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.
Its 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.”
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.
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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.