if anyone’s in any doubt about the reality of the atos/dwp process, and its effects, let me illustrate.
in 2010/2011 i was starting to find a strong and sustainable recovery with both my emotional/mental health (chronic stress, anxiety and depression) and a level of management of my torn discs in my back.
enough to enjoy and participate in local jam nights, and maintain a part time job at the local community centre, which i find very rewarding.
i was just about managing to run my car, pretty much essential to doing those activities.
i was starting to think that, even with the job market in the state it’s in, how can i begin to re-engage with it in a measured and medically sensible way.
then the whole atos witch hunt started.
since being harassed, hounded, deprived of about £50 per week and the associated chronic stress, my health has gone to worse places than ever.
when i was impossibly compromised last october, looking like trhe only way was to fraudulently claim JSA, i ended up writing suicide notes.
my mental health, and the stress on my body have made me have periods not only of depression, but times when my back has been so painful that i can’t function at all for days at a time.
this is ongoing, and now with the appeal process, in itself incredibly stressful, the impossibility of getting an appointment with my doctor (who has been incredibly supportive, many aren’t) funding cuts with the hospitals so there is no possibility of physio, rheumatology or osteo, the ongoing cost of prescriptions etc, having to sell the car and now rely on public transport which can be impossible on bad days.
this is the reality of “supporting people back to work after long term illness”
this is a blog of the events so far with atos, the dwp and my conservative mp:
he atos assessment process troubled me greatly. originally i felt that i had to somehow prove how ill i was, and in that process i actually made myself more ill and depressed. i stopped doing things that i can do like stretching my damaged back and getting out when i can to play music which always takes my mind off the pain for a while. it was like some evil judge was watching me all the time.once i realised that there was no point in even trying to pass the “medical” as it is so biased and unfair, and went through the horror of trying to accept that, i gradually started understand what i believe now, that this process is at best flawed and “not fit for purpose”, and at worst a deliberate policy to effectively rid the country of “the problem” of sick and disabled people.what i am left with is still incredibly stressful and a continuing process of despair as i look more deeply into what seems to be happening to us. the only thing that seems to help at all is fighting back when i can find the energy to do so. posting all i can find, learning all i can and for the moment doing all i can to “rouse rebels” and encourage others to question and fight back in any way we can, supporting each other in what is looking more and more like a fight for survival.
i went last friday to the second attempt to comply with this biased and unfair process, having refused to wait an hour for one on monday.when i insisted that i would be recording the interview, the “doctor” became angry, i later realised very scared.i insisted on a copy of THEIR policy which forbids this after asking her 3 times to not raise her voice to me. she informed me that it was not available, nor would a paper copy of the submission be available.She then insisted that i leave her office immediately, which i protested against.i asked at reception whether there was a manager available, which i was told was not.i said i would complain and was shown a phone number which would cost me money to call. during this process 4 other doctors appeared in reception. Intimidation?i asked for a written copy for my records of what had happened that day, which they obliged me with, again looking confused and scared.This is the company which has been given 100 million pounds by the DWP to asess over 1.6 million people for fitness to work, at a rate of 40,000 per week. plus the enormous cost of the appeals which are being held against the biased and unfair process.they do not have a copy of their policy.their staff are not trained.they have no discernible management structure.their staff cannot comment on the firm as they have to sign the official secrets act.they are dealing with vulnerable people.it is simply a “face saving” way to throw everyone off benefit, which we have all willingly paid for when we could go to work.this is totally unacceptable.it is abuse and cruelty of people who cannot fight back by animals.it has to stop before more peoples lives are ruined needlessly I am compiling a page of evidence about this and asking everyone to share it to support each other – i can think of no other way to fight back
stage 2: letter and email to Atos complaints and anyone else i can think of…
“Atos HealthcareChatham Medical Examination Centre1a Batchelor StreetChatham ME4 4BJ Dear Sirs.Your reference – ♫♪▼♥♦♣♠•▼▼ I have received an appointment from you regarding a medical examination for Monday 18th June at 11.15.I feel sure that there has been some kind of mix up since my last visit to the above centre at 08.30 on Friday 20th April, and I am sure we can get things cleared up.I assume that understandably your staffs is overworked from the lack of continuity I am experiencing, and the obvious stress the lady I spoke to at previous in April. She was so stressed that I had to ask her 3 times not to raise her voice to me. She would not give me her name, perhaps because she was very upset that I saw no reason to stop my personal recording of the assessment.I asked 3 or 4 times for a copy of the policy that she was referring to regarding this, which even though it in no way applies to me that I am aware of, she said it was not available to me.you can imagine my confusion, which was further added to when I asked for a paper copy of the assessment upon completion and she told me that would be impossible, asking me to leave her office immediately. This was even more confusing to me, as it was my second visit to the centre that week, causing me further considerable pain and almost intolerable stress due to my