UA-79233833-1

50shadesofsun

News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Atos tries to escape its past though superficial rebranding

There is a new company providing assessments of people claiming government disability benefits in the UK. Well, no, there isn’t.

You see, the new name, Independent Assessment Services, is just a rebranding exercise.

True, the name is new but it is the same bad old company.  It is still Atos Healthcare but now in disguise. No doubt it hopes to escape its reputation. as Atos has been the subject of numerous allegations.

atosIts assessors have been accused of numerous, serious and harmful failings in the way they have carried out assessments. The most recent example is that one of its assessors left a disabled woman to sit in her own urine for nearly two hours. Now, Atos launched an investigation.

This was after a Disability News Service (DNS) investigation that found many cases where claimants described how assessors from both Atos and the other assessment company Capita, filed dishonest reports of face-to-face assessments.

According to DNS, Gail Ward, from disability activist Black Triangle Campaign, responded to the rebranding by accusing Atos of “trying to create a “smokescreen” to cover up its “incompetence” in carrying out assessments.

She said: “Atos can rebrand all they wish. We will still call them Atos at every opportunity.”

She stated that Atos’s actions had left many disabled people trapped in their own homes, after losing their entitlement to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), with many having to return their Motability vehicles.

Many grassroots campaigners were receiving requests for help in dealing with “fabrication of facts” in Atos PIP assessment reports. This had caused many sick and disabled people “a great deal of distress”.

Her Black Triangle colleague John McArdle added: “Atos has not changed its spots and is still working as the government’s henchman.

“We see the same litany of wrongdoing reported by DNS. Fraudulent reports, and catastrophic harm being caused to disabled people.”

He said the attempt to rebrand itself as a “respectable organisation” would fail6. He added: “Atos is infamous for carrying out systematic abuse of the fundamental human rights of disabled people.

“It is a toxic brand. It is a byword for corporate wrongdoing worldwide.”

Atos defends new name

An Atos spokesman said last week: “We believe the new name better reflects the role the company undertakes on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions and the assessment work the company carries out.

“The change also follows the first independent review by Paul Gray which recommended a number of changes to claimant communications.

“It was planned and implemented in consultation with a number of disability representative organisations. They are supportive and welcome the change.”

However, DNS denied that. It said: “The two disability organisations Atos said supported the name change told DNS that they did no such thing.”

Interesting!

The spokesman added that policies – and assessment procedures – remain unchanged,

Now, that is a shame, because it seems that all the problems stem from those policies and procedures.

Changing the name is not enough. It is superficial. The company needs to change how it does its work, its culture.

People who are responsible for dishonest assessments, whether individual assessors or in management, have no business being there. Heads should roll.

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

No Comments »

Protect Disability Benefits – No More Cuts

Signing petitions and adding my name to open letters is not really my thing That’s not to say that I never do, just that it has to be a cause with which I agree totally. Now, I find that I have endorsed two – and urge you to do the same.

With the general election getting ever closer, the UK’s MS Society, along with other members of the Disability Benefits Consortium, is inviting you to sign an open letter to party leaders, urging them to protect disability benefits. The letter calls for no more cuts in the next UK Government. 

The consortium is a national coalition of more than 80 charities and organisations. It is standing up for more than 13 million disabled people in the UK, who spend an average of £550 a month on costs related to their disability. That’s #13millionlives.

When the MS Society asked what issues matter at this election, hundreds made contact, one issue that stood out above all others – no more cuts to disability benefits.

The society’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “Financial support is vital for people with MS to live independent lives and participate fully in society.

“We have a crucial opportunity to make our voice heard before the election. We’re urging party leaders to protect disability benefits from further cuts in the next Parliament.”

I have added my name, will you join me?

Add your name to the open letter to party leaders. Tell the next government to make no more cuts to disability benefits. 

To add your name, and call for no more cuts, click on this logo: 

 

no more cuts

 

In a similar vein, there is a petition started by Dorothy Jump that has so far gained more than 28,000 signatures – including mine.

It concerns indefinite awards of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). As part of the process of switching from DLA to Personal Independence Payment, the so-called indefinite awards are being reviewed; they are no longer regarded as indefinite.

Dorothy’s petition is to ‘stop the change to indefinite claim on Disability Living Allowance Benefit’.

