Posts Tagged ‘Fitness For Work Test’

Private Eye: Maximus Makes Loss from Fitness-to-Work Tests

December 20, 2015

And now for a bit of good news! Maximus, ATOS’ successor in administering the fitness-to-work tests intended to stop the disabled and chronically sick from claiming benefits, is experiencing some difficulties. According to the Christmas edition of Private Eye, 19th December 2015 -7th January 2016, they’re having problems recruiting medical staff, and have made a loss. The Eye’s report begins as follows

Fitness To Work

Maximus Pain

Maximus, the US outsourcing company, is taking a financial hit on its £565m ($900m) contract to carry out controversial “fitness to work” tests for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

Maximus took over the assessment of sick and disabled people from pisspoor French firm Atos earlier this year, clearly expecting to do rather well from the deal. But results published in the US last month show it is already operating at a $4m loss, with revenue of $105m falling far short of the predicted $140m-$165m. There were two causes for the loss: the company is having trouble recruiting doctors and nurses willing to carry out the much-criticised tests, linked by researchers with the deaths of sick and disabled people; and it failed to generate enough income.

It couldn’t happen to a nicer company.

In fact, as you can see, the company is still making millions out of its government contracts. And the problem doesn’t just like with Maximus or their vile predecessors, ATOS. It’s with the fitness to work tests as a whole. These have been formulated by the government, and its the government – first New Labour, then Cameron’s Tories, that insist on finding spurious reasons to throw people off benefits, even when it is desperately needed.

Get Maximus off the public payroll, and the Tories out of office. That’s the only way this nightmare will stop.

Still, it’s good to know that as far Maximus is concerned, the wages of sin aren’t as profitable as they hoped. May the whole company and its board of directors go bankrupt.

Private Eye on ATOS’ Incompetence Running PIP

October 17, 2015

Private Eye in their edition for the 4th to 17th September 2015 also carried this report about ATOS’ continuing abysmal performance, this time in administering the Personal Independence Payments introduced by the Tories.

ATOS
Wait for the PIPs

Outsourcing giant Atos no doubt thought that pulling out of its contract to carry out the governments “fitness for work” benefits tests would draw a line under five years of bad publicity over its pisspoor performance.

But last week the Department for Work and Pensions was finally forced to reveal figures showing that about 90 people a month were dying with 14 days of being declared fit to work under Atos’ watch. And now the claims of poor practice have shifted to the way Atos assesses some people for a different disability benefit – the new personal independence payment (PIP), which is gradually replacing disability living allowance (DLA).

In July the Disability News Service revealed that in parts of the country where Atos was running the PIP show, the proportion of disabled people stuck in the queue for an assessment was more than five times higher than in areas managed by rival Crapita. Now people who have managed to be assessed by Atos claim they have fallen prey to inaccurate and misleading reports that affect their benefit claims.

Colin Stupples-Whyley, for example, says an Atos nurse wrote that he had attended the PIP assessment alone – even though his civil partner sat with him throughout the interview. He was only able to prove he had not been alone because his partner had signed in to the Atos visitor book.

Mr Stupples-Whyley has agoraphobia, general anxiety disorder, depression, fibromyalgia and diabetes, but the impact of these impairments was he says, ignored or misrepresented by the Atos assessor. The assessor wrote that his mental health conditions had ben diagnosed by a “counsellor” when in fact he was on medication prescribed by a psychiatrist; his long list of diabetes symptoms was reduced to “urinates a lot”; and a panic attack during the assessment was not recorded. Mr Stupples-Whyley claims the entire section of the form devoted to a physical examination supposedly carried out by the nurse was fabricated, as no test took place.

This is remarkably similar to the experience of Colleen Hardy, who also has several chronic physical and mental conditions. She was able to prove that the Atos physiotherapist who assessed her (this time for the old fitness-to-work test) had inaccurately reported she had climbed a flight of stairs without help and by holding on to a bannister, because she was actually helped by her community psychiatric nurse and a friend! Different benefits, but same old Atos story.

