Articles from the press critical of the DWP ESA Atos Healthcare medical examination.

This page is published in the public domain and is uncopyrighted. Feel free to copy. See Copyleft (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/)

This website provides information on how Atos runs its business, extracts from the Contract between the DWP and Atos including the MEDICAL CONDITIONS that mean a face to face medical assessment is not always necessary, ASSESSMENTS AND POINTS, the breaches of Contract that occurred in my case, my unsound medical report and the correspondence showing how difficult it is to obtain justice or advice.

The Government is inviting the public to submit petitions. Search epetitions.direct.gov.uk for "DWP" or "Atos" or "disabled" to list relevant petitions including Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families (http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968).

Other ongoing petitions are Petition against constant vilification of sick and disabled claimants and Petition to "Sack Atos Immediately" .

The DWP occasionally consults the public http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/.

Press Articles

The press has published many articles critical of the DWP, ESA, Atos Healthcare medical assessments, Unum and McKinsey. It is not surprising as the McKinsey / Unum "non-medical" approach to the assessment of medical conditions has been implemented; see Unum Business (dwpatosbusinessunum.html). Atos Origin has a well documented history of failures; see Atos Healthcare Business (dwpatosbusiness.html). The Welfare Reform Act introduced Employment Support Allowance (ESA). The DWP awarded the Contract to carry out medical assessments to Atos Origin.

Articles and Dates

You can click on a date to link to the item on this page.

Press 200725 JulyAtos fails to meet DoH NHS contract.Guardian
Press 200817 MarchE pluribus Unum - James Purnell's reforms.Guardian
Press 200910 MarchInsensitive treatment.Guardian
 22 JuneFailing the mentally ill.Guardian
 OctoberBlame the unemployed.Cambria
 12 OctoberAutism.Independent
 13 OctoberClaimants refused.Guardian
 14 OctoberDisabled disadvantaged.Guardian
 14 OctoberUnable to work.Telegraph
 16 OctoberFailing the test.Guardian
 19 October1834 Poor Law Reform Act.Guardian
 21 OctoberDisability benefit not working.Guardian
 28 OctoberCostly waste.Guardian
 28 OctoberTarget driven.Guardian
 4 DecemberBypass doctors.Guardian
 6 DecemberCruel interviews.Telegraph
 23 DecemberDWP and Claimants.Guardian
Press 20108 FebruaryIncentives for informers.Guardian
 9 FebruaryDisabled people without support.Guardian
 10 FebruaryStasi.Guardian
 9 MarchResponse suggests many people wrongly judged fit to work.Guardian
 27 MayAbsurd welfare dependency.Guardian
 1 JuneIgnorance about welfare.Guardian
 15 JunePoverty.Guardian
 23 JuneFairness.Guardian
 24 JuneBenefits enable work.Guardian
 28 JuneWelfare crackdown.Guardian
 28 JuneSavings.Independent
 29 JuneNot scroungers.Guardian
 5 JulyAll suffer.Guardian
 6 JulyRushed reforms.Guardian
 6 JulyCynical ruse.Guardian
 23 JulySocial Injustice.Guardian
 23 JulyDraconian benefit tests.Guardian
 13 AugustJob seeking.Guardian
 19 AugustBenefits cull.Guardian
 23 AugustWelfare Advisers.Guardian
 9 SeptemberGeorge Osborne cut 4bn benefits welfare.Guardian
 11 SeptemberGeorge Osborne slash sickness benefits.Guardian
 12 SeptemberWelfare budget cuts Danny Alexander.Guardian
 1 OctoberIain Duncan Smith questions.Guardian
 2 OctoberConservative Party better fairer country.Guardian
 23 OctoberBenefits trap Government reform welfare.Guardian
 9 NovemberPoverty plus a pound isn't enough.Guardian
 9 NovemberWelfare: the 18th Brumaire of Iain Duncan Smith.Guardian
Press 201117 JanuaryPoorest families' standard of living 'will continue to fall'.Guardian
 4 FebruaryI don't want to beg, or be a 'disabled voice'.Guardian
 17 FebruaryWelfare reform: 'most radical shake-up for 60 years'.Guardian
 23 February'The medical was an absolute joke'.Guardian
 23 FebruaryCoalition under fire for changes to disability benefits.Guardian
 9 March'Cancer has shown me the injustice of disability cuts'.Guardian
 12 AprilAtos Healthcare pulls out of NHS contract.Guardian
 11 MayBenefit tests find sick fit to work, say charities.BBC
 11 MayHardest Hit: Disabled people march in London.Guardian
 8 JuneMinister denies fuelling tabloid attacks on 'workshy'.BBC
 13 JuneJobless have to try harder, warns Labour's policy review chief.Guardian
 17 JulyBenefits clawback firm promise 'brighter future' but victim speaks out.Record
 24 JulyBenefits assessment firm causing 'fear and loathing' among claimants, says MP.Guardian
 25 JulyA contract to terrify 1.5m people on incapacity benefit.Guardian
 25 JulyDisability benefit reform: is the government hiding behind Atos errors?Guardian
 13 AugustAtos doctors could be struck off.Guardian
 31 AugustSpot checks on sick benefit staff ordered to be 'nicer'.BBC
 17 SeptemberDisabled people's benefit system needs reform, says minister.Guardian
 21 OctoberCroydon disability assessment centre 'inaccessible' by wheelchair.BBC
 12 November'Fit to work' appeals success rising.BBC
 20 NovemberThe welfare state: the social glue that binds us must be preserved.Observer
 4 DecemberThe demonisation of the disabled is a chilling sign of the times.Observer
 20 DecemberIs the new disabled work benefit working?BBC
 28 DecemberDisability assessment may be a farce, but it's not FrenchGuardian
Press 201217 JanuaryWelfare reform bill: disability benefit cuts.Guardian
 18 JanuaryI left the Conservative party over its attacks on disabled people.Guardian
 5 FebruaryBenefit cuts are fuelling abuse of disabled people, say charities.Guardian
 16 FebruaryDisabled people face unlimited unpaid work or cuts in benefit.Guardian
 28 FebruaryNHS bill: goodbye comprehensive healthcare, hello private insurance.Guardian
 8 MarchThe Liberal Democrats have nothing to apologise for.Guardian
 12 MarchBritain's shadow government: unelected, unbalanced and unaccountable.Guardian
 15 MarchThird of incapacity benefit claimants ruled fit to work.Guardian
 19 MarchSickness benefit: 'They try their damnedest to avoid paying'.Guardian
 1 MayHow can it be right to profit from disability?Guardian

