Fitness for work testing deemed a failure as four out of 10 claimants are wrongly ruled fit to work

Daily Record Lion

By  8 Feb 2013 07:51

 

AN official investigation has found the process is flawed after the Daily Record revealed how disabled people were made to feel like criminals after wrongly being ruled fit for work.

Atos Daily Record
ATOS protest against Commonwealth Games sponsorship by ATOS : David Churchley with Black Triangle banner (left)

 

FITNESS for work testing for thousands of vulnerable sick and disabled people has been condemned as a failure in an official Commons investigation, the Record can reveal.

The damning findings back our exposé of the incompetent handling of the medical assessments by French firm Atos for the Department for Work and Pensions.

We revealed how seriously ill or disabled people were made to feel like criminals after wrongly being ruled fit for work.

Now MPs on the powerful public accounts committee have said the DWP allowed the firm to make millions while ordinary people were condemned to misery and hardship. The report found:

At least four out of 10 claimants were wrongly ruled fit for work.

Atos racked up a £60million bill administrating appeals against rulings.

The DWP failed to challenge Atos’ massive profits or penalise the firm for not making targets.

Atos are paid £110million a year to carry out the tests for the DWP to move people from disability benefits into work.

The firm, first hired by the last Labour government, expect to make £40million from their contract in Scotland and the north of England alone.

But the tests pass thousands of people as fit who are not able to work – and threaten to cut off their benefits.

Atos take a further £60million of public money to administer appeals because so many decisions are contested.

The British Medical Association say the assessments are “not fit for purpose”.

And now, on the basis of evidence from Citizens Advice, Disability UK and the DWP itself, MPs have concluded that the tests are hitting the most vulnerable claimants the hardest. Margaret Hodge MP, who chairs the public accounts committee, said:

“The standardised ‘tick-box’ approach fails to adequately account for rare, variable or mental health conditions and this can lead to greater inaccuracies in decision-making for these particular claimant groups. 


Labour MP Margaret Hodge chairs the committee
 

“The DWP are getting far too many decisions wrong on claimants’ ability to work. This is at considerable cost to the taxpayer and can create misery and hardship to the claimants themselves.”

Nearly 40 per cent of appeals are upheld – and a third of the successful appeals involve no new evidence.

Hodge said:

“The DWP view that appeals against decisions are an inherent part of the process is unduly complacent.

“This poor decision-making is damaging public confidence and generating a lot of criticism of the contractor for assessments, Atos Healthcare – but most of the problems lie firmly within the DWP.”

In their report, due out today, the MPs slam the Government for the misery they have caused thousands of disabled benefits claimants.

Hodge said:

“Poor decision-making causes claimants considerable distress. The position appears to be getting worse, with Citizens Advice reporting an 83 per cent increase in people asking for support on appeals in the last year alone.

“The process hits the most vulnerable claimants hardest. The one-size-fits-all approach fails to account adequately for mental health conditions or those which are rare or fluctuating.”

Despite changes, the report concludes that the assessment process is still too inflexible – and is often so stressful for applicants that their health simply gets worse. A key problem identified in the report is that the DWP have given Atos a near monopoly in the supply of medical advice.

Hodge said:

“The DWP are too often just accepting what Atos tells them. They seem reluctant to challenge the contractor.

“They have failed to withhold payment for poor performance and rarely checked that they are being correctly charged.

“The DWP also cannot explain how the profits being made by Atos reflect the limited risk that they bear.

“There needs to be a substantial shake-up in how the DWP manage this contract and in their processes for improving the quality of decision-making.”

While claimants have blamed Atos for the tests, the committee said the blame for most of the problems lies firmly within the DWP.

The report says the assessment process is designed to support a fair and objective decision by the DWP about whether a claimant is fit for work – but in far too many cases, the DWP are getting these decisions wrong at considerable cost to both the taxpayer and the claimant.

DWP decisions were overturned in 38 per cent of appeals, casting doubt on the accuracy of their decisions.

MPs found that the DWP do not know the full cost of the decision-making process or the financial effects across government – and without this information, they will not be able to assess value for money.

Hodge said:

“We saw no evidence that the DWP were applying sufficient rigour or challenge to Atos given the vulnerability of many of their clients, the size of the contracts and their role as a near monopoly supplier.

“We are concerned that the profitability of the contract may be disproportionate to the limited risks the contractor bears.”

