended up as a single mum , my own mother had to look after them and me as well …. im not allowed sick pay cos dwp put me on is instead of sick pay in my initial claim and now ive not paid enough in to claim it because of that ! Im 34 and just get dla , which by all accounts will be more difficult to claim when swapped to pip !

  11. David Cameron, and the rest of the millionaires in powerful positions in government, need to take a bloody good look at themselves. Atos is corrupt to the core, and so are the DWP. I cannot believe this is allowed to go on, in what is supposed to be a democratic society. Cutting peoples benefits when they are desperate and disabled is terrible. Use your VOTE and get this Tory/Lib Nazi party out. Such cruelty and for a man like Cameron who had a disabled son, you are a nasty, vile, greedy piece of work doing this to others with disabilities.

    • To be perfectly honest, I firmly believe that Atos are doing precisely what IDS and Cameron tell them to do (even their shit, tick-box, assessment procedure must have been approved by the DWP, which at that level probably means IDS). I also believe that the benchmark used for disability assessment is the late Ivan Cameron, imposed by Cameron with the willing collusion of IDS.

      How else to account for the dying, and in one case a guy who is deaf, blind, unable to speak and fed through a tube, being found fit for work? Ivan was profoundly, and fatally, disabled so, of course, most of us fall short of his level of disability. QED perhaps . . . ?

      And as I’ve said so many times, I’m almost embarrassed to say it again – on the subject of the sick and disabled, Cameron’s hatred is so intense, and so deeply rooted, he is not, by any measure, sane. It’s rubbed off on IDS too – how else to account for the constant, and totally transparent, lies emanating from his department?

      I think sanity, at the top of the government (Clegg’s mystification at the hatred he engenders also suggests he’s not totally in touch with reality), is in very short supply, along with honesty and a moral compass.

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