Press Articles in 2007

25 July 2007 - Atos fails to meet contract

Government climbs down on private NHS clinics.

... The Department of Health said it became clear that Atos Origin, a private firm supplying the NHS with diagnostic services in north-west and south-west England, was "not in a position to meet" the terms of its contract....

by David Batty and agencies, 25 July 2007.


Press Articles in 2008

17 March 2008 - E pluribus Unum

James Purnell's reforms of incapacity benefit are inspired by a US company with vested interests and a murky record. Now, that's really sick

The work and pensions secretary, James Purnell, announced that all incapacity benefit claimants will face the new work capability assessment...

...In fact, welfare reform has been for some time a key battleground to outflank Cameron, by playing tough to the tabloids. In the process, the welfare state is being transformed by marketisation...

...In fact, the origin of active welfare - the idea that the poor are the cause of their own poverty because they fail to take advantage of the opportunities "available" to them - lies in the American right. For those who play by the rules, says Purnell, there is a world of opportunity. But for those who don't, "there will be clear consequences from their behaviour"...

...Unum has built up its influence in Britain... This is the company that has played a leading role in shaping welfare reform in Britain. It has promoted the ideas behind the new work capability assessment. The more stringent the assessment, the more people fail it or fear failing it, and so the larger the potential market in private disability insurance. Fifty per cent of IB appeals against the refusal of claims found in favour of the claimant. In eighty per cent of these, the problem was poor assessment of mental health problems.

by Jonathan Rutherford, The Guardian, 17 March 2008.


Press Articles in 2009

10 March 2009 - Insensitive treatment

Insensitive treatment of dying claimant raises fears over new benefit.

by Peter Beresford, The Guardian, 10 March 2009.


22 June 2009 - Failing the mentally ill

The welfare reform bill's hour of need. This bill fails people with mental illness. We urgently need an amendment to protect the vulnerable

by Jonathan Rutherford, The Guardian, 22 June 2009


October 2009 - Blame the unemployed

Blame the unemployed for unemployment. This is the basic principle behind New Labour's proposals to reform welfare benefits. Failure to find employment is no longer the result of labour market conditions or health barriers to work, but rather a motivational failure on the part of the unemployed.

By Leanne Wood A.M, Cambria Politico, October 2009


12 October 2009 - Autism

People with autism 'condemnded to poverty'

By Jeremy Laurance, The Independent Health Editor, 12 October 209


13 October 2009 - Claimants refused

Two-thirds applying for new sickness benefit are refused claims.

By Patrick Wintour, The Guardian Political Editor, 13 October 209


14 October 2009 - Disabled disadvantaged

Testing times for disabled people. The new eligibility test for people on sickness benefit will only intensify the massive disadvantage faced by disabled people.

By Guy Parckar, The Guardian, 14 October 209


14 October 2009 - Unable to work

Just one in 20 sickness benefit applicants 'permanently unable to work'. Just one in 20 people applying for disability benefit are permanently unable to work, according to official statistics.

By Kate Devlin, The Telegraph Medical Correspondent, 14 October 2009


16 October 2009 - Failing the test

Failing the incapacity test. As an inner-city GP I am beginning to see first-hand the heavy-handedness of this new policy. Patients with mental illness seem to be particularly affected.

