From 2012: Private Eye on Atos and Serco as their Successors

Private Eye in their issue for the 4th – 17th May 2012 ran this article reporting further examples of Atos’ cruelty towards claimants, and expressing fears that Serco were about to step into their shoes.

Health Assessments

Occupational Hazard

Disability campaigners are alarmed to hear that security giant Serco may also be moving into the health and disability assessment market, currently dominated by Atos, the French outsourcing giant.

Serco is aiming to link up with occupational therapists to “explore” how they might do assessments usually carried out by doctors or nurses; and recently hosted a seminar at the College of Occupational Therapists. The worry is that Serco could prove even more adept than Atos at doing the government’s dirty work by slashing benefits for some of the most vulnerable people.

Although some occupational therapists hesitate to join forces with Serco, the college itself sees the move as a chance to bolster the industry. Its primary objective in dealing with commercial organisations was “to ensure that there is perceived and discernible benefit to the profession and/or better health and wellbeing service for the public”.

Meanwhile, at Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions, it’s business as usual. Last week a coroner said a decision to declare a mentally ill man fit for work may have influenced his subsequent decision to commit suicide.

Martin Rust, 36, who had attempted suicide previously, had been diagnosed with treatment-resistant schizophrenia in 1998, but was living independently with mental health service support.

He died in November last year after his mother said the pressure of finding work when he felt he couldn’t cope had been extremely worrying for him. Recording that Mr Rust had committed suicide while suffering from a treatment-resistant mental illness, coroner William Armstrong said the DWP’s decision “caused distress and may well have had an adverse effect” on Mr Rust.

There was good news, though, for Jenny, the 59-year-old former teacher, who was forced to give up work when she developed the debilitating illness fibromyalgia (Eye 1300). Her benefits were stopped last year, forcing her to raise funds by selling some of her furniture, following an Atos assessment which she claimed was “cursory at best”. A tribunal panel has now said the Atos examiner’s report was full of anomalies and is instead relying on the detailed assessment and medical history for her own GP.

Doctors are the latest to raise concerns over the tests and the fact that nearly 40 percent of assessment decisions are overturned on appeal. As well as the amount of time GPs are spending on reports for appeals, there are also concerns at the length of time people are having to live, often without benefits, waiting for an appeal – nearly 25 weeks on average.

This cast some doubt on whether Atos’ statement that they are withdrawing from administering the work capability assessments will mean any improvement, if Serco takes over them. As for Atos, this report gives another victim of the company’s cruelty and incompetence. Johnny Void, Mike at Vox Political and many other bloggers have reported doctors’ criticisms of the damage the stress of the assessments has on their patients’ mental health. This article shows they are also concerned about the sheer time their patients were left without benefits while waiting for an appeal.

As for the Tribunal rejecting Atos’ reports and relying instead on information from ‘Jenny’s’ doctor, this is very much how it should be. Jaypot has stated that if a doctor declares that someone is unfit for work, then that should be sufficient as far as further assessment is required. the Work Capability Assessment itself is seriously flawed, and in my view, a completely spurious piece of pseudoscience rather than anything resembling good medical practice.

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3 Responses to “From 2012: Private Eye on Atos and Serco as their Successors”

  1. Mike Sivier Says:

    Reblogged this on Vox Political.

  2. amnesiaclinic Says:

    Well said. Thank you for bringing these other sad stories to our attention. Serco is very worrying – a huge spider with legs in many pies.
    Exactly – the doctor’s assessment and records are all that are needed. The rest is spin to make money for these nasty corporations and their friends.

  3. stewilko Says:

    Reblogged this on stewilko's Blog.

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