Employment and Support Allowance: a new harsher test

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is the new sickness benefit introduced in October 2008, which will eventually replace Incapacity Benefit. Its new test, envisaged by the legislator, is extremely difficult to pass and almost nobody is exempted from the test. Brighton Benefits Campaign joins the emerging national campaign against ESA, and the methods used by private provider Atos Healthcare to assess sick people for this benefit.

Medical assessment and automation: ‘The Computer says no’
A serious problem for sickness claimants today is that their medical assessment is made through the use of a computer program, the ‘Logic Integrated Medical Assessment’ (LiMA). This programme was introduced by DWP’s contractor Atos Origin in 2005 to assess claimants for the old sickness benefit (Incapacity Benefit). Already in December 2005 advice charity Child Poverty Action Group complained of serious problems with Atos’s computer-aided medical assessments in an article entitled ‘The computer says no’ [CPAG 2005].

How does LiMA work? During the examination, the ‘doctor’ asks the claimant a list of questions, which the computer shows on the screen. While the claimant speaks, the ‘doctor’ builds, through the use of a windows system and drop-down menus, a combination of words and numbers which resembles what the claimant says. For example, sentences are created by assembling bits such as ‘The customer keeps themselves busy doing’… (choice of activities)… ‘for’… (choice of numbers)… ‘minutes/hours…’. Finally, the computer uses these sentences to decide the score.

The result is an often surreal computer-generated Medical Report, based on a collection of mechanically-constructed brief sentences. More than one Social Security judge has noticed with alarm that automated reports did not reflect what the claimants had actually said and contained ‘nonsensical statements’ [see judgements CIB/476/2005, CIB/664/2005, and CIB/511/2005]. The judges also noticed that, in the medical reports,

‘Phrases appear to be capable of being produced mechanically without necessarily representing actual wording chosen and typed by the examining doctor’ [CIB/511/2005]

After aiding the ‘doctor’ to construct brief phrases, the computer automatically derives implications from these phrases. These implications are often overstretched, or even totally wrong, and options for investigation of these implications are blocked by the computer system [CAB 2010, p. 19]. For example, if a claimant cannot cook but tells the doctor that he makes himself snacks or tea, this ‘ability’ is used by the computer as ‘evidence’ of a very large range of physical and mental capacities.

Examples of unfair sentences used by the computer against claimants are: ‘usually can do light gardening for 1 minutes’ [cited by a judge in CIB/664/2005]. Or: ‘can take adequate care of his goldfish’ [Rightsnet Forum 2008]. Some sentences are complete nonsense. Examples: ‘Customer does pottery all day’ (the claimant told the ‘doctor’ that she was pottering about) [Rightsnet Forum 2008] and: ‘The client’s Amputation of Upper Limb is mild. They have seen a specialist for this problem’ [Rightsnet Forum 2010].

Last, but not least, nobody can know the logic that connects the computer-generated sentences to the scoring system. In fact the computer program is protected by commercial confidentiality – it’s Atos’s private property. A judge complained that Atos refused publishing its handbook because of commercial confidentiality [CIB/664/2005]. For this reason, one of our clients will never know why LiMA decided that he can walk 100 metres, pick things from the floor and sit on a chair for 30 minutes on the basis that he is ‘usually able to use a microwave’ [BHUWC].

Automaton and profits
Automation was made possible by the introduction, by the Tory government in the 90s, of a new test for Incapacity Benefit based on a box-ticking method and a score system.

Automation has served to deskill medical assessments. Medical examinations are made quick and superficial. The computer establishes the type of questions; and its structure does discourages its users from making further investigations or asking different questions. The ‘doctors’ may, if they want, overrule the computer’s decision, but their Handbook discourages them to do so.

‘[The EBM rules] have been tested and found to be accurate in the large majority of cases. You should think carefully before overriding the EBM rules, and should do so only on those occasions where there is a good reason as to why they would not apply in this case’ [LiMA 2004, p. 31].

Who is paying for these cheap medical examinations? The claimant. Who gains? Atos: with the introduction of a computer programme who ‘thinks’ for the doctor, Atos can now use non-doctors staff, who are no doubt cheaper than a real doctor [CPAG 2005, p. 5].

A history of complaints
Considering the above, it is not a surprise that advice agencies were very worried. Back in February 2006, the Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB) complained that:

‘Doctors pay more attention to the computer than the client; the system is inflexible and gives rise to inappropriate stock phrases in reports; options for investigation and findings are blocked off by the system inappropriately; doctors sign off reports without checking what they say, because the phrases have been generated by the system, not the doctor’ [CAB 2006, p. 10].

In the same document CAB showed how Atos’s ‘doctors’ produced inaccurate reports, reporting incorrectly what the claimant had said about their own conditions and taking answers out of context [CAB 2006].

The extent to which the government’s took notice of this report can be evinced from a new CAB’s report, written three years later (September 2009):

‘Doctors pay more attention to the computer than the client; the system is inflexible and gives rise to inappropriate stock phrases in reports; options for investigation and findings are blocked off by the system inappropriately; doctors sign off reports without checking what they say, because the phrases have been generated by the system, not the doctor’ (sic) [CAB 2009, p. 4].

And, the CAB adds:

‘…Doctors produce inaccurate reports… reporting incorrectly what the claimant has said about their own conditions and taking answers out of context’ [CAB 2009, p. 3].

It is worthwhile mentioning that in their recent report of March 2010 the CAB complains about the same problems:

‘We still hear repeated reports of rushed assessments, assumptions being made without exploration, inaccurate recording’ [CAB 2010, p. 27].

Despite criticism from judges and complaints, LiMA continued being used; in fact it has now been adapted to the new, and tougher, ESA test. Let us now consider this new test.

The ‘Limited Capability for Work Assessment’ (CWA)
After the introduction of LiMA, the old test for Incapacity Benefit (Personal Capability Assessment, PCA) became much harder. But the new test for ESA is worse. This is due to a combination of the application of the assessment methods described above and the harshness of the test itself.