The Guardian, 16 October 2009


19 October 2009 - 1834 Poor Law Reform Act

A new look at welfare. It's time to replace our market-driven approach to welfare with a return to universality, equality and good living... The 1834 Poor Law Reform Act divided the poor into helpless paupers to be confined to the workhouse, and free labourers who must earn their living by working for a wage.

By Jonathan Rutherford, The Guardian, 19 October 2009


21 October 2009 - Disability benefit not working

Second thoughts. Disallowing disability benefit hasn't worked,.

By Alan Marsh, The Guardian, 21 October 2009


28 October 2009 - Costly waste

Aiming at the wrong target. Means-test welfare reform is a costly waste.

by Peter Beresford, The Guardian, 28 October 2009.


28 October 2009 - Target driven

Bending the rules. Critics of new medical tests aimed at getting claimants off benefits and into work say they are target-driven measures that penalise genuinely ill people.

by Melissa Viney, The Guardian, 28 October 2009.


4 December 2009 - Bypass doctors

Jobless to be offered 'talking treatment' to help put Britain back to work. Jobcentres will bypass doctors to refer claimants for cognitive behaviour therapy at up to 300 centres.... The government's adviser on these issues, Lord Layard, believes that a short course of CBT delivered by a therapist with only basic training is all that is required to cure a substantial proportion of those out of work because of depression or mental health problems.

by Allegra Stratton, The Guardian Political Correspondent, 4 December 2009.


6 December 2009 - Cruel interviews

Cancer patients forced to undergo "cruel" interviews. Seriously ill cancer patients are being forced to undergo "cruel" back-to-work interviews despite the fact they should be exempt, charities warned today.

The Telegraph, 6 December 2009


23 December 2009 - DWP and Claimants

'Tis the season ... Christmas communication from the Department for Work and Pensions. The season of goodwill is again upon us. But even in this festive season, the Department for Work and Pensions' paranoid view of claimants as forever on the take, still seems to rule.

by Peter Beresford, The Guardian, 23 December 2009.


Press Articles in 2010

8 February 2010 - Incentives for informers

Benefit informers could be given share of cash saved. Proposals to encourage people to inform on benefit cheats... Some critics have claimed that the hotlines reduced social cohesion and made innocent citizens the victims of deranged neighbours determined to cause misery.

by Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, 8 February 2010.


9 February 2010 - Disabled people without support

Disability tests in need of overhaul. The tough Work Capability Assessment is stopping disabled people get the support they need for a return to employment.

...Those who feel that they have not been properly assessed can complain directly to Atos. But very often a poor assessment will lead to an appeal, a tribunal and delays, as well as extra expense to both the individual and the taxpayer. Most importantly, of course, every time the test doesn't work appropriately it can mean someone missing out on the support that they need to find work, and the financial support that they need because of their impairment...

by Guy Parckar, The Guardian, 9 February 2010.


10 February 2010 - Stasi

The real benefit cheats? The Stasi ranks of Hard Labour. The supergrass wheeze is just another example of coarse, wilfully ignorant rabble-rousing from the top ranks of government. I'd love to see the benefit cheat advertisements remodelled, to target public sector expenses fraud.

by Zoe Williams, The Guardian, 10 February 2010.


9 March 2010 - Response suggests many people wrongly judged fit to work

Readers detail experience of being found fit when not able to work

by Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian, 9 March 2010.


27 May 2010 - Absurd welfare dependency

Iain Duncan Smith vows to tackle 'absurd' welfare dependency. Work and pensions secretary unveils plans to attack 'persistent poverty' by reducing the number of people 'parked' on benefits.

...It was a "tragedy" that people on incapacity benefit for more than two years were more likely to retire or die than get a job, he said....

...Sanctions will also be introduced to benefit claimants who refuse to take up jobs, while all those on incapacity benefit will now be reassessed...

by Press Association, The Guardian, 27 May 2010.


1 June 2010 - Ignorance about welfare

Iain Duncan Smith displays a worrying ignorance about welfare. As a former Jobcentre Plus worker I am far better informed than the minister about our benefits system.

...In a BBC interview he described ESA as a "disability benefit" for those with the potential to work. This is highly inaccurate. It is a benefit intended for those suffering short-term illnesses as well as long-term disabilities, and is intended as a replacement for incapacity benefit, not to supplement it....

...A major factor behind long-term unemployment is that the slender rewards of taking poorly paid work aren't compensated for by the additional stress involved in taking some of the worst jobs in society....

...With this in mind, Iain Duncan Smith's promise to re-incentivise work has sinister implications. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is to slash benefits to a level where they can't sustain a tolerable lifestyle. This is what I suspect is planned, despite all his talk of reform.

The Guardian, 1 June 2010.


15 June 2010 - Poverty

Poverty: a job for John the Baptist? IDS knows he will have job tying Frank Field's loose cannon to the deck

...Now in charge of a gargantuan £135bn a year at the Department for Work and Pensions, IDS knows he will have a job tying Field's loose cannon to the deck, but is determined to do his best....

