Atos Healthcare carries out disability assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). If you are claiming benefits as a result of a disability or injury, you may be required by the DWP to have an assessment with a qualified health care professional as part of your claim process. Atos Healthcare conducts disability assessments, using criteria set out by government, and provides the DWP with independent advice which is used by a DWP Decision Maker, along with any other information they have received, to decide on your entitlement to benefit.
There is no reason to suppose that a large number of disabled people are faking it. The DWP’s figures give a preliminary estimate for 2011/12 of benefits overpayment through fraud and error at 2%, but wait: 0.8% is customer error, 0.5% is DWP error. Only 0.7% of claimants are fraudulent. The Guardian
It is very clear that Atos assessors require no mental health training and has no specific test for the mentally ill.
My Own Experience Of Atos
Many of you know me online, you know I have a mental illness and I personally have been effected by Atos and the job centre. I was called into an assessment over my capability to work and after a series of questions, that did not relate to my illness at all, I was deemed fit to work. My benefit was stopped.
My mental health team were astonished. I appealed. It took 9 months before my appeal was heard. The appeal was horrendous and I was made to feel like a criminal once again. Sat on one side of the table while 3 professions quizzed me. I won my appeal. Now that all sounds like a bit of a headache and thankfully there was happy outcome right? Wrong.
During this time I was made to feel like a criminal, questioned by someone not trained in mental health. I was suffering from psychosis and was manic at this time. I was placed in a waiting room for over 45 minutes until the assessor was ready to interview me. Even the poor receptionist noticed “something” and gave me a glass of water.
I suffered sleepless nights and self harmed to get me through the period leading up to the assessment and the appeal. Never was I offered to be interviewed over the phone. A taxi had to be arranged to escort me there and back due to the extreme paranoia and anxiety I suffer yet I was deemed fit to word. I even had to spell out the word Psychosis to her.
I was fit an able for work, that was until my psychiatrist asked how the assessment had gone it was he who arranged for me to appeal. I would not have personally been able to arrange all this alone. I was barely able to recite my own name.
The process damaged me. Made me feel even more useless and worthless. I was terrified of loosing my benefit money as my husband was not working due to my illness. We both had a career before I came ill, he had to leave work to care for me.
I can not be left alone, some days are better than others. I can go days, weeks and manage. But I can’t be left alone for long periods, if I go to the GP, the supermarket, even put the bin out it is a huge issue to me.
I have developed an addiction to prescribed medication that helps with my anxiety, yet its not helping enough for me to not feel so afraid to be alone some days.
Having to explain your deepest feelings and fears to a complete stranger and not only a stranger but someone who has no training in mental illness. Who looks twice at you or you see their mouth drop in shock or fear at what you are telling them, leaves you feeling aliened and you feel ashamed to be who you are.
I understand getting people back into work, I don’t understand pushing vulnerable people to the brink of suicide.
Tony Smith, spokesman for UK Uncut, pointed out: “Atos are doing the government’s dirty work.”
The appeals process costs the government another £50m
40% of people have appealed the decision, and 38% of those were successful.
On Tuesday 18th December, disabled and sick people, people with learning and mental health difficulties, their families and carers launched a petition calling for an end to the War on Welfare being waged by their own government. In order to resist the government’s cruel and failing welfare policies, sick and disabled people, together with their carers, families and friends, have combined using social media to produce the #WOWpetition.
I urge you to sign the Wow Petition today