An Atos spokesman said:

“We know this is a difficult process for people and have worked with the DWP to make improvements in how we carry out the work capability assessments so we can provide the decision-makers with the information they need to make the right decision first time.

“If an assessment does not meet the needs of the DWP decision-maker, we will redo it before a benefit decision is made. We do not make decisions on individuals’ entitlement to benefit. This is done by a DWP decision-maker.

“The information from the assessment which we send to the DWP forms only one piece of the evidence the DWP will use when making a decision on benefits

“All complaints to Atos Healthcare are thoroughly investigated and changes are made where necessary. Currently less than one per cent of those who see us make a complaint.

“The DWP also monitor our quality and can send assessments back to us. They do this in less than 0.2 per cent of cases and we redo the report at our own cost.

“Although appeals are widely reported to be the fault of Atos, the National Audit Office warned there were dangers in this assumption. Recent DWP figures suggest Atos reports are a reason for successful appeals in only 0.3 per cent of cases.”

Comments
  • Dave February 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    And, will this change anything? No of course not. The government have set targets and regardless of the outcome they will not change a damn thing.

  • jeffery davies February 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    yes but will atos get kicked out with all whots said on tv bbc that doesnt sound like atos has lied and been allowed to profit even dwp helped in it but the main fault is atos and should have big fines and all contracts taking off nothing less not left to make more missery jeff3

  • jay February 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Any media attention on this is worthwhile but

    “At least four out of 10 claimants were wrongly ruled fit for work.”

    This stat is particularly meaningless if it is not qualified.
    Does it include the result of appeals?
    If not then the figure is much higher than 4 out of 10 being wrongly ruled fit for work.

    “ And threaten to cut off their benefits.”

    It’s a bit more than a threat they do cut your benefits off and if it wasn’t for the DPAC site I and many others would have had no idea what to do next and probably been forced to claim JSA even though I and they are unfit for work.
    It’s interesting that a third of the successful appeals involve no new evidence* but hardly surprising that DWP and Atos routinely ignore expert medical information by consultants and GP’s.

    Perhaps the reporter of this piece should be sent a copy of Mo Stewart’s investigative work about the unholy trinity (Atos, DWP & Unum) again not a mention of Unum.

    “The DWP view that appeals against decisions are an inherent part of the process is unduly complacent.”

    Very true, it’s OK for them – they are not the ones suffering through stress and having an illness that gets worse thanks to their obstructive methods. Those that are ill and disabled have enough on their plate without worrying about what little money they get to survive on will be paid or not. The appeal process might suit the DWP but they are not the ones being denied the lawful amount they are due and having to cope with this loss of income.

    Margaret Hodge certainly gives it straight to the DWP but I don’t agree with the committee saying “the blame for most of the problems lies firmly within the DWP.”

    “The report says the assessment process is designed to support a fair and objective decision by the DWP about whether a claimant is fit for work.”

    That is impossible in the present circumstances, the Atos report is biased against the claimant as those on this site that have been through the WCA will know is true, How then is the DWP decision maker able to make a fair decision? (That is of course giving them the benefit of the doubt that they want to make a fair decision!) they are not medical experts but then again neither are Atos.

    The DWP should also have been taken to task as to why they are so against the assessments being recorded.
    The claimants have no say we are at the mercy of the Atos report.

    Basically what is happening is ATOS employees are fabricating these reports in the most negative of ways against us claimants What they are doing is illegal and I have no idea how these nurses or junior doctors can hold up their heads. I hope the money they receive to the detriment of some of the most vulnerable people in society is worth it.
    ‘The money you make cannot buy back your soul.’

    Finally I would say there is no difference between Atos & the DWP they are both the same, their aim is just to get people off sickness benefits at any cost.

    As for Atos saying less than 1% makes a complaint, I’ve got news for them. Every appeal against a WCA is a complaint against Atos; every person that has died because of this barbaric process is a complaint against Atos.
    You take taxpayers money you carry full responsibility.

    As for this statement:
    “Recent DWP figures suggest Atos reports are a reason for successful appeals in only 0.3 per cent of cases.”

    Is there any evidence to back this inexplicable statement as being true?
    Because earlier the report stated * “that a third of the successful appeals involve no new evidence”

    It must be because of the Atos WCA assessments, as what else is there?
    .
    The journalist on this article should have posed the questions above and pointed out the inconsistencies in DWP/Atos statements.

