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UK documentaries investigate Work Capability Assessment/Atos Undercover

Discussion in 'Finances, Work, and Disability' started by Firestormm, Jul 31, 2012.

  1. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    Morning,

    Two documentaries were aired last night. I've only watched the first and will comment later when I've typed up some notes.

    Channel 4 Dispatches: 30 July 2012: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/4od

    BBC Panorama: 30 July 2012: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01lldrc/Panorama_Disabled_or_Faking_It/

    If either or both become available on utube then perhaps someone could post the links in order that those living outside the UK might view?

    To my knowledge neither programme mentions ME specifically, but in respect of the first, they have an undercover doctor being trained on how to make assessments by Atos.

    Made me think that if all that was revealed represented the true nature of these assessments then I must have been damned lucky to get through.

    The Appeal Tribunal in my experience differs from the 'tick-list' approach of the assessment operated by Atos, because it considers the claimant as a person, and looks at how disability affects that person in real-life, and whether realistically that person is able to work and to what extent.

    Anyway, have a look. See what you think. Quotes and comments to follow...

    EDIT:

    One of the undercover stories in Panorama follows a patient with Fibromyalgia through her assessment.
  2. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

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  3. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    Cool. I'll probably not get to adding some transcript until tomorrow now. Bit bushed. Two good documentaries though I thought.

    I really hope they don't put anyone off of applying for benefit to which they are entitled. It's perhaps hardest if you don't have support and help completing the darn forms. They can be very hard to understand and interpret.

    I've said elsewhere, but in my experience the fundamental difference between an assessment and that process and an appeal tribunal, is that at appeal they tend to consider how your disability actually affects your life.

    It really is an opportunity for you to tell them in your own words how things have changed.

    They consider you as a person and not (to quote from Dispatches*) 'a car undergoing it's MOT...a checklist and that reduces people down to a set of physical symptoms rather than a whole person'.

    It was interesting to note that that particular expert on Dispatches is the same Professor Stephan Bevan who - if memory serves - was one of the authors behind a report and publication which said how good working was for a person.

    This was of course adopted by the Government (Tories ;) ) entirely as meaning - 'everyone will benefit from work so regardless of their state of health, let's throw them off benefits and into the job centre'. Ideology - gods - this government is swimming in the stuff!
  4. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

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    Great to hear that your appeals went okay, but sorry to hear that you had to go through such a long process (and the financial problems that causes).

    I got in to an unhelpful discussion with the medical expert at one of my tribunals after he claimed that the majority of people with CFS who had CBT/GET recovered. I'm not good at deference. I've got another one coming up, but my condition has improved a bit, and I'm not really sure if I am eligible... an honest uncertainty which I do not think is going to go in my favour.

    I've also heard that the tribunals are very variable. Also, apparently they're 'retraining' a lot of the officials involved now, so I expect that things could get worse here.


    I just watched the BBC doc, and it seemed all right.

    Harrington seemed like such a funny example of a certain type of person that's found in the British establishment. I think that he thought he was being quite condemning of the current system, but has such an ingrained commitment to supporting the wishes of those in power and authority that he phrases everything in a way which is most helpful for them. No matter how bad things were, I don't think he'd be willing to describe them as 'disgusting' or 'abusive'. ie: He's the perfect sap for the government to get to do an 'independent' assessment.

    The above could just be my own prejudices, but he does give the impression of realising how morally repugnant the system is, yet not wanting to speak openly about it in a way which would lead to the rightful outrage of the public.

    Of course, Grayling should be made to suffer unspeakable horrors.

    Anyone know how to make a living wage working 4 hours a week from home? I'm thinking 'fraud' could be the answer.
    sianrecovery likes this.
  5. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    You know of course that Harrington is being replaced now (was in your article I think you posted). Personally I am not sure if I should be thanking him or hopeful that someone (more effective) will replace him or more concerned that whoever does replace him will cow-tow to the Tory ideal and things will get worse :aghhh:

    On the job front... no. Sorry :cry:
  6. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

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    I expect that they're going to get someone even more 'on message'. There are always 'experts' available who will tell people with money and power what they want to hear.
  7. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    Indeed. There's a collective noun for such people, or is it a verb? Just can't think what it might be... :D
  8. currer

    currer Senior Member

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    Even if you pass your medical assessment and get into the Work related activity group - your benefit will be means tested after a year. These changes are to means test disability benefits. None of the reports explain this. Is is because the reporters dont understand? Or is it all subtle propaganda?
  9. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    I heard a discussion on Radio 4 I think it must have been the other day (don't ask me when) that said something I hadn't heard before, and that was that the government are introducing and persisting with these changes so fast and hard, because they have pledged that Universal Credit will not result in anyone being worse off. So the argument ran that they'll knock your income down now, so they can stick to that pledge.

    I can't recall the specifics of what you refer to Currer. I know we established the facts of this on another forum and I'll try and dig it out if I can later. I think it applied to those on 'non-contributory' benefit and that they were then switched across to 'contributory' (or vice-versa). I'll have to triple-check before I go on...
  10. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

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    Fortunately my income is low enough that the means testing doesn't affect me... but it certainly is a big change, and one which is highly favourable to the insurance companies whose researchers helped guide these reforms.

    I really don't know much about the Universal Credit, or what that will mean.
  11. sianrecovery

    sianrecovery Senior Member

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    I caught the end of the Channel 4 one...with great sadness and no surprise I heard the assessors discuss how just having cancer and cancer treatment didnt cut the mustard - it had to be IV. One of my friends who had bowel cancer, surgery and radiation last year experienced this - when you cant pass a stool and you're in constant pain and nauseated, its always a surprise to be told you are fit for work. Words fail me.
    Enid likes this.
  12. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    Good article here in the Independent Blog: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012...ets-sickness-and-disability-are-not-the-same/ that talks about the two documentaries and the broader issues coming to light.

    '...There has been huge contention about whether Atos or HCP’s are incentivised to remove people from benefits. Whilst no evidence was presented that there are financial incentives, it was clear that HCP’s work under huge pressure to see a miniumum of eight claimants a day, regardless of the complexity of their needs and that should an HCP deviate from an ‘average’ number of people put into the support group, described in a training session as as low as 11 or 12%, they will be immediately audited.

    It was not mentioned whether HCP’s are audited for finding too many people fit for work, or for their treatment of claimants, but it would seem likely that if that does occur the targets that aren’t targets but averages are applied using a vastly different percentage level. Also, vitally the averages that aren’t targets but are called norms are applied in exactly the same manner to those initially claiming ESA as they are to those transferring from the old Incapacity Benefit.

    As approximately two thirds of people claiming IB are also entitled to Disability Living Allowance, which has much tighter standards of eligibility than IB, it is reasonable to suggest the IB transfer group already have a very different level of sickness and disability than the ‘normal’ population who are going straight to ESA with a more balanced mix of people. Some have short term conditions and need support for a period of time before returning to the work place.

    It seems utterly nonsensical to apply such tight norms with no variation to these two disparate groups. It is also utterly facile to repeatedly claim that there are no targets, when it is abundantly clear that by using a system of statistical norms the only two possibilities are that these norms are imposed as a de facto target by the Department of Work and Pensions upon Atos, or those tasked with setting up the system of norms were as equally ignorant of welfare, sickness and disability as David Freud, and additionally their own areas of expertise, not realising that norms based upon ‘forecasts’ will create a system of targets.

    Put simply it’s conspiracy or cock up; either Ministers and Atos are quite happy to justify to themselves that it is not a lie to repeatedly deny the existences of targets because they really aren’t targets, they are norms based on forecasts which definitely aren’t targets, or they are so spectacularly stupid that they can’t work out for themselves that targets that aren’t targets because they are norms based on forecasts create targets whether you intend them to or not. Neither scenario is inspiring of confidence in our politicians or Atos.

    By Kaliya Franklin'
    alex3619 and Wonko like this.
  13. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    Sorry it took a while.

    If you are on Contributions-based ESA then you will need to swap to Income-based after a year. Yes Income-based is means-tested or dependent on your level of income.

    People should be informed in advance of benefit ceasing, but may need to complete an additional form.

    I found a link here from AFME: http://www.actionforme.org.uk/get-i...gns/important-changes-to-esa-welfare-payments
  14. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    British Medical Journal: The disturbing truth about disability assessments free article 8 August 2012 follows the two programmes above: http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e5347.full?ijkey=hCXfT1z84M6BopW&keytype=ref

    'Two recent television programmes made public what doctors and patients already know: fitness to work assessments being conducted in the UK by the private firm Atos are unfit for purpose and damaging. Why are doctors involved in this farce, asks Margaret McCartney'
    Enid, Simon and Sasha like this.
  15. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    Glad to see that in the BMJ, Firestormm.
    Firestormm likes this.
  16. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    It's a great article Sasha isn't it? You can comment with a Rapid Response. Not sure if this made the paper version or not but it's good to see that the programmes are seen as endorsing what I seem to recall was a vote made my doctors at one of their conferences of no faith in the system of assessment. Not sure if anything will come of this though. It should help but it will still need someone in Government to do something about it. Maybe Sonia Paulton can publicise the article and the lack of confidence being expressed by doctors. It might go some way to get the message out there. Of course Harrington has been stood down now and I'm not sure if this is a good development really. Depends I suppose on who replaces him.
  17. Simon

    Simon

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    A few key quotes from that BMJ Review:

    My favourite, though, is this:
    Exactly. ATOS made up a computer-based system for evaluating fitness for work without any evidence is does that accurately and reliably. The DWP assumes the system is 'right' and it is for others to show it is wrong. Neither of <alcolm Harrington's reviews published to date even look at the question of whether nor not the scoring system at the heart of ATOS's assessment is fair.
  18. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    Two arms, two legs, a head, go away, you are fine.
  19. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    According to the documentary, although you need a head, you don't need both arms or both legs to work (I'm not kidding, it was made explicit).
    taniaaust1 likes this.
  20. currer

    currer Senior Member

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    http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/esa-time-limit-wr2011-ia-revised-apr2011.pdf

    This interesting document shows the DWP working out who will be worse off once ESA is implimented.
    Make no mistake, they know how much money they will save.

    3. From the claimant’s perspective, most contributory ESA claimants in the WRAG will see a reduction in their benefit / net income when they pass the 12 month claim duration time limit.

    Time limit Contributory Employment and Support Allowance to one year for those in the Work-Related Activity Group

    Impact Assessment (IA)

    What is the problem under consideration? Why is government intervention necessary?
    Expenditure on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and other incapacity benefits is forecast to be £11bn per year by 2014/15. People can presently qualify for years of benefit up to state pension age on the basis of a small amount of National Insurance paid. It was never intended that ESA for those in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) should be paid for an unlimited period to people who, by definition, are expected to move towards the workplace with help and support. Government intervention is required to help ensure that ESA is paid for a temporary period for those placed in the WRAG, thereby encouraging a return to work and stopping people being trapped on benefits for a lifetime.
    Simon likes this.

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