Michael White, The Guardian, 15 June 2010.


23 June 2010 - Fairness

Cutting disability benefits is not 'fair'. Osborne's softening-up process worked - but cutting disability allowance without improving the social care system is wrong

...The squeeze on people claiming disability living allowance is predicted to save the government £1.4bn by 2015. This is the weekly allowance that can be claimed by people so physically or mentally disabled they cannot wash or dress themselves; can't eat unaided or use the toilet independently. It helps them pay for a helper....

Jackie Ashley, The Guardian, 23 June 2010.


24 June 2010 - Benefits enable work

Why should I again prove my disability to satisfy George Osborne? The disability living allowance treats us as ordinary people with some extra needs. Spare me talk of a focus on 'genuine' cases

...DLA helps claimants by enabling us to meet the extra costs of our disabilities, enabling people to do what would otherwise be too costly. These extra costs can range from wheelchairs, other care equipment, care services, transport, and dietary needs, to computers and other assistive technology, to more individual needs and unexpected expenses incurred as the result of disability. Many DLA claimants use the benefit to enable them to work and many more want to do so but are hampered by employer attitudes and social negativity....

Rhydian James , The Guardian, 24 June 2010.


28 June 2010 - Welfare crackdown

Welfare crackdown begins with drive to reduce incapacity benefit claims. Coalition's plans include taking people off higher rate of benefits if tests reveal they are fit to do some work

Ministers are to signal a tougher approach to incapacity benefit this week as the next stage of its welfare reforms, by reducing the benefit levels of those tested if they are found capable of doing some work...

The Guardian, 28 June 2010.


28 June 2010 - Savings

Osborne eyes incapacity claimants for savings

A controversial drive to reduce the £12.5bn a year paid to sick and disabled people deemed unfit to work will be at the heart of the government-wide spending review this summer....

The Independent, 28 June 2010.


29 June 2010 - Not scroungers

Disabled people are not scroungers. It's time the government stopped using incapacity benefits as a political football - those who got us into this mess should pay

...George Osborne is talking tough on incapacity benefits and suggesting that many recipients are fraudulent. There is no evidence to support this, other than a few, extreme anecdotal cases. He claims he will support the long-term sick and most vulnerable, but let's look at it realistically...

The Guardian, 29 June 2010.


5 July 2010 - All suffer

These cuts won't only hit the scroungers. We'll all suffer

Millions believe Britain is being held back by single mothers or immigrants. But the pain will be felt by 'us', not just 'them'.

The Guardian, 5 July 2010.


6 July 2010 - Rushed reforms

Osborne's haste will undermine incapacity benefit reform.

Rushed reforms and claims of huge welfare savings threaten the goal of helping disabled people into work.

Paul Gregg, The Guardian, 6 July 2010.


This is by one of the designer's of ESA who had thirteen years of Labour incompetence to fix things. He is now blaming the current Government. For shame.

6 July 2010 - Cynical ruse

Let's assess this government's cynical ruse rather than the mentally ill.

The intangibility of mental illness, the lack of a definitive test, provides opportunities for exploitation.

The Guardian, 6 July 2010.


After thirteen years of Labour incompetence to fix things attempts are made to blame the current Government. For shame.

23 July 2010 - Social Injustice

If Labour can't fight social injustice, what's it all for?

The party must paint a bright red line linking itself to those who'll suffer most from the coalition's atrocious cuts.

The Guardian, 23 July 2010.


23 July 2010 - Draconian benefit tests

Draconian incapacity benefit tests are failing the sick

Inaccurate medical assessment and an inflexible benefit system are putting the most vulnerable at greatest risk.

Melissa Viney, The Guardian, 23 July 2010.


13 August 2010 - Job seeking

I was a jobseeking STAR (Sod This Appalling Racket)

Don't blame the recession - to find work in filing or pest control all the jobless need is vision. Or so the motivational guru told me

Owen Hatherley, The Guardian, 13 August 2010.


19 August 2010 - Benefits cull

Benefits cull bloodies IDS and Osborne

Planned cuts in welfare have set chancellor and pensions secretary at each other.

Michael White, The Guardian, 19 August 2010.


23 August 2010 - Welfare Advisers

Forget 'efficiency savings' - we need our specialist welfare advisers

Plans to replace experienced welfare rights advisers with generic benefits staff are almost laughable

The Guardian, 23 August 2010.


9 September 2010 - George Osborne cut 4bn benefits welfare

George Osborne to cut £4bn more from benefits

Proposals which chancellor says will target those who view welfare as 'lifestyle choice' draw fury from leftwing Lib Dems.

The Guardian, 9 September 2010.


11 September 2010 - George Osborne slash sickness benefits

George Osborne's secret plan to slash sickness benefits

Chancellor plans to slash welfare bill by £2.5bn for people who are disabled or too ill to work.

The Guardian, 11 September 2010.


12 September 2010 - Welfare budget cuts Danny Alexander

Welfare budget cuts defended by Danny Alexander following leaked letter

Chief secretary to the Treasury reiterates pledge that all cuts will be 'fair' and says things have 'moved on' since 19 June memo.

The Guardian, 12 September 2010.


1 October 2010 - Iain Duncan Smith questions

Iain Duncan Smith is the Work and Pensions Secretary of State

The Guardian, 1 October 2010.


2 October 2010 - Conservative Party better fairer country

The Conservative party will prove it can cope - and that it cares

This government is determined to build a better, fairer country that lives within its means

The Guardian, 2 October 2010.


23 October 2010 - Benefits trap Government reform welfare

Our reforms give people on benefits the chance to show what they can achieve

We will offer jobs and opportunities to claimants, while ensuring those who need long term support will keep it

The Guardian, 23 October 2010.


9 November 2010 - Poverty plus a pound isn't enough

All governments promise welfare reform. Very few deliver. In 1997 Labour promised to "cut the bills of social failure" and to "make work pay".

Nick Clegg, The Guardian, 9 November 2010.


9 November 2010 - Welfare: the 18th Brumaire of Iain Duncan Smith

In copying the failed US 90s model for getting people off welfare into work, IDS is playing out his own farcical repetition of tragedy.

...I know the tragedy because it unfolded in the United States 15 years ago: it went by the name of "welfare reform".

...We will see a weakening of a well-meaning opposition, and a sea-change in the politics of welfare, even with no improvement in joblessness and poverty. If it weren't so tragic, it might be farce.

John Krinsky, The Guardian, 9 November 2010.


Press Articles in 2011

17 January 2011 - "Poorest families' standard of living 'will continue to fall'"

About seven million of Britain's poorest people will see their spending power fall by a tenth over the next decade because the prices of essentials such as food, fuel and clothing are rising much faster than inflation, according to new research.

Tom Bawden, The Guardian, 17 January 2011.


4 February 2011 - "I don't want to beg, or be a 'disabled voice'"

Fighting against benefit cuts puts a focus on one's disability - which is just what the DLA helps one escape

...DLA assists you in feeling less disabled, allowing you to put yourself back in that neutral position of having an everyday existence that barely focuses on disability - to simply be just another person...."

Frances Ryan, The Guardian, 4 February 2011.


17 February 2011 - Welfare reform: 'most radical shake-up for 60 years'

The aim is for a simpler, cheaper system that will save £18bn in four years. But the unseemly rush for savings has casualties, such as the concept that national insurance is an insurance policy

Iain Duncan Smith's radical welfare bill, perhaps the most significant reshaping of the welfare state in 60 years, aims to simplify the system of subsidies that covers everything from income support to housing benefit to sickness payments.

...One of the most significant but little-heralded changes is that the welfare state should no longer be regarded as a piggy bank. In the past the public were told that by paying into national insurance, they would be guaranteed benefits should they fall on hard times.

Instead, the government will limit its new "employment and support allowance" to a year...

Randeep Ramesh, The Guardian, 17 February 2011.


23 February 2011 - 'The medical was an absolute joke'

The government's reform of the disability benefits system has angered claimants, who say the new tests fail to identify why they can't work.

...Because of the way the questionnaire has been set, it is much harder to be classified as unfit for work under the new test than previously..."

Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian, 23 February 2011.


23 February 2011 - Coalition under fire for changes to disability benefits

The government's own advisers have criticised its planned overhaul of the disability living allowance

The government's plans to overhaul disability benefits have come under fire from its own official advisory body.

The statutory social security advisory committee is questioning the motives for the proposed replacement of disability living allowance (DLA), paid to almost 3 million people to help cover extra costs arising from their condition.

It is also opposing outright the separate move to withdraw DLA entitlement from people living in care homes who receive it to help with the costs of transport.

David Brindle, The Guardian, 23 February 2011.


9 March 2011 - 'Cancer has shown me the injustice of disability cuts'

My diagnosis means I have experience of the terrible impact of welfare cuts. I will use my time left to shame those in power

...Benefit claimants, as well as people receiving DLA, are being mercilessly attacked in the latest round of spending cuts...."

Gerard Poole, The Guardian, 9 March 2011.


12 April 2011 - Atos Healthcare pulls out of NHS contract

A private company that won a 10-year contract to run a failing GP surgery in east London has pulled out after three years. Doctors are warning that it is a taste of things to come.

..."Atos never had any experience of running GP surgeries. They didn't know Tower Hamlets or the health needs here. They put their bid in with the lowest cost..."

By Andy McNicoll and Denis Campbell, The Guardian, 12 April 2011.


11 May 2011 - Benefit tests find sick fit to work, say charities

Six charities say people with serious illnesses are being found "fit to work" under new sickness benefits tests - and are urging changes to the assessment.

The MS Society, Parkinson's UK and others have urged changes to make the test "fairer" for people with illnesses where symptoms vary over time....