This, I have also signed. You can join me, by clicking this logo: no more cuts

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Diagnosed with MS in 2002, he continued to work until mobility problems made him retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective. Besides that, he is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

No Comments »

Disability PIP Figures Released but Were they Buried to Avoid the Media?

Terrible facts about the UK government’s Personal Independence Payments (PIP) crept out almost unnoticed towards the end of last month. I find the way those important figures were released was both despicable and cynical.

And that’s because the unpalatable facts were not given in the House of Commons as you might expect. Instead, they were placed in a written answer to a question from Christian Matheson, an MP of the Labour party.

PIPNow, you might think that the question was prearranged and, while I cannot say it definitely was, it is certainly not possible for me to dismiss the suggestion. Add to that the fact that the answer was given on April 28. That was some days later than prime minister Theresa May announced plans for the snap general election. Then consider the possibility that the way the information was published was meant to bury it. The Press had bigger stories to attract their interest .

On the other hand, leaving the main election coverage to the mainstream media, I’ll concentrate on disability matters.

So, let’s look at the information supplied by Penny Mordaunt, minister for disabled people.

Mr Matheson asked what proportion of 2016 PIP cases, overturned at reconsideration or appeal, were initially assessed at zero points.

Shocking PIP admission

Replying, Ms Mordaunt shockingly admitted a quarter of claimants who won their PIP appeals in 2016 started with zero points.

She said that in 2016, a total of 34,110 PIP mandatory reconsiderations led to a higher award. Of these, 5,030 – or 15% – were decisions where the original award was zero points.

But it goes from bad to worse. This is because, out of a total of 32,070 PIP appeals that resulted in a higher award, 8,100 – or 25% – also started as zero points decisions.

What’s really terrible, really shocking, about the figures is the fact that more than 66,000 PIP assessments were overturned and that more than 13,000 had been given zero points.

It all points to a sad indictment of those original assessments, the competency of the assessors and the suitability of the two companies involved – Capita and Atos.

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Diagnosed with MS in 2002, he continued to work until mobility problems made him retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective. Besides that, he is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

5 Comments »

Disabilities: Government loses tribunals, then changes rules

orange

Unhappy about two decisions made against it in legal tribunals, in relation to assessments for a disability benefit, the government now plans to change the regulations to get its own way. Is that a cynical response? Yes. It’s like changing the rules of a sport halfway through a game because you don’t like the referee’s decisions.

It all stems from decisions made last rear by the Upper Tribunal that had the effect of widening the criteria for qualifying for different elements of the UK government’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The benefit is claimed by people with MS and many other disabilities.

There is no doubt that the tribunal was entitled to make its judgments in the way the law was written but they did not fit in with the government’s view. So the regulations are to be changed to put things back the way they were.

pip

Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt MP.

Interestingly, and this is puzzling, in a statement made to the House of Commons on Thursday, minister of state for disabled people Penny Mordaunt said: “This (the changes) will not result in any claimants seeing a reduction in the amount of PIP previously awarded by DWP.”

Does that mean that anyone who has benefited from the tribunal decisions will keep their payments but that new applicants will have to abide by the changed regulations, once they come into effect? Don’t hold your breath!

The MS Society says: “The planned changes will affect the way that someone’s level of PIP award is calculated. They affect one of the 10 ‘daily living activities’ (which determine eligibility for the daily living component), and one of the two ‘mobility activities’ (which determine eligibility for the mobility component).

“The affected activities are Daily Living Activity 3 – Managing therapy or monitoring a health condition, and Mobility Activity 1- Planning and following a journey. The changes make these descriptors slightly more restrictive. They could impact the awards some people get.”

What that the extent of the impact for people with MS or other disabilities is not yet known but various disability groups will be working to establish how they will affect their communities. 

strap-new

ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

4 Comments »

People with MS receiving higher rate mobility allowance slashed by almost half

ms-header

Amazing and terrible figures about the differences in payments between two of the UK’s disability benefits have been uncovered by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show by using the Freedom of Information Act.

The differences relate to payments made through the Disabled Living Allowance which is being phased out in favour of the newer Personal Independence Payment. Both benefits have two sections, one for care and one for mobility. Both of those are paid at different rates, dependent of the level of the claimant’s disability.

benefits

Photo: The Independent.

And the absolutely terrible news is that the official figures, revealed by the Freedom of Information Act enquiry, reveal that number of recipients of the higher level of the mobility component has been slashed during the change from one benefit to another.

