(Cross post) Chris Coltrane: Atos: A Privatised Service Provider In A Post-Satire World.

Original post here:

  • Sep. 6th, 2012 at 4:45 PM
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Last Friday I took part in the protest outside the offices of Atos, the company who won the contract to decide whether disabled people are disabled enough to receive benefits.

In the UK, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being replaced with the controversial Personal Independent Payment (PIP). DLA fraud stands at a paltry 0.5%. Nevertheless, the government wants to bring fraud to an end. To do this, the government has commissioned Atos to remove the new PIP from 20% of disability claimants. Which is a bit like punishing one child from skipping football by setting fire to the gym.

Of course, a far higher percentage than 0.5% of MPs were found to be cheating their expenses. But it would be wrong to punish MPs, because, you know. Because. Wait, what was my point again?

The consequences of Atos’s decisions are sickening. My friend Polly has a severe form of Crohn’s disease. She’s been given countless different medications, and operations to remove parts of her small intestine. In fact, her Crohn’s is so resistant to the strongest medications and surgery available that she was referred to an experimental chemotherapy and stem cell transplant medical trial. If Crohn’s were a video game, she is playing it on hardest difficulty, with no cheat codes and a broken controller.

Atos sent a doctor to assess whether she could re-qualify for benefits. On arrival, he told her that he’d never heard of Crohn’s Disease. Forgive me for being pedantic, but a doctor who hasn’t heard of Crohn’s Disease isn’t a doctor. That’s like a dentist who hasn’t heard of gums, or a plumber that’s never heard of pipes. Imagine police officers coming to your house after your telly has been stolen, only to find that they’d never heard of “burglary”. They then suggest that you shouldn’t complain because you’ve got enough possessions to be getting on with, after which they hand you a bill for wasting police time, and make you work in Poundland for free to pay it off.

I had heard rumours that Atos doctors mark people down if their illness isn’t visible. Which seemed ludicrous even for Atos. As if the only three kind of illnesses are eczema, nosebleeds and an unfortunate haircut. Cancer? Look mate, unless you’ve got cancer of the face, we’re not interested. Get back to work!

Sadly, Polly has confirmed the rumour. One of the very few notes the Atos doctor wrote was “No obvious external signs of generalised systemic disease found”. Because for most people, their intestines are an external organ. Fashionistas like to stylishly wrap them around their hips, like a kind of pulsating belt. I hear the trend in Milan this season is to wear your intestines as a scarf, to keep your neck warm.

I reckon the doctor was there on a workfare scheme. Perhaps even the people who set the criteria for what constitutes as an illness are unqualified workfare temps. That might explain why we suddenly seem to have forgotten the past 150 years of medical and social progress, and are instead guessing whether someone is ill based on whether they can raise their arms, and walk five metres. (Those are genuinely the only two physical tests Polly’s Atos doctor used to see if she was disabled.)

Atos must have just told the doctor to learn medicine on the job. It’s obvious if they’re ill: just look for open wounds. If you can’t see directly into their heart, they’re good for work. Accept nothing less than four missing limbs. And if you get stuck, just remember this handy mnemonic: If The Patient Isn’t Bleeding, They’re Probably Misleading™.

If the aim of this exercise truly was to rid the system of the 0.5% of fraudulent claims, the government wouldn’t need to give everyone such shockingly inhumane treatment. They certainly wouldn’t need to take the benefit away from 19.5% of genuinely disabled people. They wouldn’t need to send doctors who are woefully under-qualified. And Atos definitely wouldn’t need to get their doctors to sign the Official Secrets Act to stop them from whistle-blowing.

But, like all their policies, their real motivation is not the one they claim in public. Their motivation is simply to reduce government spending, to reduce their own personal tax bill, and to sell public services to the companies they themselves own, to become even richer still. And if disabled people have to suffer, and die, to make it happen: well, who cares?

Not the Tories, that’s for sure.

4 thoughts on “(Cross post) Chris Coltrane: Atos: A Privatised Service Provider In A Post-Satire World.

  1. From what I understood it wasn’t the Tories who piloted this project, it was Labour, but with elections coming up they shelved it temporarily. My daughter will probably have her assessment – if that is the correct word to use, soon and will no doubt be ordered back to work. Her company have told her that they don’t feel she can cope and I would imagine that that is the polite way of saying that she would be causing problems for them and they are not prepared to pay a wage for someone who cannot function mentally and physically for most of the day. The house she lives in is basically unfit for human habitation and has been unofficially condemned. The rent she pays is horrendous and she needs a good job to pay that rent without luxuries – she neither smokes nor drinks, and they do not have the latest TV etc. But, although she did a degree, got a good job, and was the top person for getting people back into work, what use is she to her company if she has reached the point of not being able to function properly – they will have to let her go although they have been really good about it all. I think she has been on sick leave [with various operations in the interim] for over a year now. How long must a company keep employing someone like that? She is struggling to manage on statutory sick pay topped up with disability allowance, which is not working. She is not out partying and drinking and so on. Let me stop there, otherwise I will become even more verbose.

    1. You’re absolutely right, binarycape. Labour most definitely do not have clean hands in this matter. Not at all (the likes of Purnell paved the way), and it is a bit galling to see certain figures hypocritically trying to attack the current Govt, when they pressed for much the same.

      1. Exactly! As I said, I reckon the only reason they did not continue with it at the time was because they knew there would be a huge furore over it and there was an election coming up – plus they already had tons of egg all over their faces from other things.

  2. And further, why aren’t the government – and I don’t care which one it is, doing something to cut benefits to all and sundry importing into the UK? When you think of the colossol costs involved there and the cheating that must be there? You don’t get benefits if you emigrate to other countries and further it costs money to apply to them, you have stringent health checks, points systems and have to be able to speak and read and write fluently in the language of that country. And many do not now allow any of your children over 18 to go in with you, and there are strict controls over grandparents being allowed in. Anyone else has to apply separately.

    And then [sorry, you have got me started now :)] there is the other dead wood that needs attending to, like encouraging single parenthood and paying these girls with children from different boyfriends to breed like rabbits and live off the taxpayer – along with their usually itinerant boyfriends who are more often than not a menace to the society around them, by giving all these allowances and flats/houses with furniture and so on. While pensioners are told they can survive on the tiny bit they get and should be thankful.

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