chronic incurable back pain due to severely damaged discs in my lower back. I am sure that your specialist staff, as one of the conditions of the Atos and dwp agreement states clearly, will be more than aware.I can only surmise that the level of her stress made her behave in that manner. I am all too familiar with the devastating effects of stress having suffered with mental health problems all my life. I am very pleased that my stress levels were not so bad on this day that I would lose my dignity there. I checked with my companion whether he thought my behaviour was inappropriate and he reassured me that it was not. I was feeling very confused and fearful by now as I could not understand the lady behaving this way towards me. my surprise at this further appointment in June is also compounded by the fact that upon being asked to leave I requested a written copy of what had transpired as another side effect of my mental illness is cognitive, something your medical staff will I am sure be very aware of again due to it being a condition of the DWP contract mentioned earlier. This letter, signed by your medical staff and countersigned by me, clearly state my request for confirmation of the policy regarding recording of the assessment, and an indication that this would be sent to me forthwith. I have received nothing since then, which again has added to my anxiety and stress considerably, but there is a chance it has been misplaced in the post, perhaps? I have made a FOI (freedom of information) request regarding the dreadful rumours that Atos receive more money for every person who is denied benefit, as I am sure that this is not the case.It would not fit with the statement on your website “Our clients come first. We respond to and anticipate client needs and expectations. Working in partnership we aim to write business history together.“ As it would seem to be incongruent with those aims. I am deeply concerned that my experience with yourselves seems to be at odds with that, and can only put this down to stress and overload within your organisation. I only have experience at Chatham, but sadly there appear to be others claiming similar experiences on the many websites and bulletin boards that I am able to access when my back pain and depression allow me to. This I am sure you will agree is extremely undesirable, and could lead to more public scapegoating and perhaps even loss of contract for yourselves in the current political climate.Something that is no-ones desire, in fact I look forward to being as instrumental as I can in alleviating these misunderstandings very soon.I heartily agree that the wellbeing of all concerned, especially the very ill and disabled vulnerable people who are referred by the DWP for assessment must be above concerns of money and anything else, something I am sure that will be uppermost of concern to you at the moment. There would appear to be more criticism levelled at yourselves at the moment due to the BMA convention voting for the WCA to be scrapped. I believe that we can work together to start to show publicly Atos Healthcare to be the caring and professional company that it is. As the FOI request and your policy copy may take longer to reach me than the 18th of June, I would suggest the following – re scheduling the appointment. I will record the assessment myself, and request that you also record for your own purposes. This will be evidence of the open and caring nature of Atos, and show that there is nothing to fear when I make it available for public perusal. I will also video the whole process at no extra cost to you, from entry to the centre til leaving, Again once this is on line it will assure the many doubting people of Atos’ genuine concern and care for its vulnerable and very sick assessees. I would like the full medical qualifications of the doctor who will be carrying out the assessment including BMA number and work history including the areas of special mention in the DWP agreement, mental health and musculo-skeletal specialities. This will again show the great levels that Atos are prepared to go to, to ensure patients wellbeing.If you require access to my medical records prior to this for more accurate diagnosis, I believe I can have them made available. There will however be a cost involved to yourselves, but I am sure that this can be authorised as we are creating a great positive publicity opportunity here. I have invited, by way of copying this letter to them, members of the press,(local and national), radio media (local and national) MIND the mental health charity, Shelter, my local MP, the BMA, my GP and community lawyers, Neves Scott of Dartford; and will be sending copies to the Rt hons Chris Grayling and Ian Duncan Smith.I hope together we can all work to reassure the public that any fears over the WCA and Atos are greatly exaggerated and any confusion is down to pressure of work from above. May I further suggest a way that the ongoing training and internal awareness within Atos can be added to, something I am sure that you as a company will be more than keen to do.There are many millions of people who, like me are “experts” in their own illnesses who would be a great resource to help clarify the obviously diverse and literally millions of ways in which chronic illness can manifest it in us.We could establish a working relationship, perhaps as consultants? This would work on many levels as all people like me are unable to commit to full time work due to the complications of chronic illness, but would greatly love to be able to help out and get paid for that.This again would be a fantastic opportunity to show that Atos Healthcare really do care about their role in the wellbeing of all the people it works with. I look forward to a long and mutually rewarding working relationship with you. Paul Barnard (Enc)C.c.-Maidstone DWP office, malling health- Gillingham, BBC, BMA, Guardian lifestyle. Et al”
letter arrived saying that due to “unforseen/unavoidable” circumstances my appt had been cancelled…gofigure?
letters frmo atos and my mp, ansd chris grayling are available here:
next step – appointment from Atos – 9th august.
letter arrived saying that due to “unforseen/unavoidable” circumstances my appt had been cancelled…gofigure?