For people with multiple sclerosis, while 93% of DLA claimants got the higher rate of the mobility component, under PIP this has almost halved to 50%.

In the case of those with Parkinson’s, the situation is even worse as the numbers have fallen to less than half from82% down to just 40%.

The most shocking of all is that while 83% of people with rheumatoid arthritis who were DLA claimants got the higher rate of the mobility component, but under PIP this has plummeted by more than two thirds to a miserable 24%.

Benefits and Work website that advises people with disabilities about claiming benefits has been at the fore front of the fight against the transition from the DLA to PIP, point out that the unfairness of the system is worse than just mobility component.

On the website, this week, it says: “Some claimants, such as Wendy who has early onset Alzheimer’s, get an award of PIP and then 18 months later are found to have improved to the extent that they no longer qualify for anything.”

Now, I think that that is a pretty amazing recovery!

Benefits and Work continues: “It was clear from the outset that PIP’s main purpose was to cut costs. It is now equally clear that the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) don’t (sic) care who has to pay the price for those cuts.”

new strap

ian profile50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/didorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

1 Comment »

Assessment changes welcome but not yet enough

News that the government is to scrap continuous benefit reassessments for people with progressive health conditions, who can’t work, and receive the UK’s Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is welcome.  Sadly, however, it does not go far enough.

The change in government policy, announced on Saturday, only concerns just one of the country’s health and disability benefits.  It does not involve those people who receive Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or those who have not yet been moved to that from the old Disabled Living Allowance.

reassessments

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green MP,

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green MP said that new criteria, being developed will help decide who can have their ESA reassessments stopped, meaning they will not be asked again to prove they are too unwell to work.

The decision follows months of talks between a group of charities, including the MS Society, and the Department for Work and Pensions in which those charities have pushed for the government to end unnecessary reassessments of people with MS and other progressive conditions. But those campaigners cannot give up. There are still several unanswered questions, including exactly who this will apply to and how it will be awarded.  The government might have accepted the argument for ESA; now it must do the same for PIP. Anything less is simply unacceptable

It is said that those eligible are likely to be people with a progressive form of MS. I hope that does not mean that it excludes people with relapsing MS, after all, ALL MS is progressive to a greater or lesser degree.

reassessments

MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell.

MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell welcomed the news but also recognized that the fight needs to continue. She said: “This is a victory for common sense. Frequent reassessments for people with progressive conditions like MS are too often a waste of time and money; they can leave people with uncertainty and fear of having their support taken away.

“We are therefore delighted that the government have listened to our concerns and have agreed to stop reassessments – albeit for only some ESA claimants.

“This is good news, but there’s still a lot more to do for people with MS – including improving the assessment for ESA and calling for inappropriate reassessments to stop for other vital benefits, like PIP.”

 

new strap

 

No Comments »

Benefit assessor lied, say doctor and nurse

Assessors working on behalf of the UK government, to evaluate claims for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) continue to be the cause of endless complaints for their unacceptable behaviour. PIP is the welfare benefit paid to people with multiple sclerosis and other disabilities, and the behaviour of some assessors is well below the professional standards we have a right to expect.

disability-news-serviceA benefits assessor working for the outsourcing company Capita repeatedly “lied” in her report, after carrying out a face-to-face assessment of a disabled nurse which was observed by her husband, a retired GP – according to an article posted on the Disability News Service website.

The disabled woman and her husband have asked not to be named – so their claims have not been put to Capita or the Department for Work and Pensions – but they have provided proof to Disability News Service (DNS) that they are both on their respective professional registers.

They believe the behaviour of the Capita assessor, herself a registered nurse, makes her unfit to remain in her profession.

Although DNS has received a string of credible reports from disabled people who say their benefits assessors lied in reports written after face-to-face medical assessments, this account is particularly credible because the behaviour was witnessed by both a nurse and a doctor.

The woman, Mrs A, lodged a complaint with Capita even before she knew the result of the test because she and her husband were so appalled that last month’s assessment at their home in south Wales was so rushed, impersonal and poorly carried out, and ignored key questions.

Mrs A, who has significant support needs due to a series of medical conditions, had already had to fight to have her disability living allowance (DLA) restored after it was stopped by DWP when her PIP claim form was lost in the post, while “rude and confrontational” staff then refused to provide her with a replacement form.

The couple say the assessor made almost no eye contact during the PIP assessment, but spent most of the time typing on her laptop, while she continually interrupted Mrs A as she tried to explain the impact of her impairments on her daily life.