* Mr Stupples-Whyley so distrusts Atos he has turned down the offer of a reassessment and is taking his case to a tribunal.

As the Eye itself points out, this is merely case of Atos carrying on as they always have done. Only the benefit they administer is different. Atos’ cruel attitude to claimants and their determination to declare everyone ‘fit for work’ is satirised in this cartoon on page 27 of the same issue.

Atos cartoon

If you can’t read it, the speech bubble from the doctor says ‘See? I knew you could crawl if you tried… I’ll call the mushroom farm’.

Atos aren’t quite that bad, but there’re extremely close. The mobility test does involve the patients’ ability to walk a minimal number of yards, and there have been cases where wheelchair users have been told to come to offices on the upper floors of buildings for their assessment without adequate wheelchair access. And the above article describes how they were determined to find Colleen Hardy able to walk, even though she needed to rely on the assistance of a nurse and a friend.

Atos, however, shouldn’t take all over the blame. They were hired by New Labour to find a set proportion of people fit for work according to the Neoliberal ideas coming over from Bliar’s friends in the big transatlantic corporations. And New Labour’s involvement in no way exonerates the Tories. Bliar in many ways simply carried on the Thatcherite project, which has in its turn been carried on and massively expanded by Cameron and IDS. The whole system is rotten and desperately needs to be changed. A good start would be by sacking Atos, Crapita, and the old charade of fitness to work assessments.

George Berger on Gordon Waddell and the Origins of the Work Capability Test

February 9, 2015

A few weeks ago I blogged about a piece on Mike’s site, Vox Political, by Mo Stewart describing Unum’s role in formulating the fitness for work test. This is the prize piece of pseudoscience used by the DWP and Atos to deny people welfare benefits on the grounds that, no matter how ill or disabled they are, they are still somehow ‘fit for work’. In the most extreme cases, this has resulted in terminally ill people having their disability benefit removed and blandly informed that they will have to be reassessed. Just in case, you understand, that they get better.

One of the commenters on the piece was George Berger, who kindly informed me of his piece on the DPAC website tracing the origins of the fitness for work test in the bizarre theories of Gordon Waddell. Mr Berger commented:

It seems that the historical source is Waddell’s work on back pain and non-organic signs. That was imaginatively extended to “invisible illnesses.” The back pain work was heavily criticised by medical people in his specialism, yet he seems to have been protected by Aylward and maybe others. I did not know about the purely medical critique when I wrote this.

http://dpac.uk.net/2014/09/gordon-waddells-biopsychosocial-attack-on-disabled-people/

As you can see from the link, it’s entitled Gordon Waddell’s Biophysical Attack on Disabled People.

Gordon Waddell was a highly respected orthopaedic surgeon, who drew on George Engels’ holistic theories of the origin of disease. Engels believed that for patients to be made better, the healer should address all aspects of their condition, including its social and psychological components. Waddell, however, perverted this into the current government policy that sees patients as essentially malingerers. In his papers ‘Nonorganic Physical Signs in Low-Back Pain’ (Spine, volume 5, number 7, 117-125); and ‘A New Clinical Model for the Treatment of Low-Back Pain’ (Spine, volume12 number 7, 632-644), published in 1980 and 1987, Waddell stated that there were symptoms in lower back pain that had no physical cause. He believed these were entirely psychological in origin. These non-organic symptoms in turn produced depression, a feeling that treatment hadn’t worked, and encouraged the patient to adopt a ‘sick role’. Mr Berger quotes from Waddell’s 1998 book, The Back Pain Revolution, ‘that illness behaviour quite often ‘focuses on money and implies malingering,’ and that it ‘may depend more on… psychologic events than on the underlying physical problem’ (1998: 216, 227).’

George Berger states that Waddell’s scientific methodology is simply wrong, and that it was strongly influenced by Skinner’s Behaviourism, which in turn has been categorically demolished by none other than that great American radical, Noam Chomsky, amongst others.