BBC, 11 May 2011.


11 May 2011 - Hardest Hit: Disabled people march in London - Wednesday 11 May 2011

Coverage from the capital as thousands of disabled people protest on the Hardest Hit march against cuts to benefits and services

By Paul Owen, The Guardian, 11 May 2011.


8 June 2011 - Minister denies fuelling tabloid attacks on 'workshy'

Employment Minister Chris Grayling has denied claims the government had helped fuel press coverage labelling benefit claimants as "workshy".

He told MPs that tabloid stories had left him "bemused" and he had been criticised for saying people should not be judged as "scroungers".

But MPs told him there had been a "shocking" failure by ministers to sell welfare reforms as a good news story.

Labour's Glenda Jackson said it had been sold as "attacking the workshy"....

BBC, 8 June 2011.


13 June 2011 - Jobless have to try harder, warns Labour's policy review chief

Liam Byrne to outline plans aiming to tackle irresponsibility in UK boardrooms and among those seeking welfare payments

...Byrne will sketch out long-term plans to reorder the whole contributory principle at the heart of welfare, the idea that healthy citizens in work pay into the state in return for a payout should they become unemployed or sick...

Patrick Wintour, Political Editor, The Guardian, 13 June 2011.


17 July 2011 - Benefits clawback firm promise 'brighter future' but victim speaks out

A PRIVATE firm hired to slash benefits are promising "a brighter future" to claimants whose payouts are stopped.

...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."...

Mark Aitken, Daily Record (Sunday Mail), 17 July 2011.


24 July 2011 - Benefits assessment firm causing 'fear and loathing' among claimants, says MP

Commons committee to publish critical report on Atos, which determines whether people are eligible for sickness benefits

People who are fit and healthy are unlikely to have heard of the company Atos. But anyone who has had to apply for sickness benefits may find that the name triggers – according to one MP – a sense of "fear and loathing"...

Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian, 24 July 2011.


25 July 2011 - A contract to terrify 1.5m people on incapacity benefit

A French company (Atos Origin) is being paid millions to harass incapacity benefit claimants with the threat of being made destitute

...you find a mind-boggling handful of paragraphs about the company's "Logic Integrated Medical Assessment" (or Lima) computer system, which has often seemed to reduce complex cases to the stuff of binary idiocy....

...The results of all this are obvious enough. Thousands of people have been fallaciously deemed fit for work. ...

John Harris, The Guardian, 25 July 2011.


25 July 2011 - Disability benefit reform: is the government hiding behind Atos errors?

Righteous anger by disabled people over Atos incompetence in assessing benefit claims should also be directed at the government

Atos is a French IT company engaged by the government to run the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contract to assess claimants for sickness and disability benefits. It is also the target of blame and fury by many sick and/or disabled people suffering at the hands of an inhumane system.

Exactly what a French IT company would know about sickness, disability, welfare benefits and the tough job of administering such claims might be the first question to spring to mind, but the important questions here are not related to competence. The key issue is whether Atos is responsible for a situation causing so much distress and pain to genuinely sick and disabled people. And who benefits by Atos being seen as responsible for this situation?

The Guardian, 25 July 2011.


13 August 2011 - Atos doctors could be struck off

Twelve medics at the disability assessment centre are under investigation by the GMC over allegations of improper conduct

Twelve doctors employed by the firm that is paid £100m a year to assess people claiming disability benefit are under investigation by the General Medical Council over allegations of improper conduct. The doctors, who work for Atos Healthcare, a French-owned company recently criticised by MPs for its practices, face being struck off if they are found not to have put the care of patients first.

The Observer has found that seven of the doctors have been under investigation for more than seven months. The other five were placed under investigation this year following complaints about their conduct....

The Guardian, 13 August 2011.


31 August 2011 - Spot checks on sick benefit staff ordered to be 'nicer'

The man responsible for improving a controversial sickness benefit test has told the BBC he is going to make unannounced visits to job centres.

Professor Malcolm Harrington will do the spot checks to see if changes he has recommended to a test for people claiming Employment and Support Allowance are actually happening...

BBC, 31 August 2011.


17 September 2011 - Disabled people's benefit system needs reform, says minister

Work and pensions minister Steve Webb accepts reform is necessary for Atos-approved employment support allowance

Controversial assessments of disabled people that have led to many losing their state benefits will be reformed, said Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat work and pensions minister.

He accepted there was genuine anger about how claimants of employment support allowance (ESA) had been treated. The "vast majority" of claimants for ESA, which has replaced incapacity benefit, are deemed fit for work by Atos, the French company which is paid £100m a year to assess claimants.

Yet four out of 10 of those who appeal against the decision by Atos are successful, a process that costs the taxpayer £50m a year. Last month Atos, whose staff assess around 11,000 benefit claimants a week, was savaged by the cross-party work and pensions select committee after it found that many people had "not received the level of service from Atos which they can reasonably expect"....

The Guardian, 17 September 2011.


