Paralympics Sponsor Atos Hits Back At Disability Protesters ~ states it ‘Only’ carries out WCA in line with govt policy

“We’re only carrying out orders” they say.

So that’s alright then.

paralympic runner © Shutterstock

Paralympics sponsor Atos – facing a disability protest this week over its role in deciding which benefit claimants are fit to work – states it only carries out ‘Work Capability Assessments’ (WCAs) in line with the policy and guidelines laid down by the government.

August 29, 2012 by Tom Jowitt for Techweek Europe

Paralympics sponsor and IT services giant Atos Origin is facing a growing protest from disability groups this week over its role in deciding which benefit claimants are fit to work.

According to the Guardian, the campaign is being led by the group Disabled People Against Cuts, which plans to deliver a coffin full of complaints to Atos on Wednesday.

Disability Row

The row centres over the role of Atos in deciding which benefit claimants are fit to work and who is genuinely disabled under the terms of the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Atos was awarded the contract by Labour in 2008, reportedly worth £112m annually to the IT services giant.

According to the Guardian, in the past financial year Atos has conducted about 738,000 work capability assessments on benefit claimants. The newspaper said 40 percent of people appeal against the decisions, with 38 percent of those successful. The cost to the taxpayer of the tribunal system is £50m, around half of the amount spent on reassessment.

The protesters claim that approximately 1,100 people died last year, after failing the test for the new incapacity benefit.

The newspaper also reported that Atos currently has £3bn worth of government contracts. In January, it signed a £74m contract with the Department for Health.

Ongoing Issue

Atos was one of the first services companies to sign a new “memorandum of understanding” with the government, when Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude redesigned Labour contracts he considered too favourable in 2010.

But the company has been dogged for a while now about its handling of the incapacity benefit application system. A government report last July called the system “flawed”, and protesters say this has been proven by the high number of appeals and the high success rate of applicants.

Atos also did little to endear itself in August 2011 when in response to criticism it issued legal threats against the websites and forums that described patients’ unpleasant experiences of the assessment process, accusing them of libel.

Atos Statement

Atos has pointed out that it does not define policy and it does not make decisions on individuals’ entitlement to benefit. It only carries out ‘Work Capability Assessments’ (WCAs) in line with the policy and guidelines laid down by the government.

The company also said it carries out 15,000 face-to-face WCAs each week, and pointed out that in his second review, Professor Harrington found Atos to be giving a “high standard of service”.

It said a successful appeal does not necessarily mean the Work Capability Assessment was not accurate, as often supplementary evidence is provided at the appeal.

“We fully respect people’s right to peaceful protest and we understand this is a highly emotive issue,” an Atos spokesperson told TechWeekEurope by email.

“We do not make decisions on people’s benefit entitlement or on welfare policy but we will continue to make sure that the service we provide is as highly professional and compassionate as it can be.”

And the company stood by its support for the Paralympics Games, saying it had supported the Paralympics movement for a long time now.

“At Atos we have proudly supported the Paralympics Movement for a decade. We hope people will view the Games, as we do, as an opportunity to celebrate sporting achievement.”

Techweek Europe

  • Jean Nash August 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Wish iI was well enough to join the protest, but my thoughts are with all the people who are able to be there (some under painful and distressing circumstances)——–/Solidarity !!!)

    • Anony DWP Emp November 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm

      The process of exterminating the weakest in society shows how the society is measured. By protecting the rich, and the wealthy as the expense of the poorest is no better than the Nazis in WW2.

  • rogr August 29, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    “I was only following orders” died at the Nurenberg War Crimes Tribunal and, guess what? It didn’t work for the doctors at the concentration camps who carried out vivisection and other experiments on living subjects nor for the troops. It is about time they realised that doing evil at the behest of another does not make it good, it is still evil.

  • jeffery davies August 29, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    yes atos self presavation is not good you get to lie to one self daily as you cant tell the truth jeff3

  • DAVID A SHAW August 29, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    “We were only carrying out orders ” i am sure i have heard that said somewhere before , sometime in the middle of the last century.

  • ellen evans August 30, 2012 at 12:06 am

    like to read those contracts , should be made public .

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