Both old and new tests are based on scoring points with respect to a number of physical and mental ‘activities’, such as ‘walking’, ‘sitting’, etc. (these activities are called ‘functional areas’).  Levels of capacity are described by ‘descriptors’ such as ‘can’t walk at all’; ‘can’t walk more than 50 metres on level ground without repeatedly stopping ’; can’t walk more than 100 metres’, etc. In the new test these descriptors score 15, 9, 6 or 0 points. A total score of 15 is needed to get ESA.

In their report of March 2010, the CAB explains in detail why this test is harsher than the previous.

Firstly, there are almost no exemptions from the test for very ill claimants [CAB 2010, pp. 8-14]. This is a problem, for example, for mentally ill claimants who are now aware of their illness.
Secondly, low level problems score zero, while they were scoring something (three points) in the old test; yet the effect of combined low level problems can make people incapable to work [CAB, pp. 13-15].

Third, the ‘doctors’ are recommended to disregard symptoms which come and go (variable conditions).

Back in 1996, a judicial decision had obliged the government to take variable conditions into account in the old test; now, using the excuse that the WCA is a new test, the government has wiped out what had been established!

If we compare the old and new tests, descriptor by descriptor, we are surprised how strict the new test is.

Under the old PCA, for example, if a claimant was unable to walk up or down a flight of stairs of 12 steps, he scored 15 points and was ‘unfit to work’; if he could climb 12 steps only with the help of a banister, he could still score some points. Under the new WCA, in order to score more than zero, one should not be able to climb two steps, even with the help of a handrail. This is extreme.

Like the physical health test, the mental health test in the WCA identifies a number of activities such as ‘learning  or comprehension of tasks’, ‘memory and concentration’, ‘awareness of hazards’, etc. A significant impairment in each one of these functions makes a person unemployable. But this is not what the legislator has decided! In fact, under the new test, if a person has a significant problem with only one of these tasks (and perhaps low level problems with other tasks) he is likely to not pass the ESA test.  An example: how poor should my learning ability be to make me ‘unfit to work’? The legislator answers: unbelievably poor. If, in order to learn how to use a new kettle, I need to witness more than one demonstration, and I also need to receive a verbal prompting the day after, I will not get the 15 points which qualify me for ESA. If I have l score zero elsewhere, here you are, I am ‘fit for work’, despite my capacity to learn is so bad.
Scoring even a minimum of 6 points is very difficult, because each activity is defined too broadly. For example, let’s consider the ‘functional area’ of ‘coping with social situations’:

Normal activities, for example visiting new places or engaging in social contacts, are precluded because of overwhelming fear or anxiety’’ (One has six points if this is happens ‘frequently’, zero if it’s less ‘frequently’).

We don’t need to be geniuses to realise that this is a trap. Any human being, with the exception of those who are cataleptic or bed-bound, do some ‘normal activities’: so, whatever I tell the ‘doctor’ I do, if this can be taken as evidence that ‘normal activity’ is not ‘precluded’.

It must be now clear how, thanks to the combination of this new test and the use of LiMA, anything from shopping, making ourselves tea or taking care of a goldfish will give us zero points.

Finally, the Handbook for Atos’s ‘doctors’ asks them to apply the harshest possible interpretation to the test. For example, the handbook says that if a claimant’s memory is not so bad that he forgets to get dressed in the morning, he cannot really score anything at all for memory problems. CAB commented,

‘Forgetting to get dressed in the morning as an extreme sort of memory loss and clearly ought to be awarded more than six points. How many employers would take on someone who forgot to get dressed?!’ [CAB 2010, p. 17].

It is a fact that LiMA can decide the score automatically, and we suspect that unlawful interpretations such as the one above have been incorporated in the programme – the doctors are instructed by their Handbook to think according to the same lines so as not to be surprised by, and antagonise with, the computer’s results.

The ESA50 questionnaire
To make things more difficult, the ‘ESA50’, a self-assessment form which the claimant is asked to fill in before the medical assessment, is another trap. Benefits Advisers have complained that this questionnaire does not reflect the scoring system and in many pages its tick boxes do not include possible high-scoring answers.

Ticking the wrong box will allow the ‘doctor’ to give claimants zero points for given activities without having to ask questions during the medical assessment [BHUWC].

Media response and political reaction

Not surprisingly, the new test has already found seven in ten sick claimants ‘fit for work’. CAB says that ‘an adviser from a community mental health team reported that almost all their new clients applying for ESA are being refused benefit’ [CAB, 2010, p. 11]. This outcome is used by government’s agencies to claim that most sick claimants are well enough to work  [Daily Express 2010].

The truth has however emerged in the media, that the new test is too tough [The Guardian, 2009 and 2010]. A recent article in the Herald of Scotland mentions a claimant who has attempted suicide after failing his ESA assessment [The Herald, 2010].

In January false news spread that ministers backed down about the ESA test [The Guardian, 2010]. In fact the government has amended the law to make the test tougher [Benefits and Work, 2010].

The consequences of an unfair assessment
The government’s statistics show that out of 100 sickness claimants who are assessed, 69% are told that they are ‘fit for work’. Those who fail the ESA test will have to seek jobs and claim JSA, but will have less chances of finding a job than healthy people, often none. As CAB wrote:

‘Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) discovered that “more than 60 per cent of employers said they disregarded applications from people with… a history of mental health problems or incapacity… Research carried out by Rethink highlights the fact that fewer than four in ten employers would consider employing someone with a history of mental health problems”’ [CAB, 2010].

In October 2009 The Guardian commented:

‘The new ESA is meant to offer disabled people better and more personalised support to get back to work. But if the assessment is made so tough that people are not getting the benefit in the first place, then they will also not be getting the support that could help them get into employment’ [The Guardian, 2009].

