Rewarding failure: more government handouts for Atos
On 23rd November 2010, the Harrington Report into Work Capability Assessment was published. It found 'numerous examples' of 'particularly poor treatment' of claimants by Atos Origin, the private contractor hired by the government to carry out the assessments.
Poor treatment included an impersonal and mechanistic system, reports which are not an accurate reflection of the assessment, lack of training and knowledge of assessors, use of closed questions which did not identify fluctuating medical conditions, and unacceptable behaviour by Atos staff.
"Evidence presented at a user seminar came from a woman who had expressed suicidal tendencies. At her Atos assessment, she was kept waiting for two hours before being seen. Then during the assessment she was rudely treated by the Atos HCP who at one point told her to “stop crying and hurry up because I need to go and pick up my kids from school.”"
“The interview was very intimidating, and I was reduced to tears of frustration by the end. When I was asked the questions, I was stopped by the assessor from being able to explain and add essential supplementary information. The assessor frequently just held his hand up to stop me from talking and then he moved directly on to the next question.”,
“At the end of my assessment the doctor felt the need to inform me “ME/CFS doesn’t exist in any physical form as there’s no definitive test for it”. When the doctor saw my surprise he soon followed this comment with “there’s a big world out there you know, you should go out and see some of it””
“I’ve sat in on numerous assessments and just found them a joke. Seriously, no eye contact, face buried in the laptop, and… the one that got me was, he (the assessor) said that the claimant had good eye contact, but the doctor never looked at him once. Not once. His face was buried in the laptop.”
“Whatever the content, and outcome, of the interview, it can be conducted in a way which is human and respectful, and leaves the interviewee feeling that they have been treated as a fellow human being. I did not.”
Two days later, on the 25th November, Atos Origin was named as a "preferred supplier" in seven UK regions for delivery of employment support services through the new multi billion pound Work Programme.
Because, after all, who better to get billions of pounds from the government to give personalised support to help people into work than a company which - according to evidence in an official government report - offers impersonal and rushed assessments, inaccurate reports, and which humiliates and bullies sick and disabled people?