From: Benefits and Work <campaign>
Date: 12 April 2012 21:27
Subject: ESA Fatalities, Motability Threat, Money-Off Membership
ESA Fatalities, Motability Threat, Money-Off Membership
Successful ESA appeal, moved from WRAG to Support Group
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We hope you had a good Easter – or at least a better one than Atos have had.
As the time draws near for the DWP to award the contract for carrying out personal independence payment (PIP) medicals, Atos seems to come in for more and more negative publicity. From being slammed by the Advertising Standards Authority to the Mirror’s revelation of how many people die before and after an Atos assessment, nobody seems to have a kind word to say for the French multinational. It’s bad press at a crucial time and it could end up costing them many millions of pounds.
ATOS, CLAIMANT DEATHS AND BAD PUBLICITY
It hasn’t been a great public relations Easter for Atos.
The Guardian has published a video piece about Atos by Jon Ronson (External link) . Ronson interviews two claimants who were on the receiving end of Atos’ mighty legal muscle as the company attempts to protect its online image.
Their attempts don’t seem to be working in relation to the Daily Mirror, however, whose website features two articles that are heavily critical of Atos.
The first details how many claimants have died whilst waiting for a work capability assessment (WCA) (External link) – 1,600 between January and August last year – or after having been placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) – 1,100 in the same period. No figures exist for how many have died after being found fit for work.
The second is a follow up piece which looks at some individual stories (External link). These include a warehouse worker with a degenerative lung condition whose weight had dropped to just seven stone and who had had trouble breathing and walking. He was awarded zero points at his WCA and was told that he would be fit to return to work within three months.
He was dead before the three months were up.
Atos have also had a complaint against them to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld. (External link)
www.whywaitforever.com challenged claims on the Atos website that it completes over 800,000 face-to-face medical assessments each year and that it has “1700+ healthcare professionals”. Atos chose not to even respond to the ASA and the complaint was upheld, with Atos being found to have published misleading information and being ordered to remove the ad.
In more poor PR for Atos, doctors at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual Scottish conference of GPs (Members only) voted for a motion that called for the “inadequate, computer-based assessments” used for the WCA to be abandoned.
PIP THREAT TO MOTABILITY
There are concerns that PIP poses an even greater threat to the Motability scheme than was previously thought. Currently, DLA payments stop after a disabled person has spent 28 days as an in-patient, but claimants who use their DLA mobility component to pay for a Motability vehicle can continue to receive those payments until the end of their lease.
But according to the latest PIP consultation document, PIP mobility payment will end after 28 days in hospital (Members only), meaning PIP claimants who spend more than a month in hospital may lose their Motability vehicles.
The consultation document can be downloaded from this link. (External link)
LAW CENTRES GO COMMERCIAL
As the Legal Aid Bill continues its controversial passage through parliament, advice agencies are warning of massive cuts in their funding, with up to £100 million being lost over the next two years.
The cuts are already beginning to have an effect where law centres are concerned: Oldham Law Centre has gone into liquidation (Members only), owing large amounts of cash to its workers.
Two more law centres, Rochdale and Islington, are opening up separate commercial arms (Members only) to charge the public for legal advice.
Meanwhile Camden law centre, which had its funding slashed by 60% by the local council earlier this year, has entered into a commercial arrangement with a private sector company (External link) which is placing video advice booths in libraries.
The recent budget has also raised new causes for concern for claimants. The chancellor has said that another £10 billion may need to be cut from the benefits bill (Members only) on top of the £18 billion already in the pipeline, though no details of how this might be achieved were given.
In addition, there are fears that plans to send taxpayers a letter detailing where their tax payments have gone (Members only), including how much has been spent on benefits, will only serve to fuel hatred towards sick and disabled claimants.
CHARITIES AND DWP FALL OUT
Relations between charities and the DWP seem to be increasingly strained.
MIND chief executive Paul Farmer resigned from the work capability assessment (WCA) working group (Members only) due to the DWP’s failure to take any notice of it.
Or did he . . .
Whilst Farmer claims he resigned, the DWP say he was asked to leave because Mind are involved in bringing legal action against the department over the WCA. Mind, on the other hand, deny being involved in any such legal action, claiming that they have simply said good luck to two individuals who are taking the DWP to court.
The continued failure of the Work Programme (Members only) to provide the kind of revenue that charities were expecting is also widening the rift between the DWP and its third sector partners. The Single Homeless Project (SHP) in London is withdrawing from the scheme because it is “not sustainable” to continue. Meanwhile, conservative party favourites Tomorrow’s People say that only 4 of 54 separate Work Programme sub-contracts were financially viable for them.