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Sqad | 09:49 Sat 19th Oct 2013 | News
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Following the implementation of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom, welfare benefits paid to people with disabilities in the United Kingdom are subject to rigorous assessments to determine claimants' level of disability and ability to work.

It is either very easy or exceedingly difficult to decide if a claimant is fit for some kind of work and mostly it is the latter that cause the problems.
Blood tests, X-Rays an Consultants opinions do very little in deciding upon fitness to work, only a face to face interview with the client will give a reasonable assessment and even then medical personel will disagree. Get six doctors to give an opinion as to fitness to work and degree of disability and you will get six different opinions.
ATOS is not the problem, it is the people working for them who have to assess disability.
Whether you agree with my opinion or not, many people are adept and well practised at conning the medical panels, many famous examples have been highlighted in the press.
The point of my post is just to point out the difficulties of dealing with some of the British public who are “out to get anything going.”, they may well not be the majority.
ATOL is a private company, but so what, public agencies since the inception of the Welfare State e.g Benefits Agency and the Medical Appeals Tribunal(M.A.T) have had no better success.
Yes, there will always be “miscarriages of justice” for the likes of Dennis Skinner to highlight with baying support from the opposition benches, but nobody has suggested a better system.


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What has ATOL (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing)
got to do with it !?

only joking....yes i agree with most of what you say
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baz...LOL...LOL...sorry ATOS
I understand what your post is about and agree with you but are you using the Tommy smith case in support of mistreated cases or saying hes pulling a flanker

personally I'm on his side
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Both.....he is pulling a "flanker" and the system (doctors mainly) have bought it.
noticing your typo proves i read the whole post, something I have been accused of not doing in posts on previous occasions !
not sure I agree hes pulling a stoke though.

Yes, I would agree. It's very difficult. One of my consultants has to write letters or complete sections of DLA forms that she sees and she often ties herself in knots over the wording as it can be tricky with her patients and what they suffer with - she doesn't always agree with the parents about the level of disability they perceive their child to have so she often has to walk a fine line between writing factual correct information in such a way that she doesn't get a screaming parent on the phone deciding to withdraw their child from care - I don't envy her task.
"Get six doctors to give an opinion as to fitness to work "

depends on the work
in theory you could probably say that 99.99999% of the people they see could do some kind of work...
Unless they are totally mentally and physically incapacitated they can do something but those "something" jobs dont exist and are unlikelty to.
I know three people who are on full DLA and should not qualify. I have also heard of GP's who will write a report supporting a claim for DL A for a fee of £l000 .
Don't ask me to prove this because I can't, you will have to take my word for it and I don't tell lies.

It seems to me when you watch the exchange between Dennis Skinner and David Cameron that those Baying were from the Tory benches, Sqad, jeering at Skinners recounting of the difficulties of one of his constituents over assessments with ATOS.

Handing off the assessment of disability from DfE to a private company rather conveniently sidesteps some important oversight channels - ATOS, for instance, is not subject to FoI requests, in quite the same way that the relevant Government Department is.

Being a private company, they are incentivised and paid, in part,effectively by the number of claims they can deny. Assessment of disability and fitness to work should be based upon an honest clinical assessment, not one that is directed, at least in part, by the need to make money.

It is absolutely scandalous that someone wishing to appeal a decision against their assessment is immediately stripped of their benefit until their appeal is heard, especially since that back log may last months. This is verging into the Kafka-esque, Catch-22 scenario of a bullying state. Several friends of mine, GPs, have disagreed with ATOS assessments and have helped their patients overturn those assessments on appeal. The experiences of this GP would appear to match with that.

And the fact that of those appeals that made it to court, 40% were overturned speaks volumes about the nature of the original assessments.

Is it right that the benefits system should be guarded against fraud and abuse? Yes. Is it right that those claiming disability should be assessed as to the merits of their claim? Yes. Is it right that the government, through a private company-whose profits, at least in part, are determined by the number of patients they deem fit to work- make assessments, very nearly half of those taken to appeal are overturned? No. There is something wrong with their reference and yardstick, if that many get turned over.