The CAB now demands a ‘real-world test’, which assesses the employability of claimants and not only their inability to perform abstract ‘tasks’ and which should also consider concrete obstacles such as discrimination in the labour market [CAB, 2010]. However, without a political national campaign, appeals from good-hearted charities will be dismissed by a government whose interests coincide with those of capital.

Employment and Support Allowance: a new brutal regime

Out of 100 sickness claimants who are assessed, 22% receive ESA, but are considered sufficiently well to undergo compulsory ‘Work Focused Interviews’ – they can be asked to follow compulsory ‘work-related’ activity.

Is this help?

The government has presented ESA as a new regime which offers ‘personalised help’ to the sick to make themselves more employable. But is this true?

No, it is not. For many years, sick claimants have been able to receive free personalised help to make themselves more employable, find suitable training and courses and even find a job. ESA has only introduced a factor of compulsion.


In fact, the government’s propaganda that people need compulsion is misleading and hides the real problem: a tough medical assessment.
Many sick people, although unable to work, do wish to attend courses, and they don’t because they are afraid of losing their benefit. And they are right! Any mention of having done any activity at all will be used to disqualify a claimant from his sickness benefit. An extreme example from CAB: a claimant was found ‘fit to work’ because he attended a compulsory ‘Work Focused Interview’! The automated medical report said: ‘the client is actively seeking work through Jobcentre Plus’ [CAB, 2010, p. 19].

Compulsion will only cause trouble for those who are not ready for activity. Claimants who are asked to go to training or courses may fail to attend, cause disruption, etc. and as a result they will be sanctioned. Many will be too ill to seek help if they are sanctioned, and will opt to live on a reduced rate of benefits. These people will not be made more suitable for jobs, they will only increase the ranks of the forgotten, and helpless, poor.

Last but not least: the issue of compulsory medical treatment
Originally, ‘work-focused activity’ could include compulsory medical treatment. However, on 22 June 2009 an amendment of the section 14 of the Welfare Reform Act 2007 was presented to the House of Commons, which excluded medical treatment [Hansard, 22 June 2009]. However, we still need to be alert. Although accepting medical treatment is not explicitly part of a ‘work-focused activity’, it can still be a condition for entitlement to ESA, as it has been in the past for Incapacity benefit and Disability Living Allowance – with the approval of Social Security judges [see, e.g., CDLA/3908/2000].

No to ESA, no to Atos

A fight for a more human medical assessment is also a fight for the abolition of Atos’s mechanised methods – for the dismissal of Atos and the return to a professional medical service, publicly run, and run not for profits.

On 12 March 2010 Jonathan Shaw, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the DWP, recently confirmed that about £9,3m of taxpayers’ money has been paid to Atos per month in the six months from September 2009 to February 2010 (totalling about £111m per year), for providing their medical examinations, and that this figure included the cost for developing their computer program (‘new technology and other service improvements’). Not only does Atos provide cheap and automated medical examinations, but the taxpayers are asked to pay for this! [Hansard, 2010].

The latest contract with Atos Origin (now called by its ‘trading name’ Atos Healthcare) was renewed in March 2005, in a deal worth £500m over 7 years. On 12 March 2007, Computer Weekly said that this contract could be extended by a maximum of five years under two separate extension clauses: the first for three years and the second for two years, and that these extensions could take the potential total contract value to more than £850m over 12 years [Computer Weekly, 2005].

The first deadline for renewal seems to be in 2012, so we are still on time for a campaign to sack Atos. And perhaps this will not be too difficult, as the DWP has already considered terminating its costly contract with Atos! Indeed, in October 2008 Atos Origin lost a memory stick containing details and passwords to access a major database of 12m benefit claimants, the government ‘Gateway’ website. Following this, in November the government thought about terminating their contract [Computer Weekly, 2008].

Sources

Benefits and Work, blog, 2010,  ‘Thousands will lose benefits as harsher medical approved’: http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/blogs/2010/04/13/thousands-will-lose-benefits-as-harsher-medical-approved/

Brighton and Hove Keep our NHS Public. This campaign group found out that, on the 16th June 2005, the under-secretary for the Department of Health, Caroline Flint, declared to the House of Commons that NHS patients would not be refused medical treatment if they refused having medical information on national databases. However, this is still a condition for having a smear and the Department for Health refuses to answer to letters which quote Caroline Flint.

BHUWC, Brighton and Hove Unemployed Workers Centre. We can provide (anonymised) pages of Reports.

Citizen Advice Bureau, February 2006, ‘What the doctor ordered?’:  http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/campaigns/policy_campaign_publications/evidence_reports/er_benefitsandtaxcredits/what_the_doctor_ordered

Citizen Advice Bureau, September 2009, ‘Decision making and appeals in the benefit system’: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/campaigns/policy_campaign_publications/consultation_responses/cr_benefitsandtaxcredits/decision_making_and_appeals_in_the_benefits_system

Citizen Advice Bureau, March 2010, ‘Not working, CAB evidence on the ESA Work Capability Assessment’: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/campaigns/policy_campaign_publications/evidence_reports/er_benefitsandtaxcredits/not_working

CDLA/3908/2000, http://www.osscsc.gov.uk/Aspx/view.aspx?id=129

CIB/476/2005, http://www.osscsc.gov.uk/Aspx/view.aspx?id=1797

CIB/511/2005, http://www.osscsc.gov.uk/Aspx/view.aspx?id=1806

CIB/664/2005, http://www.osscsc.gov.uk/Aspx/view.aspx?id=1855

CIB/14534/96, http://www.osscsc.gov.uk/Aspx/view.aspx?id=340

Computer Weekly, 24 March 2005, ‘Atos wins DWP deal extension’: http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2005/04/01/209047/Atos-wins-DWP-deal-extension.htm

Computer Weekly, 3 November 2008, ‘Latest data blunder rocks faith in government security record’: http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2008/11/03/233173/latest-data-blunder-rocks-faith-in-government-security.htm