21 October 2011 - Croydon disability assessment centre 'inaccessible' by wheelchair

Wheelchair-users said they are being forced to try to climb a flight of stairs at a disability benefits assessment centre in south London.

The centre on Cherry Orchard Road, Croydon, is on the first floor and wheelchair-users say they were told they were not allowed to use the lift.

Allan Prince from Croydon Disability Forum said it was "unacceptable"....

BBC, 21 October 2011.


12 November 2011 - 'Fit to work' appeals success rising

Wheelchair-users said they are being forced to try to climb a flight of stairs at a disability benefits assessment centre in south London.

Thousands of disabled people who have been assessed under new government rules as fit for work are having the decision overturned on appeal.

BBC Inside Out East has found that of the 146,200 appeals that have been heard to date, 56,500 (more than a third), have been upheld in favour of the claimant.

Atos, the company carrying out the tests, called the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), is being paid £100m a year by the UK government....

BBC, 12 November 2011.


20 November 2011 - The welfare state: the social glue that binds us must be preserved

At different times in our life cycle most of us may experience a period of vulnerability and need to draw on the 'welfare pot'.

In an open letter published in the Observer today, 18 bishops ask for amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill now going through Parliament. The letter says that as a result of the proposed cap on benefits, an estimated 210,000 children may be pushed into "severe poverty" and another 80,000 made homeless.

...According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a couple who both work full time with two children need to earn 24% more this year than last because of the impact of rising food and fuel prices, the freezing of child benefit and the reduction in the reimbursement for childcare - all measures which also hit the majority of those on benefits even more savagely...

Observer, 20 November 2011.


4 December 2011 - The demonisation of the disabled is a chilling sign of the times

There is a climate of hostility towards people for whom life is already difficult and it is being fostered by politicians and journalists.

...Many emanate from the Department for Work and Pensions, which has twisted facts, manipulated statistics and distorted data to win support for its drive to cut costs and crack down on benefit fraud. This cascade of spurious claims and scandalously spun stories ends up demonising the disabled. It does no credit to Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary of state, who proclaims himself a compassionate Conservative. Ministers say they cannot be blamed for the actions of the media, but they know how the game is played...

Observer, 4 December 2011.


20 December 2011 - Is the new disabled work benefit working?

Employment minister Chris Grayling says he is confident glitches in the system used to decide who is fit to work have been fixed. Two years after the new 'work capability test' was introduced, what's it like for those who go through the assessment?...

BBC, 20 December 2011.


28 December 2011 - Disability assessment may be a farce, but it's not French

There's no point blaming foreigners for the failure of our government's procurement policies. Profit is the real problem

...To recap: Atos assesses claimants for disability benefits, a contract that it was awarded in 2005, running for seven years and worth £500m. This contract should be up for renewal in 2012...

Guardian, 28 December 2011.


Press Articles in 2012

17 January 2012 - "Welfare reform bill: disability benefit cuts - Lords discussion'"

House of Lords debates controversial cuts to disability living allowance payments

Patrick Butler, The Guardian, 17 January 2012.


18 January 2012 - "I left the Conservative party over its attacks on disabled people"

Plans to replace disability living allowance amount to an assault on disabled people's independence and equality

Having been a member of the Conservative party since 1992 and a councillor from 2006, I decided to relinquish both of those positions in 2011. A big decision but one that I decided to make because of the government's endless attacks on disabled people and their right to independence and full equality.

Ollie Flitcroft, The Guardian, 17 January 2012.


5 February 2012 - Benefit cuts are fuelling abuse of disabled people, say charities

Rising public resentment blamed on government focus on alleged 'scrounger' fraud and inflammatory media coverage

The government's focus on alleged fraud and overclaiming to justify cuts in disability benefits has caused an increase in resentment and abuse directed at disabled people, as they find themselves being labelled as scroungers, six of the country's biggest disability groups have warned.

Peter Walker, The Guardian, 5 February 2012.


16 February 2012 - Disabled people face unlimited unpaid work or cuts in benefit

Mental health groups and charities attack plans drawn up by Department for Work and Pensions

Some long-term sick and disabled people face being forced to work unpaid for an unlimited amount of time or have their benefits cut under plans being drawn up by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Mental health professionals and charities have said they fear those deemed fit to undertake limited amounts of work under a controversial assessment process could suffer further harm to their health if the plans go ahead.

Shiv Malik, The Guardian, 16 February 2012.


28 February 2012 - NHS bill: goodbye comprehensive healthcare, hello private insurance

Services are already being pulled in an unannounced, piecemeal way. If the bill passes, the health secretary won't be accountable

Andrew Lansley and his colleagues assure us that under their plans to privatise the NHS, "services will still be free at the point of use". But they fail to add a key proviso: provided the services are still available. In reality, a growing list of services won't be available, and so won't be free.