Worst fears confirmed

Mrs A said that when she and her husband saw the report the assessor had written, their “worst fears were confirmed”.

As a result of the report, Mrs A’s previous entitlement to the higher rates of both the mobility and care components of DLA were downgraded under PIP to the standard daily living rate and no entitlement at all to the mobility element.

She has now put in a second written complaint, this time about the content of the report and what they say are the assessor’s lies.

Both Mrs A and Dr A say they have a duty as healthcare professionals to expose the assessor’s actions.

Among their many concerns is that the report stated that there was no evidence that Mrs A was wearing hearing aids, when the briefest of checks would have shown they were in place behind her ears.

The report failed to mention her painfully swollen leg, and said that Mrs A refused to stand, when in fact the assessor had recognised she was in too much pain to stand and so did not ask her to do so.

Among many other concerns, the report failed to point out that Mrs A was clearly “distressed, in pain and anxious”, and failed to note the forgetfulness and slowness of thought she showed during the assessment.

Dr A said the report was “an absolute fabrication”.

He said: “The actual examination was laughable. It took a few moments.

“My wife couldn’t even stand up… yet somehow she was able to infer that she could walk more than 50 metres but less than 200.

“How do you infer that from someone who wasn’t even able to get up out of the chair?

“She said she couldn’t see the hearing aids. She didn’t even look to see if the hearing aids were in place. How difficult is it to move a couple of hairs?”

He added: “It was appalling. Every single sentence in that report can be torn apart.”

Mrs A, who is not able to do clinical nursing work because of her impairment, said she believed the assessor “had an agenda”.

She said: “I feel hurt that a nurse, who is also a colleague in a way, would behave in this manner.

“Nurses are supposed to act with integrity in all that we do. We know how important recording of information – truthfully – is.”

She added: “We feel the nurse is acting dishonestly.

“I cannot understand how if you are a nurse you wouldn’t act impartially. I don’t understand how you can be both a nurse and a PIP assessor.

“The public rely on the integrity, honesty and openness of nurses. As a nurse myself, this kind of behaviour has to stop.”

new strap

No Comments »

‘Devastating’ benefit cuts could hit 10% of people with MS – and other disabilities too

One in ten people with multiple sclerosis in the UK could face cuts in government disability benefit payments, according to new figures published by the country’s MS Society.

The figures reveal the severe extent of benefits cuts for people living with MS. And, I would sms society logo new_editeday that it is highly likely that people living with other disabilities could be hit to the same degree.

The society, the UK’s largest MS charity, estimates that more than a thousand people with MS have already had their benefits downgraded since the phased introduction of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) began to replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

The society said: “Of those eligible for DLA, 93% of people with MS received the highest rate of mobility support. But of the 4,349 who have so far been moved over to PIP, only 70% have received the same rate.

“With more than 80% of people on DLA still to be moved onto PIP, we’re concerned that up to 10,000 people with MS could eventually lose access to the highest rate of mobility support.”

michelle mitchell ms societyMS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell (pictured, left) said: “Changes to disability benefits assessments have already had a devastating impact on the lives of too many people living with MS.

“It’s absurd that those who were once deemed in need of this crucial support now face having it reduced or taken away. We’re deeply concerned by the staggering figures of how many could lose out.”

Tightening of the eligibility criteria under PIP means that more people with MS stand to lose this support. Under PIP, if someone can walk more than 20 metres, even with walking aids, they will no longer qualify for the highest rate of support.

Previously, under DLA, 50 metres was considered to be the rule of thumb for entitlement to the higher rate.

“Changes to the eligibility criteria for mobility support under PIP were introduced with no evidence to show why it was reduced. These changes must be reversed to reflect the barriers people with MS face.

“Having a condition like MS is hard enough. It shouldn’t be made harder by a benefits system that doesn’t make sense,” said Ms Mitchell.

She’s absolutely right, of course, and it is good to see the MS Society making a stand and calling for change. Not that the current government will take any notice.

 

new strap

 

No Comments »

Paralympians fear losing their cars through government benefit cuts

Some of the British athletes, including two with multiple sclerosis, heading to Rio for the Paralympics fear losing their cars supplied through the Motability Scheme after being reassessed as part of the government’s programme of benefit cuts and reforms. This has been revealed by a member of the ParalympicsGB team – according to the Disability Information Service.