Despite its falsity, it has been seized upon by New Labour and Tory governments determined to cut the welfare bill. Waddell’s ideas on pain and malingering were taken up by Atos at a conference in 2004. Another doctor, Christopher Bass, used his biopsychosocial theories to explain chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic low-back pain, repetitive strain injury and non-cardiac chest pain, as all essentially psychological malingering. Waddell’s ideas were taken up by UnumProvident, the American insurance fraudster, whose head, John LoCascio, attended a conference at Oxford on malingering and illness deception. The corporation then set up the UnumProvident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University. Finally, in 2006 Waddell and A. Kim Burton wrote that ‘Work is generally good for health and well-being’, a line now repeated ad nauseam by the cretins now stuffing the DWP under Esther McVile and Iain ‘Tosser’ Duncan Smith.

There’s far more over in George Berger’s original article, and it’s definitely worth reading for anyone interested in a very scholarly destruction of this pernicious piece of pseudoscience.

From 2013: DWP Toughens Fitness-for-Work Test

January 29, 2015

Maximus, who are due to take over from Atos as the administrators of the government’s fitness-for-work test, have tried to deflect criticism by stating that they are just following the DWP’s orders. It is they, who are really culpable, and so should be the target of criticism. As Mike has pointed out, this is just a version of the Nazis’ ‘We were only following orders’ defence at the Nuremberg trials. Maximus deserve all the criticism they get, as they are a commercial company that chose to bid for the contract. Unlike soldiers under the command of their officers, they had a free choice. Nobody forced them. They were entirely willing.

The company is, however, quite right in pointing out the culpability of the DWP. And they certainly deserve all the blame they get and more. It is indeed the DWP that sets the test. And this story from Private Eye’s 15th January – 7th February 2013 issue shows that when they don’t think it is harsh enough, they change it to make it even more punitive.

Fitness To Work
Ill Thought Out

Despite cross-party condemnation last week over the way thousands of sick and disabled people have had their benefits axed after the private company Atos wrongly found them fit for work, the government is trying to sneak in new measures which will make the problem worse.

It has tabled amendments to employment and support allowance legislation which, academics and campaigners say, will lead to even greater suffering by the genuinely ill.

Plans include withdrawing benefit if an assessor decides that a claimant’s ability to work could be improved by aids, such as guide dogs, walking sticks or prosthetic limbs – whether or not the claimant has access to them or can use them. Atos assessors already have the power to carry out an “imaginary wheelchair test” when they decide that a person could work if they used a wheelchair – even if they do not have one.

Under the changes people will also lose benefit if an assessor decides that adjustments could be made for them in the workplace – whether or not those changes have been made. The amendments also include plans to consider physical and mental health problems separately, instead of looking at the combined effects of mental and physical health on a person’s ability to work. As is common knowledge, some disease impact on both mental and physical health, and treatments for one can severely impact on the other.

The changes, due to take effect at the end of the month after no public debate, have been condemned by the thinktank Ekklesia, which says they fly in the face of “coalition claims to be protecting and supporting sick and disabled people in a climate of austerity, cutbacks and hardship.”

MP Tom Greatrex, a critic of Atos, said: “The fact that people can be assessed as fit for work on the basis of an imaginary guide dog, without taking any account of the availability of guide dogs and the time taken to train both dogs and users, highlights just how far the DWP seem to be prepared to go to find people fit for work without the support they need to make work a reality.”

Last week the Commons heard of many cases where paitents had died, or committed suicide, after being assessed as fit for work following “a demeaning process that was making sick people sicker”.l Under coalition proposals there will be many more such cases.

This fully demonstrates the DWP’s responsibility for the stringency of the tests, and their aim of making sure as few people as possible actually pass them. Atos whistleblowers have stated that there were quotas set of how many people should be found fit for work. This indicates that not only is this true, but even then the government tried to move the goalposts.