And is it right that people struggling to make ends meet, often reliant upon their disability living allowance, have that allowance suspended immediately they make a claim, until that claim is heard? I think not.

Talk about laying the boot in to the most disadvantaged in our society...
ATOS are no differnt to the bankers.....if the rewards are big enough then the decisions taken will become more reckless to gain those rewards and anything handed over to the private sector like this, the rewards are usually huge, these companies wouldnt get involved otherwise, for the most part its easy money and generally in large quantities
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Once again........Lazygun, our opinions differ in the main.
More accurately, Sqad, it would be fair to say our opinions on this issue differ in every particular :)

People want fairness and transparency,or at least they should. This system does not offer that.
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\\\\\More accurately, Sqad, it would be fair to say our opinions on this issue differ in every particular :) \\\

That is incorrect.......I want fairness for the clients and also a fair assessment of the assessors.

\\\\People want fairness and transparency,or at least they should. This system does not offer that.\\\

So what system would you prefer? a nutshell.
ATOS aren't the messengers. They are the arbiteators. Except their assessments aren't impartial because they are financially incentivised to fail as many people as possible and deny heir claims.

Agree totally with LazyGun.
If they are to outsource such assessments to a private company, I want greater transparency as to assessment criteria, and greater oversight from the responsible department, so that FoI requests cannot be bounced between different organisations with the state washing its hands of responsibility. I would actually prefer that this function was carried out by the relevant government department, rather than being outsourced at all, if I am being honest.

I want reassurances that the assessments are being made objectively according to clinical presentation, rather than being "adjusted" to better suit bonus incentives for the private company. The terms by which the private company are employed should be made clear, if not the actual details. How are they being paid? How are bonuses being determined. This should all be in the public domain.

I want their information management system ,LIMA, to be more transparent. This is the means by which assessors enter their assessments, and makes much use of predictive texts and standard statements.

I want their appeals system to be fairer. No stripping of benefits immediately a claim is made, until the claim is heard.Greater provision for fast-tracking appeals, so people are not left in limbo for months, sometimes a year or more.

Fairness, objectivity, transparency.
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Gromit.......if you have any evidence that the assessment of "clients" is based on financial reward for the assessors by reducing the benefits for the "clients"...................please produce it.
GROMIT why do you say that ATOS are the arbitrators when they do not decide whether a claimant is entitled to benefit or no?
LG - normally I agree with you on most things - and I suspect I didn't explain myself very well the first time.

'Assessment of disability and fitness to work should be based upon an honest clinical assessment, not one that is directed, at least in part, by the need to make money.'

I think your ideal of openess, transparency and fairness is definitely the way to go. BUT what about in situations where consultants have to what is in their best interests for their patient - so say, a patient with chronic fatigue syndrome - and say the parents perceptive of the limitations of their child and the consultants are different - the consultant has to find a way of supporting their DLA claim without landing themselves in the proverbial because if they don't then patient is likely to be taken away from their care which actually is starting to show divedends. So the process right from the beginning of the initial claim is not actually fair or transparent (possibly objective). I wonder how there can be any clearness if the initial claim is muddied with other complexities.

Also, there should be some thought for the GP of a patient who is so convinced of their own illness and limitations, who is constantly in the GP surgery and who does make a claim; if I were that GP I'd probably complete the form too for a quiet bloody life. Again, we're not starting at a fair and level playing field.

I do want openess and transparency and fairness too, but I think it has to be at all stages. I do like your ideals, but at the moment I think they can only be ideals because the whole system is rather wonky; yes, a company certainly should not be paid more on the basis of 'failing' people, however Sqad's right too in terms of several docs together often will come up with different medical opinions (often dependent on the information they're given) - and if at the start the claim was not transparent then what system do we have for getting that transparency? Once you have transparency then you get fairness, in order to get fairness you need to have an objective overview of the entire patient/claim history - I'd say it's a rather difficult one to tackle personally.

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