I just thought I'd share the letter I've sent to my MP pleading for answers and action on Atos. Unless you've been living under a rock you'll probably be aware that Atos have been failing disabled people very badly. I've been rather angry since more news emerged this week showing that 40% of Atos assessments are unacceptably poor and I knew I needed to voice my concerns. I know it's probably a futile exercises writing to my MP, but I can't just vent on Twitter. So here's the letter I've just sent off:
I am writing to you to express my concern about Atos. As you are aware, Atos currently have contracts to assess disabled and sick people for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). It has become increasingly clear that Atos (and the work capability assessment) are failing vulnerable people woefully.
In the midst of the royal baby excitement, important news broke that the DWP has instructed Atos to raise their standards. It emerged that 40% of Atos assessments were 'unacceptably poor. That is no small number, it clearly indicates that the system is broken and in need of urgent remedy. One of the consequences of the failure of Atos is that appeals to overturn atos decisions are costing the taxpayer more and more money - the number of appeals have more than trebled in four years.
Of course, it's not just the financial cost of poor Atos decisions and subsequent appeals that needs noting. The human cost of Atos incompetency is much greater. If you are one of the unlucky 4 in 10 that experiences a poor atos assessment, you will likely have your entitlement to ESA stopped and told to go get a job and put in a JSA claim. What happens if you're too disabled or ill to seek and hold down a job? It regularly takes months and months of waiting until you get a tribunal date to get your atos decision overturned. In the meantime, the stress and strain of the uncertainty can cause a deterioration in both physical and mental health in people that are already having to cope with illness and disability. It's not just the disabled person this impacts upon, but also carers and families who will have to offer more emotional and practical and financial support to help them through the Atos crisis. The situation is getting increasingly desperate and more and more horror stories are emerging. We've had whistleblowers speaking out against the callous way they've been told to treat disabled people. We've heard of many people committing suicide in the wake of wrong atos decisions and poor treatment. There's frequent reports of Atos 'doctors' subjecting disabled people to humiliating treatment, such as one doctor telling an incontinent lady to wear a nappy to work. It is a system which is completely devoid of compassion and humanity. It's reported that Atos receive £3billion for their contracts. I believe it's in the interests of the taxpayer for the government to take urgent action against Atos before any more lives are lost or ruined.
In the wake of the news of unacceptably poor Atos assessments, Mark Hoban announced that new firms would be brought in to conduct assessments from Summer 2014. I would like to know why the government think its fair and acceptable to subject disabled people to poor assessments in the meantime? I would also like to know who in government is being held accountable for the failings of Atos? It is simply not acceptable to place all the blame on Atos. Someone in government has allowed this Atos incompetency to continue, despite repeated warnings and evidence that the Atos situation is not working. I do believe the Conservatives and Lib Dems have missed an open goal here to right the wrong of Labour. It was Labour who created this Atos and WCA, however, your reluctance to take action urgently means a sizable portion of blame lies at your door.
Thank you for reading I look forward to hearing from you.