Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

MPs Attack ATOS: DWP and Government to Blame.

with 17 comments

The BBC today,

MPs have criticised the test being used to see whether people claiming disability benefits are fit to work.

The Public Accounts Committee said the Work Capability Assessment had resulted in too many wrong decisions which were overturned on appeal.

Its chair Margaret Hodge accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of being “unduly complacent” and of hurting the “most vulnerable”.

This is relevant to us all.

The committee found 38% of appeals against the DWP’s decisions had been successful.

Ms Hodge, a Labour MP, accused the government of “poor decision-making”, which was “damaging public confidence” in the system.

Although Atos has faced criticism, “most of the problems lie firmly within the Department for Work and Pensions“, she said.

“The department’s view that appeals against decisions are an inherent part of the process is unduly complacent,” she said.

“The work capability assessment 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.”

Although the department had “started to improve”, she said, claimants “too often” found the assessment process so stressful that their health deteriorated.

“A key problem is that the department has been unable to create a competitive market for medical assessment providers, leaving Atos in the position of being a near monopoly supplier,” she said.

“The department is too often just accepting what Atos tells it. It seems reluctant to challenge the contractor. It has failed to withhold payment for poor performance and rarely checked that it is being correctly charged.”

Not surprisingly the Guardian is more forthright,

The government should accept much of the blame for distressing and expensive fitness-to-work tests that have caused “misery and hardship” to thousands of benefit claimants, according to a report by MPs released on Friday.

The public accounts committee said there had been much criticism of Atos, the firm contracted to conduct so-called work capability assessments (WCA), but it warned that most of the problems lay with the Department for Work and Pensions.

The tests on claimants were introduced in 2008 to assess entitlement to employment and support allowance. Atos was paid £112.4m to carry out 738,000 assessments in 2011-12.

The MPs’ report said: “The Work Capability Assessment process is designed to support a fair and objective decision by the department about whether a claimant is fit for work, but in far too many cases the department is getting these decisions wrong at considerable cost to both the taxpayer and the claimant.

“The department’s decisions were overturned in 38% of appeals, casting doubt on the accuracy of its decision-making.

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

“We found the department to be unduly complacent about the number of decisions upheld by the tribunal and believe that the department should ensure that its processes are delivering accurate decision-making and minimising distress to claimants,” the report said.

Charities have expressed anger at the number of people with long-term, incurable conditions who are being forced on repeated occasions to prove that they are not able to work, despite supplying medical evidence that indicates that their condition is permanent and will not improve.

Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee, said the DWP was getting “far too many” decisions wrong on claimants’ ability to work.

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

“The department is too often just accepting what Atos tells it. It seems reluctant to challenge the contractor,” she said.

“It has failed to withhold payment for poor performance and rarely checked that it is being correctly charged. The department also cannot explain how the profits being made by Atos reflect the limited risk that it bears.

“There needs to be a substantial shake-up in how the department manages this contract and in its processes for improving the quality of decision-making,” she added.

The committee said the DWP’s evidence during its hearings was not always consistent with views of other witnesses, with different interpretations of statistics.

The MPs said they could not arrive at a clear conclusion about whether performance was improving and recommended that the National Audit Office should provide up-to-date data on the department.

This not all we could say.

With Sanctions, the Bedroom Tax, and us having to pay steep Council Tax bills even when we’re on the Dole, the Government is hell-bent on creating a lot of “misery and hardship”.

To cap it all the Void reports on those on benefits facing destitution or emergencies will no longer be able to get full automatic help from the ‘localised’ Social Fund


Written by Andrew Coates

February 8, 2013 at 10:17 am

17 Responses

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  1. The government don’t care long as they ok and in April they will be they gave them selfs a tax cut what happened to we all in it together only people in it together is the sick the disabled and jas claimants what about them paying there own expense like every other WORKING TAX PAYER HAS TO THEY GET NO HELP OFF TAX PAYING SYSTEM DO THEY IE FARES TAKING SECRETARY TO LUNCH SECOND HOME LOT OF PEOPLE WHO COMMUTE TO LONDON FOR WORK DON’T GET IT CUT THERE WAGE IT’S TAKING THE PISS THERE WAGE AIN’T IN LINE WITH REST OF US IS IT

    wayne green

    February 8, 2013 at 10:44 am

  2. Here is yet another sickening setback for ATOS victims – as if the existing quagmire of complex rules and endless procedures is not nasty enough already:



    February 8, 2013 at 6:33 pm

  3. ———-STOP PRESS———-

    Verdict on Government’s “Back to Work” schemes will be handed down on Tuesday 12 February 2013 at 10 am at the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand.


    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 9, 2013 at 11:49 am

    • Court of Appeal Rules that the Government’s “Back to Work” Regulations are Unlawful and Must Be Quashed


      In a unanimous decision, three judges from the Court of Appeal have today ruled that the Regulations[1] under which most of the Government’s “Back to Work” schemes have been created are unlawful and must be quashed. The ruling is a huge setback for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) whose flagship reforms have been beset with problems since their inception.