The report, by John Pring, continues:

Some Paralympians have spoken previously of the importance of the support they receive from the benefits system, particularly through disability living allowance (DLA), but this is the first confirmation that any of them have lost that support as a result of the government’s austerity programme.

The concerns were raised by wheelchair-racer Ben Rowlings, one of the young track stars of the British team, who is set to compete in the T34 100 metres and 800 metres in Rio, and holds the British record at 100, 200, 400 and 800 metres.

He currently receives the higher rate mobility component of DLA, which has allowed him to use that payment to lease a vehicle through the Motability scheme.Hannah-and-Ben-702x336_edited

But like hundreds of thousands of other disabled people, he has been told he will be reassessed for the government’s new personal independence payment (PIP) – introduced in 2013 in a bid to cut working-age DLA spending by 20% – and that an assessment of his eligibility will take place next year.

The Shropshire resident does much of his training 50 miles away in Coventry, alongside fellow Paralympians Kare Adenegan and Mel Nicholls, and told Disability News Service this week that the PIP reassessment could put his career in jeopardy if it results in him losing his Motability car.

He said: “It is something that’s on my mind because without the access to having my Motability car… I wouldn’t be able to get to any of the training that I do.

“I need my car, I need the support to get me around to places, and training and work, because racing is my job, and without the support of the Motability [car]and the DLA, I wouldn’t be able to get to training.”

The 20-year-old said he knew of fellow Paralympians who have already lost their Motability cars after being reassessed for PIP.

He said: “There have been Paralympians who have been told that they are too able to claim Motability and they have had to fight to get the cars back because they have been taken off them.

“I don’t know too much about it, I haven’t spoken to them about it because that’s a personal matter for them, but it’s something I’m a little bit concerned about.”

He said he was not comfortable providing further details about colleagues, and could not say how many fellow team-members had lost their Motability vehicles, but added: “All I know is anyone with disabilities is getting assessed at the moment, so it’s a possibility for any of us.”

Last month, another ParalympicsGB star wheelchair-racer, Hannah Cockroft (pictured with Rowlings), told DNS she was “scared” that she would lose her independence when she was reassessed for PIP.

Cockroft, who won double gold at London 2012, has also yet to be assessed for PIP, but she said that she was dreading her eventual reassessment, the possibility of having her support cut, and potentially losing the car she leases through the Motability scheme.

Motability has said that it expects 35,000 vehicles will have to be returned by disabled people during 2016 as a result of the PIP reassessment programme.

Of Motability customers reassessed for PIP so far, 44% of them have lost their entitlement to the scheme and have had to hand their vehicles back.

You can read the full Disability News Service story here.

 

new strap

No Comments »

Take action against PIP

pip action

It’s time for action and time for people like me to speak out. Through this blog, I am supporting the National Day of Action against sham Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments which is being held in the UK on Wednesday July 13.

Writing my own Health & Disibility blog allows me the luxury of voicing my opinion – which is that those of us with disabilities of any kind, visible or invisible, should rise up against the tyranny of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). Join in, however you can, on July 13.

So what’s it all about? I’ll let the organisers explain:

The companies contracted by the government’s DWP to carry out assessments, Atos, Maximus and Capita,, are literally making a killing from conducting sham assessments which are seeing thousands of legitimate claimants having their benefits refused, their incomes slashed and their motability cars removed.

While the success rate at tribunal is high, between 50 and 60%, it is taking up to 6 months or longer for cases to be heard – leaving disabled people struggling unnecessarily.

Medical ‘professionals’ usually trained at public expense are deserting the NHS in order to conduct these murderous sham assessments in return for higher rates of pay.

We say that all assessments should be carried out by the treatment teams in the community, and that rather than pouring taxpayer money into the poverty pimp industry, the state should be properly funding the NHS and benefits should meet the needs of all that are eligible. It is time to step up the struggle and to demand that the corporate assessors #DoNoHarm.

There are PIP ‘consultation’ Centres across the country. If you cannot find a protest listed in your town or city, why not set one up. If you decide to do so, please send an email to mail@dpac.net.uk and we will advertise your event and send you a pack to assist with the organising.

This is also a good way to meet others who have had enough and to form resistance in your local area. This day of action has been called jointly by Mental Health Resistance Network, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and WinVisible – women with visible & invisible disabilities.

 

 

MSNT strapline copy

 

No Comments »