Of course, some services that the NHS originally provided, such as long-term care for frail older people, have long been officially withdrawn; and others, like prescriptions and dentistry, are still provided but subject to charges. Under the health and social care bill there will be further contraction of what is provided free on the NHS. Local clinical commissioning groups, not the secretary of state, will decide what services it is "reasonable" to provide out of the budgets they are given, and the package will gradually contract.

This process has already begun under the pressure of the so-called productivity savings recommended by McKinsey. NHS services are being withdrawn in an unannounced, piecemeal and unaccountable way.

Colin Leys, The Guardian, 28 February 2012.


8 March 2012 - The Liberal Democrats have nothing to apologise for

Lib Dems have decency in our DNA. From the NHS to Trident, our presence in the coalition has stymied the Tories

...As a party in government we've fought like tigers to win tax cuts for the poor, to protect our NHS, to green our economy, to kick Trident into the long grass, to remain at the heart of Europe and to reform our democracy...

...just look to the health bill. With 140 amendments, most of which came from the Lib Dems, it is no longer the bill Lansley dreamed of...

...I'm not going to pretend that the bill is perfect, it isn't...

Tim Farron, The Guardian, 8 March 2012.


12 March 2012 - Britain's shadow government: unelected, unbalanced and unaccountable

Democracy itself is being undermined by publicly funded agencies crawling with conflicts of interest and devoid of scrutiny

...Blair and Brown began the abuses that the coalition government is refining: purging countervailing voices from public bodies and stuffing them with the representatives of business...

...I'll begin with the government's "reform" of the National Health Service. The body charged with breaking an integrated, co-ordinated system into warring kingdoms whose commercial interests discourage collaboration is called Monitor. Its role will be to enforce competition, ensuring that "any qualified provider" can enter the NHS...

...The current government has made two new appointments to Monitor's board, including the chair, who is also the body's chief executive. Both were previously senior partners at the consultancy company McKinsey. Of the six members of Monitor's senior management team, two previously worked for McKinsey (including the chief executive) and two at a similar company, KPMG...

...board members and executives at Monitor have been lavishly entertained by McKinsey, which, like KPMG, is picking up fat contracts from NHS reforms...

...Both McKinsey and KPMG have been major beneficiaries of previous privatisations or private finance schemes...

George Monbiot, The Guardian, 12 March 2012.


15 March 2012 - Third of incapacity benefit claimants ruled fit to work

Government claims figure vindicates policy - while charities say it is unfit for purpose and will cost millions in appeals

More than a third of people who were claiming the old incapacity benefit have been told they are ineligible for the new benefit, employment and support allowance – a figure hailed by the government as justification for the decision to reassess all claimants, and by campaigners as evidence that the new system is unreasonably harsh.

...Around 38% of all tribunal appeals are overturned in the claimant's favour, and the benefit is subsequently granted. If a claimant is supported in their appeal by someone from a welfare rights group, such as Citizens Advice, there is a much higher success rate for appeals, around 68%...

Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian, 15 March 2012.


19 March 2012 - Sickness benefit: 'They try their damnedest to avoid paying'

A computer questionnaire now helps determine who is fit for work and who is eligible for benefits. But it is causing misery, with thousands of unwell people locked in a chaotic system of appeals

How sick or disabled do you need to be to qualify for state support? Is it enough to be blind or do you also need to be deaf? Is it enough to have been so seriously injured in a car accident that you can no longer walk without extreme pain, or do you have to be bed-bound?

...Atos has also been blamed for the high level of inaccuracies in the decisions, accused by one MP of "disastrous delivery" of the tests. Protesters have repeatedly mounted demonstrations outside their London offices, waving banners that declare "Atos doesn't give a toss" and "Atos kills!" – a reference to the small but growing number of claimants who have killed themselves after finding that their benefits have been removed. In a select committee report last year, MPs questioned whether as "a private company, you are driven by a profit motive", incentivised "to get the assessments done, but not necessarily to get the assessments right"...

Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian, 19 March 2012.


1 May 2012 - How can it be right to profit from disability?

Disability living allowance is being replaced with personal independence payment assessments, and private companies are queueing up to cash in

The Department for Work and Pensions has just announced the 10 private companies on the shortlist to deliver the personal independence payment (PIP) assessments...

...Take Atos, for example, the French multinational, responsible for handling the deeply flawed work capability assessments. Despite huge levels of criticism from individuals and charities that the test is not "fit for purpose", widespread inaccuracies in the assessment process (40% of appeals against Atos decisions are successful), and extensive anecdotal reports of farcical levels of incompetence on the part of the assessors, the DWP has shortlisted Atos for the contract to deliver PIP assessments in every available region.

And then there's the outsourcing giant, Serco, excluded from the Norwegian government's investment portfolio because of its involvement in nuclear arms. Serco is shortlisted by the British government to provide "independent" assessments of disabled people. This is a new avenue for Serco, which has thus far made money from, among other things, detention centres (Yarl's Wood, for example, where there has been outrage over the treatment of children) and prisons...

Clare Allan, The Guardian, 1 May 2012.