9thy august 12
the examiner stopped and they threw me out again!when i got in there, i asked for her qualifications, a district nurse. before it started, i asked her “how do you do this job?” – she looked away.. changed the subject!
i stated that i objeected strongly to the atos process – due to the two documentaries on tv the week before, and asked whether there was any point in doing the “examination, as i believed it was impossible to pass, she refused to comment – fair enough.
she said i don’t have to go through with it. i smelled a rat, and told her taht i had had a letter from atos threatening me with referral back to the DWP – benefit sanctions! i said that i had no choice and had to go through with it, despite my discomfort.i started taking notes of what she asked me. she looked at me oddly, and i informed her that my notes might be used in a legal action against atos – thats when she got up and said she would not be part of that, felt intimidated. i asked whether i had intimidated her (i had 2 witnesses) and she said “no, but the atmosphere in the room is” walked out refusing to say anything else, leaving the receptionist to sort it out. i checked with my witnesses and they assure me that i was honest and transparent but not intimidating.this might be a result, unless they turn it round and stop my IB.the examiners name is Victoria Vinter.i was also sitting outside, (after being reassured by the receptionist that my attendance would mean no sanctions). and she stopped to glare at me as she walked pastshe has all my details on file!
so i don’t know – i didn’t expect her to walk out, but if i simply allow this to happen by just staying silent, i am complying with a terrible corrupt process that is destroying and ending so many lives.no idea what will happen next!
Sent: Monday, September 10, 2012 10:19 AM
Subject: allegations of intimidating behaviour
Following the Work Capability Assessment by ATOS on August 9th, on Friday 7th September I received a follow up letter from ATOS Customer Services (dated 5th september 2012).
This letter claims that on the two previous occasions of my ATOS Work Capability Assessments, it has not been possible to complete the WCA due to my behaviour toward the ATOS staff.
I strongly refute the claims that my behaviour toward the staff has been intimidating and have written this letter to ensure my views are set for the record. These are false and damaging claims, which are also potentially defamatory.
At the first assessment in April 2012, I was accompanied by a witness, and on 9th August, I was accompanied by two companions who were with me throughout the assessment. For both the April and August assessments, the individuals who accompanied me are willing to provide witness statements to the effect that my behaviour was not intimidating. At the second WCA, the ATOS staff member became angry and consequently walked out of the assessment.
I strongly believe that my ATOS assessors to date have lacked the skills to be able to carry out the WCA and as a result, I am being failed by the service and have now become subject to false claims about my behaviour.
the response from Julie Watson at Atos arrived on my doorstep on friday 7th spetember, containing these allegations. My appointment is on monday 10th.
this does not allow me time to clarify the terms “felt your behaviour was intimidating” to ensure a fair response from myself. it would also be remiss of me to “intimidate” these nurses, but as i have no time to clarify, how can i be sure that whatever i say might be seen as intimidating?
i would certainly not think my previous behaviour was such, and i am consistently amazed that it is seen as such.
I have been asked to attend for a ‘Final’ ATOS WCA assessment on Monday 10th Sept at 2.30pm and have requested an audio recording is made of this assessment. (for my own protection)
i have suggested to Atos that as there are such diverse reports on the events at these appointments, that it be video’d to ensure clarity. they have declined saying that the terms in the WCA handbook have changed since it was published.
would it be possible to clarify that this is the case? i have many more concerns now regarding the WCA, including the situation at the last appointment (9th august) where the HCP was able to leave the office and not return, but i was not allowed to, being under threat of “referral to the DWP” – which i see as false imprisonment. a clear denial of my human rights which i believe is reserved for people who are considered to have broken the law.
i would like clarity on these matters as Atos are a major government contractor enjoying very large contracts and coming into contact with thousands of vulnerable people every week.
i would also like details of the contacts at the DWP which Atos have spoken to regarding this matter, as stated on their letter of 5th sept 2102, being the reason for the response only arriving to my door on friday 7th september. along with all written, verbal and hand written notes referring to my case. i believe that is my right under the data protection act.
as you can imagine this puts me in a very difficult position, being unsure what i have said will be taken in way it is not intended.
this is severely adding to my chronic levels of stress and anxiety the reasons why i was diagnosed unfit to work in the first place.
(latest complaints and protest to atos over allagations against me)
thanks for taking the time to read this.stay strong.
responsaes from atos, and the mp: