The technical report from Mapeley following the incident on 24 Nov 2011 has still not been made available to HMRC or the H&S committee. It was noted that the report is essential in order to detail the causes of the failures and what remedial action has been taken.
PCS stated that the report must exist and without sight of such a report, we could not be confident that the H&S committee are in possession of all the facts which led to the failures on 24/11/11. While management continue to pursue the report, PCS will be considering further means of obtaining it and also pursuing concerns with the Local Authority who may be in possession of all the facts regarding the failures. A Freedom Of Information (FOI) request may be made as although Mapeley are not ordinarily covered by FOI as they are a private company, in this situation it is believed they are as they are acting in the public interest.
PCS are to seek legal advice on the issue of ATOS consent forms. Currently ATOS send the medical form direct to the manager which is contrary to the General Medical Advice ruling which states that the individual should receive the report first.
DMB Field Force (FF) Agents
PCS argued that the generic Risk Assessments FF agents are asked to complete once a week and which the managers sign off are inadequate as they do not allow for certain controls to help agents who have specific concerns. For example, agents are asked to take responsibility in confirming they are in a safe area even when they have no knowledge of the area or the tax payer. At times agents are turning up to addresses and are getting an aggressive response. PCS noted that the agents cannot make an informed decision on the calls they make as there is no back ground knowledge and as a result, agents have no confidence in the Risk Assessment form. PCS also noted they have previously sent recommended control measures for inclusion in the Risk Assessment but these have been rejected by Senior management. It was also noted that in SME, penalty notices are being issues with a 30 day turnaround and with the limited training given, further potential conflict may arise.
OS stated that the Risk Assessment can be customised and cases are not issued where there is a history of abuse. If there is a history of abuse, it is in the forefront of the screen and flashes up in big letters. OS added that come January agents will have full access to the information as the department is refreshing the all the systems and the agents will be able to view the information for themselves. The new IT equipment will also be easier to carry.
OS said that if the agent has any concerns they should be included in the Risk Assessment and a process of education in how to complete the Risk Assessment has to be encouraged. OS said they are happy to investigate any cases PCS bring forward.
The meeting agreed to look into how Mapeley deal with priority calls, time scales and how they determine what questions are asked.
H&S negotiating structures
A review is taking place on who comes to H&S meetings and it was agreed that somebody of a sufficient higher grade should attend. It was accepted that if there is a specific area that needs to be addressed then a senior manager from the relevant business stream should attend. It was also recognised that there is a H&S statutory duty for a senior responsible officer to negotiate with the H&S committee.
HRACC1 (accident at work reports) reports
It was agreed that accident reports will become a standing item on the agenda to identify trends.
Stress Tools Survey
It was noted that the Stress Tools Survey, although a HMRC initiative, had not been put into practice and that the facilitators need to be trained up.
Any question or comments, please e-mail a member of the building H&S committee, details of the committee are held on the notice boards on each floor.
Some film of the Closing Atos Ceremony, organised by UK Uncut and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) to round off a week of protest at Atos’s involvement in the government’s disability benefit assessments and their sponsorship of the Paralympic Games.
Several hundred people joined the ceremony outside Atos’s UK head office in Triton Square for a bit of music and street theatre before a group headed off to protest outside the DWP’s head office in Westminster.
A few branch members joined the ceremony in Triton Square and many more are now aware of the issues surrounding Atos and the effect the assessments they carry out for the DWP are having on disabled people.
- Over 1,000 people have died after being declared fit for work by Atos,
- 40% of appeals against Atos decisions are upheld, rising to 70% with representation,
- More than 30 suicides have been attributed to Atos decisions,
See our video of the London Vigil for the stories of some of those who have died: Video: Atos Games – London vigil in Triton Square 29th August 2012
For more information about Atos and the campaign to support disabled people visit the Disabled People Against Cuts website: http://www.dpac.uk.net/
You can read PCS’s Welfare – An Alternative Vision here: Welfare Reform
On Wednesday 29th August 2012, the day of the Paralympic Games opening ceremony, disability rights campaigners came together at Atos’s UK head office in Triton Square, London. They held a memorial service for those who have died as a result of the disability benefit assessments Atos carry out on behalf of the government. As part of the ceremony a coffin was laid at the doors of the Atos office containing messages from campaigners and remembering those who have died.