  • Humanity2012 February 8, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Too Many Politicians Too Many Bureaucrats but Stuff All Public Service

    I am Angry about it even if the Rest of the Country is in a Brainwashed Trance

  • GEOFF REYNOLDS February 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    If the readers have a couple of minutes to spare, its worth going onto the internet pages featuring the DWP.
    One of the sites features a top to bottom chart of the organization of the DWP.

    It reads like a family tree with IDS at its helm. The wage structures are clearly defined, and the amounts enough to make you feel sick!
    How these people have the gaul to tell us that £71 a week is enough to live on, i will never know!

    ONE THING THAT IT DOES SHOW, IS HOW MANY RICH PEOPLE IT TAKES TO MAKE THE POOREST IN OUR SOCIETY LIVE A LIFE OF ABJECT POVERTY, STRESS, SQUALOR AND SUICIDE.

    Nevertheless, they need plenty of bedrooms to stack their tainted cash in….

    http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/dwp-org-charts.pdf

  • kaydee February 8, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    No mention in this report of the thousands of deaths related to this so-called fair & objective assessment process.

  • kaydee February 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Geoff Reynolds.

    The stats from your dwp link are from June 2010 so they’ll all be on considerably higher wages now I would imagine.

  • Tory MP Allan Ba'start February 8, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    DWP closed my income support and disability benefit 6 months ago, I have nothing to live on I am getting by from family hand outs food etc, if Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi were doing this to there people, the BBC news report would be scathing and extremely critical with a Government Minister’s or MP spouting their repugnance at this assault on vulnerable disabled people living under that tyranny.
    But when it happens in this country you don’t hear a peep, why isn’t the arch archbishop of Canterbury or leaders of the Circe of England shouting out loud about this iniquity being perpetrated against the disabled people.
    Shame on the religious leaders of this country.
    Please note that Margaret Hodge MP chair of the committee put cost to the tax payer before misery and hardship to the claimant, doesn’t she have that the wrong way round! she clearly puts money before people very revealing !

  • Humanity2012 February 8, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    One Equality they Seem Slow to Extend Namely Bridging the Gulf between Rich and
    Poor

    Con Dem Britain is Crazy

  • David Moynagh February 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Those responsible for the continuing deployment of ATOs in face of the clear evidence of related deaths and suicides must be held to account for crimes against humanity. It is time for the guilty persons to gace the consequences of this ongoing atrocity. Families of those poor individuals who have died should make formal statements to international courts of human rights. Let us see then if they think that ATOS assessmentscdont hide a dark and deadly side. It is reminiscent of the nazi doctrine of the 1930’s and has no place in modern britain or any other country that seeks to torment, vilify and despair the sick and disabled. It seems that the new haulocost is at the door of westminster.

  • GEOFF REYNOLDS February 8, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    When the proverbial, shit hits the fan and this country is in full riot mode, the government ministers who caused it will be in hiding.
    Will they flee abroad to their second homes? Cower in a bunker deep beneath Westminster?, or just hide behind the police and the armed forces?
    If i was a copper or a soldier i know who i would turn against. Would i stand against the wrath of the people or the bastards that caused it?
    My analogy is easy, they have to still live amongst us……
    If everyone who is threatened with the bedroom tax, stood their ground and put two fingers up to the idea, it would be dropped immediately.
    The last thing this government want is bother, they provide the tinder and the electorate will ignite…..
    Its just starting to fizz, watch this space…..

  • jo Pritchard February 8, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    The DWP failed to challenge Atos’ massive profits or penalise the firm for not making targets.

    It’s the DWP’s targets that are the problem!!! Eh?

  • GEOFF REYNOLDS February 9, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Have the government seriously considered the mandatory supply of horse meat products for the poor and disabled?
    While the toffs feast on venison we could eat Mr ed.
    Our welfare cards could be programmed to trigger an alarm at the till if we tried to eat food that was only intended for the wealthier and able bodied in society.
    Surely we could be served after dark, around the back of the stores where ordinary, good people would not have to cast eyes upon us. Any rotting meat or vegetables or out of date food could be sold to us at a premium, therefore negating the unnecessary rubbish collections.
    Any of us forced from our homes could live in skips and be branded on the forehead and, and, and……………
    And as for ALEC SHELBROOKE, the insignificant piece of shit……

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