Child Poverty Action Group, 24 March 2005, ‘The computer says no’: http://www.cpag.org.uk/cro/wrb/wrb189/computer.htm

Daily Express, 1 February 2010, ‘Benefit Britain exposed’: http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/155413/Benefits-Britain-exposed

Hansard, 22 June 2009, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldhansrd/text/90622-gc0007.htm

Hansard, 12 March 2010, Column 515W, link: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmhansrd/cm100312/text/100312w0009.htm#10031228008975

Rightsnet Forum, 18 June 2008, ‘IB85 PCA reports – it’s all in the mind (of the doctor)’: http://www.rightsnet.org.uk/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=111&topic_id=2964&mesg_id=2964&page=14

Rightsnet Forum, 15 January2010, topic: ‘The client’s amputation of upper limb is mild’: http://www.rightsnet.org.uk/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=111&topic_id=4761&mesg_id=4761&page

The Guardian, 14 October 2009, ‘Testing time for disabled people’: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/14/disabled-people-sickness-benefit

The Guardian, 3 January 2010, ‘Retreat on draconian disability testing’; 23 March, ‘Flawed benefit system classifies terminally ill man ‘fit for work’; see also Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian blog, ‘Readers detail experience of being found fit when not able to work’: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2010/mar/29/reader-responses-fit-to-work

The Herald of Scotland, 1 February 2010, ‘Back-to-work benefit row’: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/health/back-to-work-benefits-row-1.1002753

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About Brighton Benefits Campaign

Fighting the assault on welfare since 2010
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38 Responses to Employment and Support Allowance: a new harsher test

  1. Pingback: ESA, your having a laugh! - Page 3 - The Consumer Forums

  2. Loan Ranger says:

    Excellent article. Erudite, well researched and has references to sources. You deserve an honorary Ph.D.!
    ESA/ATOS has been a thorn in the flesh of many of us who post here:
    http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/benefits-tax-credits-minimum/
    Unity!

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  6. Pingback: help me take Atos and DWP to court - The Consumer Forums

  7. Pingback: Atos Medical Report.... what the hell!! - The Consumer Forums

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  10. ukbix says:

    Can you provide a copy or a link to, or information on how to obtain this document you refer to that states

    “if a claimant’s memory is not so bad that he forgets to get dressed in the morning,”

    thanks…

  11. Janine Morton says:

    Hi, Thank you soooo much for the work of your campaign, and for all the information re. Atos. Much needed by too many people.
    Thank you.

  12. Pingback: The Welfare/ATOSH/Government Debate - Page 37 - The Consumer Forums

  13. Pingback: links for 2010-09-08 « Embololalia

  14. Nikki MacLeod says:

    This is total nonsense. I find it really hard to believe that any intelligent being would think it acceptable.

  15. ukbix says:

    Thanks for doing this article, Im still reading through it, I would like to point out something I noted earlier, its stated the software etc is ATOS’s private property, this is incorrect, the LIMA software is owned by the DWP.

    Please see

    http://www.ukbix.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=195

    for more details.

  16. Pingback: Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): a new harsher test « Travel Hopefully

  17. Lucifer's legal representative says:

    ….all very true, but the elephants in the room are that the country is in hock thanks to Labour harry monking the profits of the early part of its rule, and the public sector budget needs to be trimmed as a result.

    The other pachyderm in the parlour is that so many people take the mick out of the benefit system, and plenty here in Brighton are ‘professional claimants’or have come to the conclusion that the benefits system is there to fund their ‘grassroots activism'(strangely these ‘activists’ are never to the political centre or right…).

    This exploitation of the benefits system has led to the more draconian system and those who do cheat the system (for that’s what it is) are the reason why this has come about, not some Tory hatred of those on benefits.

    Those who defraud the benefits system should hang their heads in shame, even if they are doing it to ‘fuck the system’ (or some other hollow justification).

    There are non-ideological reasons for this change being necessary, that the nation is skint and that too many people have taken the mick out of the benefit system. Sadly the changes are going to impact on those who really need the benefits.

    I guess my point is that, even though I don’t like the reforms, it is lop-sided to have a discussion about them without acknowledging the reasons why they have had to be brought in.

    • Ebon says:

      1) By the government’s own figures, fraud in the sickness and disability system is actually incredibly small.
      2) This HAS come about because of a Tory hatred of those on benefits. IDS recently declared that being unemployed was “a sin”. This is idealogical, NOT necessity. The fact that the amount saved in benefit is a piffling trifle compared to the amount which could be made going after high-earning tax cheats as the ConDems refuse to do is proof enough in itself.
      3) Our welfare budget is NOT unusually high, it’s roughly similar to that of comparable Western European nations and lower than many.
      4) The “most vulnerable” are not being protected, as Cameron claimed, they are being targeted.

  18. Can some one please tell me if all Atos tests are recorded & video’d. I am asking this because I have a tribunal in Feb 2011 & would be able to prove beyond doubt that the nurse who scored me added further comments which were not computer generated but actual lies. If they are recorded & filmed how do I avail myself of this crucial evidence ?

    Thank you.

  19. rosey says:

    I agree with your article regarding the totally bizarre ESA system. I am in the middle of trying to battle through the red tape to try and gain this benefit. I was on JSA and was attending weekly pathways to work meetings. It was the job centres adviser who told me I was too ill to attend and to claim ESA. I have peripheral neuropathy which can leave me unable to walk at all and in great pain or I may have a good day where I can walk slowly. I have pain in my hands and constantly drop things. I am having to appeal the ESA decision that I would be o.k to work. Where could I get a job where I would only be able to attend maybe two days one week and not the next? What job could I get where I cannot walk or hold onto things? The people at my JCP office are aplogetic but say there is nothing they can do its all down to the computers decisions. They say they are inundated with people who are not suitable for employment who should be getting ESA but are placed on JSA with a depressing outlook for there way ahead.