It was a moving ceremony, part of the Atos Games Week to raise awareness of the harm the assessments are doing to disabled people and the hypocrisy of Atos’s sponsorship of the Paralympic Games.
At over twenty minutes this is a long video but it was important to keep the stories of the Atos’s victims, both out of respect and because their stories need to be heard.
When ATOS took over HMRC’s Occupational Health (OH) contract back in February many members were concerned. We knew that ATOS had a pretty shoddy reputation for delivering the government’s disability benefit assessments, causing stress for millions of already vulnerable people and, in some cases, contributing to suicides. While it remains unlikely that HMRC invited ATOS over the threshold to accelerate ‘natural wastage’ in quite such an extreme fashion there are parallels.
ATOS’s assessments for disability benefits are largely based around trying to get people off benefits to support an arbitrary £20bn cut to the welfare bill. This is partly done by shunning expert advice from GPs and specialists in favour of a box-ticking computer program used during the most cursory of assessments.
Given the telephone-only nature of ATOS’s HMRC Occupational Health referrals and their noteable reluctance to allow union representation during those referrals it could be reasonable to assume that they have been drafted in by HMRC to contribute to the removal of 10,000 staff (the result of 25% budget cuts, another arbitrary number) rather than to help those who are ill.
ATOS are a private company who exist to make shareholders and directors richer. They do this partly by providing very limited training, partly by attacking staff’s wages (hence the recently suspended industrial action by PCS members working for ATOS) and, as with so many companies of their ilk, by paying as little tax in the UK as possible.
Yep, HMRC, who exist to collect the UK’s tax, have given the occupational health contract to yet another tax avoiding multi-national company.
On top of this, in what can only be the work of a satirical genius, ATOS are a partner of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Contracted by the government to help ensure as few disabled people as possible are judged eligible for benefits, ATOS are a partner of the very games where many of those disabled people are competing.
You have to feel a little sorry for ATOS. On the one hand they’re paid by the government to reduce the deficit by reducing the benefit bill while on the other they’re paid by the government to help reduce the amount of tax collectors who help reduce the deficit. It must be very confusing for them.
If you’re an HMRC employee who’d like a public sector alternative to ATOS for our occupational health please sign the Euston Tower Branch petition: http://is.gd/hmrcatosalternative
Everybody else, take part in next week’s Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) Atos Games Week (DPAC site.)
Join us when we join UK Uncut and DPAC next Friday for the Closing Atos Ceremony (UK Uncut site.)
Today staff in Euston Tower, and presumably across the Regent’s Place estate (where our gloriously sixties lump of a workplace is located) received an email from estate management. It was an unsettling email. Apparently Regent’s Place Management have uncovered a plot by a clandestine group, known only as Disabled People Against Cuts, to ‘demonstrate during the week of 27th to 31st August’. How do we know they’re a clandestine group?
“Our information indicates that their focus will be towards the end of the week,”
Their information indicates? Clearly this is from a deep cover source who’s very life is in danger for smuggling out this information. But that’s not all. It turns out that there is another group involved:
“current intelligence suggesting that UK Uncut will be involved on Friday 31 August.”
Current intelligence? UK Uncut? Exactly how deep is their source’s cover? How difficult was it to obtain this ‘current intelligence’? Here are a few possibilities:
Our Atos Games #dpac (Disabled People Against Cuts 01/08/2012)
Press release: DPAC and UK Uncut team up to target Paralympics sponsor Atos (UK Uncut 14/08/2012)
Disabled activists plan Olympic protest (Politics.co.uk 02/08/2012 )
Event: DPAC & UK Uncut – The Closing Atos Ceremony (that’s us 15/08/2012)
So this ‘current intelligence’ has been publicly available, and publicly promoted, for three weeks.