      The effect of the judgment is that all those people who have been sanctioned by having their jobseeker’s allowance withdrawn for non-compliance with the Back to Work Schemes affected will be entitled to reclaim their benefits. And until new regulations are enacted with proper Parliamentary approval nobody can be compelled to participate on the schemes.

      The Government initially indicated that it would seek a stay of the order quashing the Regulations “because of the ramifications of the decision.” The Government’s Counsel[2] submitted that the effect of the decision would be immediate: “the original requirement imposed on claimants such as Mr Wilson that they participate in a programme would be unlawful and they could not be required to participate further.” People would be free to leave placements if they did not wish to continue with them, and all sanctions currently imposed would have to be immediately brought to an end.

      However, after objections from the Claimants, the Government today abandoned their request for a stay of the quashing order which means that the judgment takes immediate effect.

      The case was brought by our clients Cait Reilly, who was made to stack shelves in Poundland for two weeks, and Jamie Wilson, who was stripped of his Jobseeker’s allowance for 6 months after refusing to participate in a scheme[3] which required him to work 30 hours a week for six months for free.

      In a carefully reasoned judgment the Court found that the Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, has acted beyond the powers given to him by Parliament[4] by failing to provide, any detail about the various “Back to Work” schemes in the Regulations. The Government had bypassed Parliament by introducing the Back to Work schemes administratively under an “umbrella” scheme knwons as the Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme, claiming the need for “flexibility’. The Court of Appeal held that this was contrary to what Parliament had required. Stanley Burnton LJ stated:

      “any scheme must be such as has been authorised by Parliament. There is a constitutional issue involved. The loss of jobseekers’ allowance may result in considerable personal hardship, and it is not surprising that Parliament should have been careful in making provision for the circumstances in which the sanction may be imposed. There are well known legislative formulae for conferring complete flexibility of decision on a Minister.” (at [75])

      The result is that over the past two years the Government has unlawfully required tens of thousands of unemployed people to work without pay and unlawfully stripped thousands more of their subsistence benefits.

      The case has revealed the chaos and confusion at the heart of the DWP who have set up a web of schemes and sanctions so complex that their own jobcentre advisers are failing to implement them correctly. It has shown that the basic requirements of fairness dictated by Parliament, such as providing people with a clear explanation of what they are being asked to do, why they are being asked to do it and what the consequences are if they fail to do it, have not been complied with by the DWP.

      What Next?

      Tessa Gregory, solicitor, Public Interest Lawyers states:

      “Today’s judgment sends Iain Duncan Smith back to the drawing board to make fresh Regulations which are fair and comply with the Court’s ruling. Until that time nobody can be lawfully forced to participate in schemes affected such as the Work Programme and the Community Action Programme. All of those who have been stripped of their benefits have a right to claim the money back that has been unlawfully taken away from them from the DWP.

      The case has revealed that the Department of Work and Pensions was going behind Parliament’s back and failing to obtain Parliamentary approval for the various mandatory work schemes that it was introducing. It also reveals a lack of transparency and fairness in the implementation of these schemes. The Claimants had no information about what could be required of them under the back to work schemes. The Court of Appeal has affirmed the basic constitutional principle that everyone has a right to know and understand why sanctions are being the threatened and imposed against them”

      Jamie Wilson

      “I am really pleased that the Court has found in our favour. I refused to participate in the Community Action Programme (CAP) because I objected to being made to clean furniture for 30 hours a week for 6 months when I knew it wouldn’t help me find employment. I was given next to no information about the programme, I was told simply that I had to do whatever the DWP’s private contractor instructed me to do and that if I didn’t I may lose my benefits. Being without jobseeker’s allowance was very difficult for me but I don’t regret taking a stand as the CAP is a poorly thought out and poorly implemented scheme which even according to the DWP’s own statistics is not helping anyone get people back to work.

      I am now participating in the Work Programme but it doesn’t involve me working for free, I have to meet an advisor every 3 to 4 weeks who helps me look for work. I will continue to attend these sessions with my adviser regardless of whether or not I am required to attend because I want to find a job and the sessions are very helpful.”

      Cait Reilly

      I am delighted with today’s judgment. I brought this case because I knew it was wrong when I was prevented from doing my voluntary work in a museum and forced to work in Poundland for free for two weeks as part of a scheme known as the sector based work academy. Those two weeks were a complete waste of my time as the experience did not help me get a job, I wasn’t given any training and I was left with no time to do my voluntary work or search for other jobs. The only beneficiary was Poundland, a multi-million pound company. Later I found out that I should never have been told the placement was compulsory.

      I don’t think I am above working in shops like Poundland, I now work part time at the in a supermarket, it’s just that I expect to get paid for working. I hope the Government will now take this opportunity to rethink its strategy and do something which actually builds on young unemployed peoples’ skills and tackles the causes of long-term unemployment. I agree we need to get people back to work but the best way of doing that is by helping them, not punishing them. The Government ought to understand that if they created schemes which actually helped people get back into work then they wouldn’t need to force people to attend.”

      Obi Wan Kenobi

      February 12, 2013 at 3:01 pm

  4. 2 other things wrong with ‘Atos Healthcare’
    It’s not about health or care; and it doesn’t care about anyone else. How they can be seen as a healthcare company is crazy! The medical assessment is no such thing (not medical, not by proper doctors, not an assessment). And they frequently lie and put the exact opposite information down.

    something survived...

    February 9, 2013 at 8:19 pm

  5. I dont understand why as theyve been over turned that the individuals dont get together and sue DWP as then their sit up and take notice wont they. You could do the same with sanctions and lets not forget these hidden troublemaker reports as im sure most could make for excellent defamation cases.

    DWP/JCP are so thick and so full of themselves they wouldnt know what hit them and would soon learn theirs easier ways to get money than signing on every two weeks.

    Another one is their lack of approach to the DPA which i constantly see breached,especially by the governments contractors let alone them.

    Lets not waste anymore time talking and protesting,lets hit um where it hurts as even without going to court if done right would make them to affraid to suggest anything let alone keep threatening those who bear no responsibility for this global crysis.


    February 11, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    • ”Gaia”. I think a few years ago now, Somebody suggested within the then DSS as it was, that there should be ”Health Advisers” within GP practices. If you were on benefits you would see your GP then the adviser if you were going on the sick. Do you or anybody else remeber this. I think it got put on the back burner when ATOS came on the scene.
      Does anybody else remember this ?

      Can't Remember

      February 12, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      • Yes I Commented Recently On This Too. It would be something like this. If it were routine for normal repeat script or BP check etc you’d see the nurse. If you saw the Dr and he thought you’d need time off, you’d see the Atos/Jcp staff for second opinion before the Dr could issue a certificate, Jcp staff would then have done The incapacity benefit/esa interview at the surgery


        October 8, 2013 at 5:29 am

  6. One things for sure, IDS and Hoban will be getting a right roasting from Cameron and they will now both be hauled in front of the work and pensions committee, both will be sacked for this as they have exceed their powers and gone behind the back of parliament.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    February 12, 2013 at 3:30 pm

  7. New Labour are only doing this to gain votes at the next election (if there is to be another election, events may overtake that one ?), New Labour don’t care about the the sick, disabled or unemployed!!!, they care only for their own self enrichment, the Tories don’t care if they win or lose the next election, things will go the same for them whatever the outcome of the next election, the rich can’t lose. We need a new system, we ain’t going to get that, the powers that be will make sure of that, one way or another…


    February 16, 2013 at 12:13 am

    • New Labour are a crock of shite! Fuck ’em!


      February 16, 2013 at 1:39 am

      • They quite happy to pay attos thousands with no checks yet they moaning paying you your pittance don’t make financal sence dose it and labour and lib dems be no different they all say we will do dis and when get in do other its PISS take what we need to do is reduce size government and lords and cut the bill that we paying to keep these lot in luxury and where are we all in it together we get a freeze at one percent they get ten percent VOTE EM OUT PEOPLE THOSE WHO UNEMPLOYED AND DON’T GET UP OFF THERE ARSES TO VOTE DON’T MOAN YOU HAVE GOT TO MAKE THE DIFFERENCE WHEN TIME COMES VOTE THESE MILLIONAIRES OUT THE VOTES IN YOUR HANDS PEOPLE THERE’S AT LEAST 3 MILLION OF US THAT ARE UNEMPLOYED LET’S USE OUR VOTE AND HAVE THEM GREEDY TORY BARSTARDS OUT ONCE AND FOR ALL


        February 16, 2013 at 9:32 am

  8. Mr Green, I think I heard somewhere, that there are plans to make turning out to vote compulsory [without good cause not too] The reason is that if the turn out is low. The votes still count.

    Oswald Cobblepot

    February 16, 2013 at 9:38 am

  9. “Incapacity Benefit” is NOT a benefit, it is an insurance payout, a person paid national insurance (insurance premiums) over many years to cover for such an event as becoming too ill to work. How did the word “Benefit” become associated with a persons Incapacity payment!!!. I think the FSA should look into this matter, it is also (to me) a clear case of false representation by successive governments, as I was NEVER at any point told I would have to undergo a WCA if I ever came to claim my insurance payout, if I had been I could have made private arrangements to cover myself in the unfortunated event of becoming too ill to work, too late to do that now!!!.


    February 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm

  10. hello,
    I think you can suw the Dwp and atos along with your gp for Loss and injury.Lets see how they feel when the boot is on the other foot.

    Mark Wouters

    December 18, 2013 at 5:08 pm

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