  20. Sue E Sidal says:

    When in November 2009 i went to an Atos appointment, i naively believed i was finally going to be assissted by medical professionals to reduce the very psychotic inducing temperamental medication i was wrongly prescribed anyway eleven years ago, (for depression!!) let alone every time i seemed to worsen my dose just upped and upped, when that caused my coma like state, i was told it was me no drug could do anything as such, so, blind faith in my Dr, believing i was somehow to blame but with ilegal stimulants to awaken, as a single parent, i had to live with erratic manic and confused behaviours. When the connection was finally made as to why i am the way i am and, also now with, many disturbing spiralling dysfunctions (mental and physical) instead of help, my, albeit now, ‘ex’ Doctor dumped me early 2009, i was then stuck alone till september 2010 being basically nhs blacklisted because i had the audacity to complain to the surgery manager (been a patient there 30yrs). Atos did give me 9 points, and as mentioned by another person here, THE NOT A REAL ATOS DR, added her own LIES to the report, stated, Quote ‘Clients situation perpretrated by use of street drugs (to which i no longer obtain ilegally, as since september have been prescribed) fact is, i had and still do have a very clear deliberated and prolonged mental imbalance alone not at all street drug induced, as for my pain etc i did not inflict upon myself, she did not mention once the error of medication, the Dr neglection, nor the fact i was alone withdrawing, i am 18months into the reduction- im on 60mg daily from the 300mg, my symptoms are severe i at times cannot function, cold turkey would have me, jailed, sectioned or dead, yet i am fit for work because i take (at that time) street obtained drugs to counteract the error caused by a complete b*stard who ran and tried to cover up, Atos caused me to have a detatched violent outburst (when i recieved the report) i attacked a loved one, is this just? No is this actually legal? I have another Atos non examination farce of non sensical nor real medical, on the 21 dec can u believe it, its the ultimate kll to Xmas, the entire set up is costing more, than all of us as claimants actually on the benefits has damning affects on those weak and alone, if you ask me the sinister actions of non drs over riding the real drs is too weird (and thats from an neglected ex nhs blacklisted paient) its a private company as to refuse any files of computer generated source, foi not apply to shifty Atos then? the gov nearly dump when files get lost, they were never exposed so gov sigh in relief then clamp down harder on us, isnt it just too disturbingly odd to ignore? Maybe the fight for NWO leadership is on? – well if so? They misread as bleak cz its the meek to inherit. all those in gov power status are arseholes on legs with no reality knowledge whatsoever!

  21. Terry fide says:

    Reading through the posts here, i cant in any way understand how ‘lucifers legal representative’ can be assumingly, want to be taken seriously??. I find the post to be insulting. What has the idiocy and deliberated means to inflict further problems for so many disadvantaged people got to do with fraud? The truth is, prior to the Atos crap anyway, the statistical percent of disability claimants as being ‘the fraudulent’ was 2%, that is not condoning the act of anyone to have done as such, but it does not be, a justifying nor accountable figure in which to warrant ‘good reasoning’ or even have a legality, to be not only, then ignore? But also over-rule, the indeed fully termed of education to become a specialist in a certain medical field? Medical specialists, train long and hard, to be that of what they take much pride in to have become, not as the very high percentage of the non qualified Atos health specialists are ‘fraudulently’ claiming to be. What makes this a more, and clearly ‘fraudulent’ act that is to add as a sinister agenda, is actually the being labeled/titled with ‘Disability Analysts’ this is no known medical profession in which to be trained in, there are of course, many specialists of certain disabilities but to know everything about all situational physical and mental forms of disability, is clearly a lie, a very big lie and is furthermore a thief of society than anyone having screwed upto £150 a week, not forgetting the unwarranted non trust now falling upon those of the profession that know the reality here! As for Atos having a right to decicide, whether enduring the pain and stresses that many do in several different forms, is actually, even within any reasonable threshold, bordering a worth, to then round up in number scores, is sickeningly a mockery of the honest anybodys intelligence. The media’s lies of a much higher percentage of claimants of fraud was merely to remove any accusations of government agenda, to cause all the blame of taxpayers money being spent on lying semi disablement people, the fact that many billions of DWP funding is spent on 3rd party businesses (over 100 are noted) why are these being omitted in the reporting of taxpayers money wasted? this is a cruel unjust fact. The small amount of fraudulent claims themselves, regardless of the being a wrong and unfair act, is not even relatively close to the actuality of the ones with seemingly a blatant series of expensively organised, illegal actions that are being disregarded by all, the taxpayer pays for Atos, and then pays for the Tribunals, even if a claimant passes only the Tribunal, in less than 6months the same claimant is forced back to Atos at the taxpayers expense, blaming a claimant with, as it is with some, clearly an evidented difficult life already, because the media prints a very inaccurate account, is truly only deliberated wanting of ignorance. The truth is never given, it doesnt take much to look into fact prior to being ready with a judgment regarding any situation, isnt this country we live in, supposed to be somewhat with the intellect to not to be so foolishly duped with the pap ever being served

  22. Sue E Sidal/Terry Fide says:

    In response ebons post,… Couldnt have put it better myself! How anyone can not see the vindictive reality here is, can only be a non affected person. Not one disability claimant has been treated with any respect as a person, the being on benefits, regardless of DA/IB/ESA? Is being classed as a fraud up till the Tribunal. But it does not end there! disturbingly the transparancy as to how we are indeed, just a target, is the Tribunals authority that then quashes 80% of Atos’ brutal non professional reports, is only to last a few months of validation. Claimants are being dragged to Atos twice a year. Clearly this exposes, Atos/DWP very expensive, extended contract, is not down to, the so many, as yet, unseen claimants, nor is it down to fraud because, those who are already with a Drs backing and finally legally understood as to be ‘unfit for work’ are still being dragged back to Atos in a short time, how is the matter allowed?.. Government has an agenda that ‘we’ do not feature, money is the least of issues concerning this piteous excuse of ‘economic reform’, global melt down? Yes. Economy? NO!.. Anyone with no understanding? I ask a sincere Please, please wake up, go see some, non, scapegoated as laugable conspiricy, but hard evidented facts. Bilderberg.org

  23. Terminator says:

    As MPs and governments like to use percentages rather than numbers and then follow it with the words in real terms, then how many MPs have fraudulently made claims on their expenses? In real terms the percentage is a hell of a lot more than the percentage who falsely claim disability benefits but MPs will change this to show what is better for them.
    Only 3 MPs have to put in a fraudulent claim to make the same percentage of fraudulent claimants as the 0.5% of disability fraud claimants when using percentage. Because disability fraud claims involve thousands of people whereas if every MP was making fraudulent claims they only number 650 this is when governments use monetary figures to try and justify their claims

  24. Sue E Sidal says:

    Hello Terminator, youre spot on regarding figures & %, The blatant transparancy of it all is what is it that allows this? You as much as i, know the aiming for NWO agenda, but at present we still should be with far more of a chance than we are, media coverage is minimal & not really a focus on how any single one of us is affected on top of it all, emotional hell is scarring many good decent honest people whom, many have had to quit well paid jobs, enjoyable jobs, not on their ever wanting. What gets me is the suposed help is, we are to benefit with a renewed belief in ourselves as to we can do all these ‘discriptors’. Its as patronising as it is idiotic (we all know them all, know moreso none do qualify any reality for a job,) if i went to an interview and produced a whole futile list as to how i am ‘discriptor dynamic’ wont stop my ‘traits’ . ts insane to say that, anyone in a disabled position they are happy and in full denial of ‘ability’, we are not

  25. Ironballs McGinty says:

    V. interesting. I’ve recently been reminded of this new assessment for what was previously the DLA. I say reminded as I was invited for an interview at ATOS just last year, which was all a bit odd. I’ve been working as a state registered physio for almost 14 years now and am currently finding it very difficult to find permanent employment, hence my application as a disability assessor with atos. I need to work. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I wasn’t offered the job even though right from the start of the interview it was obvious to me that the post was well within my capacity, and I do remember asking myself during the interview (which was also a standard list of questions with boxes to record my answers to questions) that if I was offered the job and I accepted how worried would i be about losing many of my skills as a physio, conducting computer based “standardised” tests? I know this sounds conceited and I don’t mean to be. To be honest I probably would have accepted the post had it been offered, as I need to work and jobs for us are pretty thin. I’m not happy about saying that and I do remember feeling that it would be a pretty odious job. I also got the impression that it would be difficult to fit in with the corporate approach that was very much in evidence there, and many of the job requirements felt a bit wrong and maybe even leading to a feeling of shame, after an explanantion of the daily tasks (as explained above), with such policies as “overbooking the number of daily appointments like an airline to take up the shortfall of no- shows”, which gave me images of claimants awaiting interview for hours on end due to insufficient no- shows some days. The whole approach just didn’t seem right.

    Anyway, throughout the interview, for which I’d prepared very well, I found it all pretty unchallenging. That was followed by an IT test which involved a fictional clinical scenario, as I remember an unemployed gentleman with long term back pain, for which I had to outline what I thought were relevant points to consider. this was very easy as it resembled a simple report re. a patient’s (or service user at ATOS)situation, which is a regular task when working in a physio dept. So, I was pretty surprised when a representative, not the GP or nurse manager who’d interviewed me (who had admitted that they are more or less completely unaware of “physio stuff” as they said after I’d been introduced) phoned me a week after the agreed waiting period, and after I’d contacted them for a decision, that I’d failed the interview comprehensively. After she checked to find out how I’d done on the IT test, which she initially told me I’d done ok in, she called me back and said that I was also way short of the mark on that, by which time I was less bemused. When she gave me the news I found myself laughing as I thought it all a bit cock-eyed. I also said I doubted whether I’d reapply when she offered the wisdom that maybe if I tried again in the future I might do better. Heh heh.

    Anyway, I know I’m going on but just wanted to say that, and I can’t give too many details due to confidentiality, I do know of one person, after years of chronic pain, severe emotional distress and a lack of professional support, and years of difficulties within the British healthcare system, has recently and incomprehensibly to me, had her benefits stopped after an application. This is quite remarkable and pretty shocking. working in the profession that I do I get to see some quite personal and often surprising cases, but this one really struck me and is quite an outstanding history of pain and hardship, and I am not prone to becoming overly emotional where patients are concerned, this is an objective assessment of this person’s long and difficult life history. I am sure I would not be fit for work if I’d had the experiences that this person has endured.

    So, thankyou for your insightful research regarding this organisation and the scheme that it is jointly running with the DWP. After reading your article I have much more of an idea why I failed so miserably to impress at my interview. I still have no long term work but I also know now that if a job offer were to come out of the blue that I am confident I would have nothing to offer atos. Sorry to have droned on and please don’t judge me as too big headed. NB not my real name to try and maintain confidentiality.

  26. Pingback: Week of action against ATOS Healthcare and the DWP over ‘Work Capability Assessments’ starts May 9th | Notts Save Our Services

  27. Sue E Sidal says:

    Response to, ‘Iron Balls’ If anything, ‘thank you’, for having come and posted, i obviously speak for myself but, believe as a whole, that ‘we’, as claimants, know that a professional like yourself, is, needed to assess claimants and not the, highly ridiculous, non specific qualified area of medical professionals. I am and, would not ever be, with an arrogance to dismiss anyone for having applied for a job within Atos. You being turned down, is unfair on us all, especially as, having a realistic understanding of physical pain along with knowledge, as to what further damage could well follow, (clearly -at least it is, to me- it’l be the reason you failed, unless, Atos are now so, ‘robot-idiot-ically, failing everyone, for everything?!!….. Hee hee.).
    I realise, (self experience/reading many relating in topic sites), all Atos assessors, are hand picked,
    certification of certain professional adequacy to determine a form of disability, seem one ilegally denied factor, its unfortunate that someone who is capable to work cannot find the work, and is only through furthering callous deception. I wish you all good luck in job hunting. The person you speak of regarding benefits, i can understand/relate even, to the needless trauma they are subjected to, my heart goes out to them, you are a good person, not many, (regardless of situation/circumstance), have any such decent perspective.