The email goes on to say:
“We have met with the Metropolitan Police and are in regular communication to ascertain further information and updates regarding these demonstrations.”
It would be wrong to accuse Regent’s Estate Management of scaremongering. Maybe all of their emails are written in a similar tone,
“Our operatives have uncovered a plot to trim the trees in Triton Square from next week. We are working with tree surgeons to ensure that the only branches trimmed will be from the left.”
We should thank Regent’s Place Management for their histrionic tone. It led to a lot of questions from members, questions which we were more than happy to answer.
We knocked up a flyer based on a UK Uncut email for DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) about the action on Friday 31st. Download it here, print a few off and spread the word: ATOS-UkUncut-DPAC-31082012 (.pdf)
£100 million of our tax money is given to Atos every year to assess disability benefit claimants, many of who are found fit for work despite long standing serious disabilities and illnesses, in some cases terminal. All of this is to assist the government’s desire to cut 20% from the welfare bill, despite their own estimate that only 0.4% of incapacity benefit claims are fraudulent, their own policies increasing the cost of welfare by forcing more people in to unemployment or low paid, part time jobs and the estimated £120bn tax which goes uncollected each year.
There are many reasons to be concerned about ATOS’s involvement. They are a private company who’s primary motivation is profit, not service. They also have a terrible record in providing assessments for disabled benefit claimants.
This is a company which has been known to hold assessments for disabled people in buildings with no disabled access (Norwich Evening News, 23rd March 2012).
This petition calls on HMRC to provide a public-sector alternative occupational health provider. If you are an HMRC employee who would rather avoid having to use ATOS for occupational health please sign and share the petition.
Your name will be submitted with the petition, which will also be passed on to PCS R&C Group Office, but will not be published publically or passed on to any other organisation.
Provide an alternative to ATOS for HMRC's Occupational Health
Read the petition
As part of the ongoing campaign against ATOS another protest was held on Friday 3rd February outside the ATOS office in Triton Square, London.
The protest was called to show solidarity with the Nottingham Two, campaigners who were arrested last year. You can read more about them on the Benefit Claimants Fight Back site:
Anna Owens and Dave Plummer from PCS R&C Euston Branch joined the protest and this is film of some of the speakers. Unfortunately we couldn’t stick around long but Dave Skull, of South London Mad Pride, gave a speech which makes the points against ATOS, and the wider Government and mainstream media campaign against benefit claimants, brilliantly.
The motion mentioned in the video will be one of many debated our branch Annual Gneral Meeting on 22nd February.
When the branch weren’t fighting for pensions we were involved in many other things, including campaigning with Camden United Against Cuts, supporting disabled people in their fight against ATOS and putting on another fantastic Learning at Work Day.
The year has seen attacks on private sector workers too, including the Bombardier workers who faced redundancy after seeing major contracts for British trains lost. The video below, including an interview with Bob Crow, was produced when Bombardier workers came to London to lobby Parliament.
The rise of the far right is stuttering, thanks partly to the campaigning of trade unions and groups like Hope Not Hate and Unite Against Fascism, both of which PCS support. However, as the cuts continue to bite the scapegoating is likely to continue and for every fallen BNP or fractured EDL a new far right group is waiting in the wings to use the recession as an excuse for xenophobia, racism, homophobia, mysoginy and to attack those who rely on benefits.
New forms of protest have appeared thanks to, among others, UK Uncut, the Occupy movement and a new generation of student activists. From 26th March through to 30th November this has been a year of remarkable activity and remarkable people.
[ultimate_free 2 /]
This article is reposted from Benefit Claimants Fight Back 13/11/2011
December 1 – December 31 2011
Join us in December for a month of protests, actions and demonstrations against poverty pimps Atos and the condem government’s Welfare Reform Bill.
With thousands to face homelessness in the New Year due to housing benefit cuts, the harassment and further impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of disabled people due to punitive ‘assessments’, the continued persecution of people on sickness benefits, soaring unemployment and forced labour in the name of Workfare, a truly Victorian Christmas is on the cards for millions of us.
Whilst Atos CEO and disability denier Keith Wilman tucks into his organic Christmas turkey or multi-millionaire poverty pimp Emma Harrison of A4e hangs tinsel in her tax payer funded stately home, millions of disabled, low paid, unemployed or sick people are facing a future of poverty, worsening health and homelessness.
Parents will be spending Christmas terrified that the new demands of conditionally for benefits, such as forcing single mothers into workfare schemes, will leave them unable to properly care for their children. People will life threatening conditions or mental health problems will be terrified that their upcoming Atos assessment, notoriously flawed as it is, will further strip them of vital and life saving benefits. Tens of thousands of low waged families are about to be socially cleansed from city centres due to housing benefit cuts whilst unemployed people face the prospect of being forced to work full time and still survive on just a few pounds a day.
The Welfare Reform Bill will see millions of disabled people forced into a similar, if not identical, testing regime for the new Personal Independence Payment that has tragically led to suicides amongst people already forced to undertake Atos’ Work Capability Assessments
For the last year disabled people, claimant activists and supporters have been protesting against the inhumane treatment being inflicted on already vulnerable people. Scores of protests have been held outside (and sometimes inside) the offices of Atos ‘Healthcare’, the largest ever march of disabled people and supporters has taken place, protests have been held outside the Daily Mail, A4e offices and other workfare providers and online activity about benefit issues has exploded.
Still the Tory Government pushes ahead, with their Lib Dem lap dogs never far ahead. We need more than ever to increase the pressure and fight these attacks on our most basic needs and very survival. Organise and help spread the word now, please list all local actions, protests below and we will do our best to help promote and support all events as well as list them here.
Alternatively why not gather up your friends and turn up to spread seasonal cheer at your local Atos unannounced and then tell us about it afterwards. Everyone loves a surprise guest at Christmas!
We will not stop until they kill us.
A list of Atos corporate offices can be found at: http://uk.atos.net/en-uk/a bout_us/locations/
A PDF of all Atos Assessment Centres is available at: http://www.atoshealthcare.com/UserFiles/File/fact-sheets/2011/Assessment%20Centre%20Location%20List_July%202011.pdf
1st December – 5.30pm-6.30pm
LSE Campus, Aldwych
Protest at Iain Duncan Smith’s LSE Talk. Millionaire Iain Duncan Smith wants you to join his army of unpaid workers. Come and expose his doublespeak!
3rd December – 2pm
Olympic Park, Stratford
Protest Against Atos Outside the Paralympic Test Event!
16th December – 2pm
Triton Square, London NW1
A Real Victorian Christmas Party and Picnic at Triton Square
Online (more to come)
Sign the petition against benefit cuts: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968
Just when you thought the Coalition Government couldn’t get any worse they have gone and surpassed themselves. According to the New Statesman the Coalition is considering suspending the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) of disabled people who appeal against their Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
There are several things wrong with this proposal:
- The Employment and Support Allowance, replacing Incapacity Benefit, is supposed to support disabled people who can’t, or are trying to find their way back in to, work. Suspending it would only increase the likelihood of people’s illnesses becoming worse.
- The threat of ESA being suspended would make many people decide not to appeal against a Work Capability Assessment, and make life very difficult for those who do.
- Many people are already too scared, intimidated or just incapable of appealing. Of those who do, 40% of appeals are upheld. By dissuading people from appealing the Government risks forcing even more people in to work they are not capable of doing.
- Unemployment is currently running at record levels. The last thing the labour market needs is even more people being forced in to work, reducing employment opportunities for others.
- If people did choose to appeal a tremendous strain could be put on carers, many of who will be family members.
- The Work Capability Assessment test is inflicted on disabled people by ATOS, a private company which has a financial incentive in finding people fit for work. The test is already known to be flawed, as the 40% success rate of appeals attests. Coercing people to not appeal might make the figures look better but will do nothing to address the fundamental problems with the testing process, leaving many more people at risk of being inaccurately judged fit for work.