  28. Terminator says:

    If the government and ATOS keep changing the goalposts then we should all start putting on the forms they ask to be filled in this phrase
    AN AUDIO RECORDING WILL BE MADE BY ME OF ALL VERBAL COMMUNICATION RELATING TO THIS MATTER, THIS INCLUDES CONTACT WITH THE DWP, ATOS, INCLUDING MEDICAL ASSESSMENT(S), AND TRIBUNAL HEARING(S)

    You cannot write everything down that is said when talking to them but a voice activated Dictaphone or mobile with a voice recorder should pick everything up unless they speak so quietly you cannot hear them.
    I can just imagine the terror if they receive a load of forms with this in the back of them, or words to that effect.

  29. Pingback: NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION AGAINST ATOS HEALTHCARE « Brighton Benefits Campaign

  30. Pingback: Brighton – Day of Action Against ATOS – 30/9/11 « National Day of Protest Against Welfare & Housing Benefit Cuts

  31. Auto-didact Cognoscenti says:

    Do you think it’s this inevitable failure of a badly flawed system that’s led to the new inquest verdict; WCA Assisted Suicide?

  32. Sue e Sidal says:

    Sounds about right to me!. These soul sold deviations of human beings as also non qualified in subject of profession, ‘fraudulant, idiotic morons’, have yet to prove they are more than deliberators of worsening health and lives.

  33. david says:

    A very interesting articIe. I suggest Brighton does not waste its vote on the useless green party (who recently told us all to stop eating meat) and gets involved with removing these ideological tory monsters

  34. K.Eaton says:

    i received my ESA intro letter today (after just being rejected for a relocation for my health and a 9 month fight for support that is being withheld by services – here is the email i sent my Community Legal Services case-worker.

    Hi Sue,

    i feel completely abandoned and without hope now. i’ve no idea how long my mentality will hold out. just at the very time i am at my lowest and at highest level of stress i have received the standard letter
    informing me of my benefit changing to “Employment Support Allowance.”

    i find the letter like an assault. straight away it is prejudicial against my illness. the language is not general or cooperative.

    1
    “THE BENEFIT YOU RECEIVE IS CHANGING. You currently receive… …Income Support on the grounds of illness or disability. We are phasing out these benefits. … We need to assess you for Employment and Support Allowance.”
    firstly – this is arbitrary, leaving no allowance for people who are incapable of working.
    secondly – will not be attending any assessments, i am too ill and they are too traumatic for me.
    thirdly – is there not sufficient record and evidence to show i am incapable of work, let alone employment? i find it insulting and prejudicial they cannot confer with relevant qualified authorities to save me distress without making me display it to an individual who will make up an individual decision based on presentation on that day and likely will be someone unqualified to make that decision.

    2
    “This is a new benefit that helps people with an illness or disability move into work and provides them with the support they need.” regardless of the fact i am incapable of work let alone to hold down a job. the premise for this benefit is outwardly prejudicial.
    3
    “WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO”
    “WE” presumably meaning them unilaterally, since i won’t be doing anything. BULLYING LANGUAGE. As i have no say, no choice. this is against medical policy – “Our Health, Our Choice, Our say.”
    4
    “We will telephone you soon…” to talk about how it will affect me and to confirm identity.
    firstly, i will NEVER deal with any business, particularly important business over the telephone, it send my stress levels through the roof and i have bad reactions to them, making mistakes in decision making or giving ill-considered information. not to mention my poor memory. PRESSURE TACTICS. what do they do with people who have no telephone or like me get phobic about answering to strangers.
    secondly, why are they using outdated modes of communication that are NEVER RECOMMENDED IN BUSINESS DEALINGS, due to inaccuracies and depending upon the instant response of someone on considered difficult matters? this is prejudicial in their favour to allow for excuses and mistakes relieving them of obligations. PRESSURE TACTICS.
    5
    “After the call, we will send you a questionnaire… This questionnaire is called Limited Capability for work.” LIMITED CAPABILITY FOR WORK prejudges that whatever a person’s condition they have some “CAPABILITY for work.” regardless of the mental / physical consequences to that person. allows no thought of protecting a person from the effects of entering a workplace with impaired abilities, mentally. presumably, every person incapable should be hospitalised? BULLYING DOGMATIC LANGUAGE.
    6
    “If you haven’t heard from us within two weeks of the date of this letter, or if the number we have is not correct, please call us…”
    firstly – this is never going to happen for the reasons above. you know this about me.
    secondly – I DO NOT WANT CHANGE. DISRUPTION IS THE WORST THING FOR ME RIGHT NOW. why do they place the responsibility on me to change something i don’t want?
    7
    “please complete and return the questionnaire as soon as possible. IF YOU DO NOT, YOUR BENEFIT MAY BE AFFECTED.”
    firstly – USE OF CAPITALS is BULLYING LANGUAGE. THREATENING.
    secondly – how many fuckin questionnaires have i got to fill in? how many experts do i have to see and how many times are my symptoms to be ignored by people who just cannot be bothered going the distance to get accurate understanding of my illnesses, or when their systems are deflective and diversionary for expedient self-seeking objectives? how many times have i to explain how traumatic it is for me to do this? i am being honest with them now. I WILL NOT BE DOING IT.
    thirdly – how long is “as soon as possible” before “BENEFITS MAY BE AFFECTED”? why are they not up front about that? to ease anxiety?
    8
    “After we have received your questionnaire, we will contact you and tell you what you need to do next. You may need to attend a Work Capability Assessment.”
    firstly – this tone is dictatorial, though it allows for the possibility of not having to attend a Work Capability Assessment but sounds more like a warning.
    secondly – “Work Capability Assessment” is prejudicial.
    thirdly – Work Capability Assessment by whom? by someone who is employed to bi-pass all the reasons for not working? qualified to what degree? as a psychotherapist or clinical psychologist?
    fourthly – THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. I CANNOT AND WILL NOT PUT MYSELF THROUGH THIS, OUT OF SELF REGARD. DON’T TEST ME ON THIS.
    9
    “You can contact Job Centre Plus…” yes, as they are known for their sympathy and helpfulness, their non-prejudicial and unbiased objectives, respectful attitude and practical solutions.
    10
    “…or your local welfare rights service such as Citizen’s Advice Bureau.” are they aware that CAB usually cannot make an appointment within a fortnight or they send you to a telephone service that costs 5p/minute?
    11
    “If you have any concerns about these changes please tell us when we speak to you.” presumably this means on the telephone. so we are to trust that a telephonist takes our concerns seriously and is not patronising or prejudicial and is qualified to detect and handle distress and anxiety?
    12
    “Employment and Support Allowance is replacing… Income Support paid on the grounds of illness or disability and severe disablement allowance. Employment and Support Allowance is a new way of helping people with an illness or disability move into work.” PREJUDICIAL LANGUAGE. this is a one-way street according to these words. “The Government…” not all politicians (who the fuck are The Government, voted in by less than 9% of the populace. i didn’t vote for them to affect my life this way. i will likely vote them out for these very tactics and even if i don;t they are likely to be gone in four years after they have ruined my life for good). “…wants everyone who has an illness or disability to have this opportunity.” veiled language for ‘We will not allow anyone not to be affected by this.

    How can a benefit entitled “Employment and Support Allowance” allow for a person being unable to work? let alone the demeaning and destructive processes it then employs. i have seen this in effect on friends and most of the population just shrug their shoulders, ‘what can you do?’ that won’t be me. there is more and more uni-directional prejudicial language in this document. then this…
    13
    “WHAT HAPPENS IF I M NOT ENTITLED TO EMPLOYMENT AND SUPPORT ALLOWANCE? We will call you to discuss what your benefit options are including how to challenge our decisioN if you think it is wrong. you may be entitled to…
    Income Support for other reasons.”

    THIS IS JUST FOR STARTERS. THE WHOLE TONE OF THIS DOCUMENT IS PREJUDICIAL, NOT DISCRIMINATORY. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. I FIND IT PERSONALLY THREATENING AND THE FOLLOWING PAGES ONLY GET WORSE IN REINFORCING THIS. I WILL NOT ALLOW MYSELF TO BE BULLIED BY THESE PEN-PUSHERS WHO HAVE NO GENUINE CONCERN FOR MY WELFARE.

    IF THEY WANT TO TAKE ME ON AS AN EXAMPLE, EVEN USING MY EMAILS TO SHOW I AM INTELLIGENT AND CAPABLE IN SOME CAPACITY, (i’d like to see any employer pay me for spending a whole afternoon to write one email) THIS IS A FIGHT FOR MY LIFE AND HOW IT WILL BE AFFECTED. I WILL DEFEND IT TO THE HILT AS I HAVE NOTHING. NOTHING TO MY NAME AND NOTHING TO LOSE. IF THEY WANT ME OUT ON THE STREET THEY WILL SEE JUST WHERE THAT LEADS IN WHAT IS CURRENTLY CONSIDERED CRIMINAL AND VIOLENT BEHAVIOUR (not to person but to property). I WILL MAKE MYSELF A NUISANCE TO ALL POLITICIANS WHO SUPPORT THIS POLICY IN A VERY VISIBLE WAY. I WILL USE MY INTELLIGENCE ON THE STREETS TO EXPOSE WHAT IS ALREADY ACKNOWLEDGED AND ACCEPTED AS GOVERNMENT WASTE OF TAX-PAYERS MONEY IN LUXURIES AND MONEY-LAUNDERING PROJECTS. THIS IS NOT ME BUT I WILL FORCE THEM TO LEAVE ME ALONE OR DRUG ME AND CONFINE ME. USING GREATER RESOURCES, WHETHER THAT IS THE POLICE, COURT SERVICES OR CARE. I WILL PUBLICISE THIS IN EVERY DETAIL BECAUSE IT IS MENTALLY AND PRACTICALLY FASCISTIC BULLYING.

    I WILL NOT DEFEND MY MENTALITY WHEN IT IS A SURVIVAL RESPONSE TO PERSONAL ASSAULT AND THREAT TO MY LIFE AND MEAGRE EXISTENCE.

    i’m past caring what warning this sends out – i’ve been repeatedly suicidal in the past and felt it a few times recently. all this pressure is forcing me down the road of greater dependency. when it starts interfering with my right to choice to exist and manage my illness independently, then i will not take responsibility for where that leads. not my doing. if this ends up being demonstrated and verifiable i will take it to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

    i am only being honest and up front as to the real assault this is on my person. yes, it is a warning, like any injured animal might go for what it perceives as a threat. i do not believe in this policy or benefit and why it should be imposed on my already hellish life. i don’t care who knows because it is wrong and damaging to have so much evidence and still to treat people on the basis of ignorance of their illness and symptoms.

    IT IS IRRESPONSIBLE, IRRATIONAL AND PREJUDICIAL to do this. I will not support it in any way.

  35. Jean Taylor says:

    I had to cancel my appointment with them today because of transport problems, they were nasty when I called them giving me another appointment, I am sick with worry I have had a continuing headache for days and the depression and anxiety is getting worse I feel so ill, can you take a recorder in the room with you?

  36. Bryan says:

    This site has a successful way of appealling your esa after 13 weeks. It has been successful at first tier tribunal

    http://unemploymentmovement.com/forum/sheild/5803-esa-claims

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