It’s hard to see this as anything other than an attempt to reduce appeals, their associated costs and to force disabled people in to work. All of this is just a continuation of the Government’s attack on the most vulnerable, an attack the media are all too happy to perpetuate. It should be remembered that benefit fraud amounts to just £1.6 billion annually, far exceeded by the £6 billion goes unclaimed every year and dwarfed by the estimated £120 billion that we lose through the tax gap.
99.5% of sickness benefit claims are genuine.
Actions To Take
You can write to your MP about this issue through writetothem.com. If you do write to your mp please let us know what, if any, response you received (email@example.com)
You could also raise this with your branch committee and write a branch motion, statement etc.
Raise the issue with colleagues and ask them to get involved. This proposal is still in its very earliest stages and we can stop it if enough of us act quickly enough.
Judged Fit to Work? You Could Lose Your Benefits If You Appeal, New Statesman, 14/10/2011
The PCS ‘Welfare: An Alternative Vision’ Booklet (PCS site)
This article was originally published on Steven Sumpter’s ‘Tentacles of Doom’ blog, republished here with his kind permission. Please share far and wide to help combat the myths and scapegoating by the Government and media.
The headlines today are screaming that a mere 7% of ESA claimants aren’t fit for work. The Daily Mail says that “Benefits Britain marches on: Just one in 14 disability handout applicants are too ill to work“ while the BBC claim “Tests claim few benefit claimants unfit to work“ These figures are grossly misleading. These actually come from a Department of Work and Pensions press release, 26 July 2011 – Work Programme provides tailored support as latest figures show people are being found fit for work. Those news stories haven’t actually mislead about the contents of the press release too much, the propaganda comes from the DWP. The Express, on the other hand, has gone for “Sick benefits: 75% are faking” which is just an outright lie.
Lets start with the figures from the DWP.
For all new ESA claims from 27th October 2008 to 30th November 2010, the result of the initial WCA is as follows
- Support Group – 7%
- Work Related Activity Group – 17%
- Fit for Work – 39%
- Claim closed before assessment complete – 36%
- Assessment still in progress – 1%
These figures are true, but lie by omission. First of all, the figures given are for ALL that start a claim for ESA. As stated, 36% of people that start a claim drop out before they even get to their Work Capability Assessment. Some of these people will drop out because they perhaps shouldn’t have applied in the first place. Some might even have been trying it on and then realised that they would be caught. Some recover enough to find work, some find work that fits around their disabilities. Some, however, drop out because they are so ill that they cannot face the application and testing process. We don’t know, as no records are kept of reasons for dropping out, but I contend that many more than we know drop out because they are too ill to finish the process. Given that 36% of claimants are not tested, we cannot include them in the ‘fit for work’ category. That 7% of claimants is actually 11% of claimants who complete the process.
11% is still a very small number. That still casts 89% of claimants as cheats, doesn’t it? Well no. No it doesn’t. Not unless you are a tabloid writer. You see, 17% of total claimantss – or 26.6% of claimants that finish the process – are put in the Work Related Activity Group. Being put in this group DOES NOT mean that the claimant is fit for work! It means that there may be some job, as yet unknown, that the claimant could possibly manage to do, if they push themselves hard enough,possibly at high cost to their health, IF they receive the right support in terms of information, equipment, services and grants. People in this group must attend six interviews at the Job Centre over the course of a few months to try and determine just what this possible job could be, and the support that would be needed to do it. People in this group STILL RECEIVE ESA.
Adding those two together and leaving out the people that dropped out, that means that 37.5% of people tested were not fit for work. That still leaves 61% that were receiving ESA who were found fit for work. Are they all cheats? No. Here’s why.
The Work Capability Assessment takes place at the end of the assessment phase of the claim. That means the test can take place up to 14 weeks after the person started to claim ESA. 14 weeks is a long time, and it should also be noted that people are often sick for a long time before they even apply for ESA, either on Statutory Sick Pay for 28 weeks, or just unaware that they can claim. Those people could easily have been sick for 9 months before being tested. 9 months is long enough for people to recover or start recovering from many health issues, and so these people would have been correctly being given ESA while unable to work. Health issues change, and finding these people fit for work now would be correct, but does not invalidate their claim in the previous months. I think if the WCA correctly finds someone capable of work after many months of illness but heading towards recovery, this is usually a good thing.
Assuming that changes in health conditions account for a chunk of that 61%, let’s say a third, that still leaves the rest. Here’s the thing. The accuracy of the testing process has been found to be wrong, broken, inadequate, however you want to put it, by MPs, a house of commons select committee, many disability rights charities, and many many individuals and activists. Even a person involved in designing the test has said that it is not fit for purpose.
33% of people found fit for work between October 2008 and August 2009 appealed against that decision. 40% of those overturned that decision and were awarded ESA. That’s 27,500 people who were provably found fit for work when they were not. Many more people did not appeal, for many of the same reasons that may have caused people to drop out of the claims process.
Today the Commons Select Committee on the Migration from Incapacity Benefits to Employment Support Allowance released its 6th Report – The Role Of Incapacity Benefit Reassessment In Helping Claimants Into Employment. Among other things, that report criticised media coverage and stated that government had a duty to take more care when engaging with media.
5. Sections of the media routinely use pejorative language, such as “work-shy” or “scrounger”, when referring to incapacity benefit claimants. We strongly deprecate this and believe that it is irresponsible and inaccurate. The duty on the state to provide adequate support through the benefits system for people who are unable to work because of a serious health condition or illness is a fundamental principle of British society. Portraying the reassessment of incapacity benefit claimants as some sort of scheme to “weed out benefit cheats” shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the Government’s objectives. (Paragraph 40)
6. Whilst fully accepting that the Government, and this Committee, have no role in determining the nature and content of media coverage, we believe that more care is needed in the way the Government engages with the media and in particular the way in which it releases and provides its commentary on official statistics on the IB reassessment. In the end, the media will choose its own angle, but the Government should take great care with the language it itself uses and take all possible steps to ensure that context is provided when information about IB claimants found fit for work is released, so that unhelpful and inaccurate stories can be shown to have no basis. (Paragraph 41)
I disagree with part of this in that I think that consciously or not, Conservative ministers have an ideological motive to move people off of benefits, portraying them as cheats if necessary, with the help of special advisors. (SPADS.) I believe that ministers and SPADS have been feeding selected information to the press to create a national view that is biased against sick and disabled people that claim benefits, and the press have been only too happy to amplify this.
- DWP: 26 July 2011 – Work Programme provides tailored support as latest figures show people are being found fit for work
- Daily Mail: Benefits Britain marches on: Just one in 14 disability handout applicants are too ill to work
- BBC News: Tests claim few benefit claimants unfit to work
- Commons Select Committee on the Migration from Incapacity Benefits to Employment Support Allowance
- 6th Report – The Role Of Incapacity Benefit Reassessment In Helping Claimants Into Employment
See also the PCS statement: Stop Bullying Disabled Claimants
This afternoon PCS R&C Euston Branch Secretary Anna Owens and Branch Organiser Dave Plummer joined a protest outside the ATOS office in Triton Square, next to Euston Tower.
It was a small but angry protest with speakers from several different groups, all campaigning against the use of ATOS to assess people for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), assessments which are carried out by under-trained staff with an inadequate computer system. ATOS have a vested interest in ensuring as many people are rejected for benefits as possible: they have a contract to carry out the compulsory work programmes which rejected claimants could be forced to endure.
To date approximately 40% of the appeals against ATOS assessments have been upheld, indicating a serious problem with the tests.
This is video of Anna speaking at the protest:
Guy Aitchison from University College London was one of many others who also spoke at the protest:
Dave Plummer played a song written on the bus on the way to work. Fortunately the footage is unuseable.
The protest was part of the week of protest against benefit cuts which features actions across Britain, including the Hardest Hit march on Wednesday. Please visit these sites for more details: