Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Jun 2, 2013 21:11:06 GMT
Just how much of this chaos is Atos in origin?
An excerpt taken from an interesting letter written by Mike Driver (DWP Interim Finance Director General) to Neil Sayers, Director (Financial Audit) National Audit Office, dated the 3rd October 2012 raises quite a few issues. There's more on this story [here] but in terms of the chaos which exists within ESA assessment the following may be relevant:
Also of relevance may be this somewhat outdated source of reference may shine some light on the DWP and their current thinking:
i. As part of its on-going work with the Tribunal Service, the Department needs to put in place arrangements to better understand why decisions are being overturned at appeal. Without adequate information on successful appeals the Department cannot target remedial action cost-effectively.
The Department accepts this recommendation and was well advanced in discussions with Her Majesties Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) during the period of the NAO review. From 9 July, all cases where a DWP decision is over turned by a First Tier Tribunal will be returned with information from the Chair on the main reason for the decision. The early information on returned cases will be considered within the Department before further activity. Although the quality of medical assessment may be a factor in some appeal outcomes there was currently 4no evidence that suggested it was the main factor. Additionally, where the Tribunal believe there is a substantial error in the medical report there is a long standing process for returning such reports to Atos.
By John Bingham, Social Affairs Editor7:00AM BST 19 Oct 2012
20,000 back-to-work assessments on benefits claimants 'substandard', audit finds
UP TO 20,000 medical assessments on benefit claimants by the private contractor Atos last year failed to meet basic standards, a highly critical report by the Government spending watchdog has disclosed.
The National Audit Office criticised the Department for Work and Pensions for failing to claw back more taxpayers’ money from the company for missing performance targets.
Atos has a £112 million-a-year contract to carry out back-to-work assessments on people claiming the new form of incapacity benefit.
Last year it saw 738,000 people to decide whether they were fit for work under mass reassessment programme amid the Work and pensions Secretary’s Iain Duncan-Smith’s drive to get people back to work.
It has sparked huge controversy amid claims sick and disabled people are being forced to work on the basis of substandard assessments.
The NAO found that some claimants were being sent home without being seen by doctors while other cases are taking too long to process.
Tough love: Iain Duncan Smith. Photograph: Ian Nicholson/Press Association
• A tough job doing Iain Duncan Smith's bidding as he strives to scalp the welfare bill. Calls for tough love in spades from the health professionals employed by private contractor Atos, the ones who say yea or nay to those who seek state assistance. So if the strain is showing, that's no surprise. And strain there is, as we see from a leaked email from one of the medical experts employed by Atos to sort the strivers from the skivers. He was exhorted to put in that little bit more effort. His reply is now prized by all those under the cosh. "Our task is becoming ever more complex and ever more futile as we bend over backwards to satisfy the demands of a government that wants and needs cuts to the welfare budget," he tells the company. He wants to do his job professionally. Atos, he claims, "wants us to do a job they can defend within an unrealistic time frame". It's thankless, he tells them. "I have to justify my very existence to people at Atos who neither know me, nor support me, nor care. Meanwhile my workload increases and my remuneration decreases as each year goes by." It is, he says, "without doubt the most incompetent, inefficient and uncaring organisation with which I have ever been involved". The company doesn't comment on leaks, it says, having the "proper processes" to deal with such things. But it is clear the tide of misery affects everyone. Except, perhaps the secretary of state.
Atos has faced criticism after it emerged that a third (37%) of decisions appealed against were successfully overturned. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters
Medical assessments of benefit applicants at Atos Healthcare were designed to incorrectly assess claimants as being fit for work, one of the company's former senior doctors has claimed.
Greg Wood, a GP who worked at the company as a senior adviser on mental health issues, said claimants were not assessed in an "even-handed way", that evidence for claims was never put forward by the company for doctors to use, and that medical staff were told to change reports if they were too favourable to claimants.
The doctor claimed he resigned in disgust at what was going on, saying that many doctors he had spoken to shared his concerns. "I think the Department for Work and Pensions is the real culprit here. It's the government training that makes Atos assessors do this."
The work capability assessment is used for the government's employment and support allowance, a benefit paid to those too sick to work. Wood said that the assessors were trained in such a way that they expected claimants to score too few points to qualify for ESA, and to award points "begrudgingly".
The attitude drilled into assessors "leans towards finding reasons not to award points", he claimed. The result was a bias against the disabled, he said.
Last year the British Medical Association called for the tests to be scrapped to prevent harm to the most vulnerable people in society. Wood said that although his contract with Atos had a confidentiality clause, he was breaking it in the "public interest". He told the Guardian: "In my experience [Atos assessors] are not free to make independent recommendations, important evidence is frequently missing or never sought in the first place, medical knowledge is twisted and points are often wrongly withheld through the use of an erroneously high standard of proof."
He said if Atos assessors "show deviation from the official line they are instructed to change the report. In about a quarter of assessments important documentary evidence such as the claimant's own GP assessment is missing but the assessments go ahead regardless."
From October 2008 to August 2012 (the latest figures available from the DWP Work Capability Assessment statistics) the total case-load amounts to a figure of 4,320,600.
It's worked out by adding the cumulative case-load total from three sub-tables in the DWP WCA statistics:
Table 1(a) = 2,620,300 for new ESA claims
Table 1(b) = 958,300 for new ESA cases which have been reassessed after an initial assessment.
Table (10) = 742,000 for incapacity benefit cases which have been considered for 'conversion' to ESA.
Think of it as the DWP's 'workload' in each statistical set as it includes all claims in the set regardless of whether they have been assessed as well as those which are 'still in progress'.
4.3 million cases is a huge workload for DWP to work their way through. In a new case it starts with a claim being made, medical evidence has to be collected in the form of a sick note from the claimant's doctor and arrangements made for Atos healthcare to assess the claimant. It nearly always involves the claimant in having to complete a long self - assessment (ESA 50) questionnaire, all of which needs to be carefully considered before the DWP can decide on a claim.
Reassessment cases and incapacity benefit conversion cases are no less straightforward as in both cases the previous evidence should be considered.
From October 2008 to August 2012 (the latest date for which the DWP has made statistics available) 3,053,200 Work Capability Assessments have been carried out. The vast majority of these will be conducted by Atos Healthcare on a 'face to face' basis, but some (where the evidence is strong enough) will be assessed on 'scrutiny' with no face to face interview being needed.
The Work Capability Assessment is the collective term for the process of assessing everyone for ESA entitlement purposes. The assessment results are 'cumulative' and updated by the DWP at different intervals. Each new set of statistics will alter previous results because of appeal outcomes and DWP updating.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Jun 29, 2013 8:58:17 GMT
(3) Fit for work and the Work Related Activity Group
Up to August 2012:
1,028,800 have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group 715,500 in the Support Group 1,308,700 found Fit for Work
Those in the Support Group cannot be mandated to prepare for work because their illness is deemed too severe, however they can volunteer to participate in the Work Programme.
Those in the Work Related Activity Group are not deemed to be jobseeker's because they are still recognised as having severe health limitations. They can however be mandated to the Work Programme with a condition being placed on their claim that they prepare for work.
With over 2.3 million in the Work Related Activity Group and being found fit for work the obvious question is: how many are being helped by the Work Programme in to real and sustainable work?
One also has to ask if 2.3 million people were as 'job ready' for the labour markets as the papers say; why have we not seen a dramatic rise in the numbers claiming Jobseeker's Allowance?
It is after all commonly said in the media that those on the sick have long term claim histories, there being a recognition that there is a real difficulty in placing the sick (not to be confused with the disabled) in to work - you would expect claimants coming off sickness benefits as fit for work to take up claims as jobseekers. The numbers claiming Jobseekers Allowance has not risen by anywhere near the number said to be coming off sickness benefits.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Jun 29, 2013 8:58:44 GMT
(4) Why 1,074,200 claimants really closed their claims before their assessment
The figure widely quoted (or rather mis-quoted) in the media was around 900,000. The correct figure was in-fact over a million, it being 1,074,200 up to August 2012.
The reason a lower figure was quoted is because it related to claimants making a new claim for ESA only, the figures for people closing their before assessment is higher in a new claim case is because they wait far longer for an assessment than the optimum 13 week window allowed for in the regulations.
Employment and Support Allowance Off Flows (thousands) : Duration of claim by Phase of ESA claim (At Off Flow)
Phase of ESA claim (At Off Flow)
Work Related Activity Group
Off Flows (thousands)
Off Flows (thousands)
Off Flows (thousands)
Off Flows (thousands)
Off Flows (thousands)
Duration of claim
Up to 3 months
3 months up to 6 months
6 months up to 1 year
1 year and up to 2 years
2 years and up to 5 years
5 years and over
What these figures show is that in 3 months from September - November 2012 a total of 156,900 claimants came off ESA of which 92,180 (59%) were in the Assessment Phase. Of those in the Assessment Phase only 26,160 (28.4%) had a claim duration of 3 months or less. 3 months is the period in which claimants should be assessed for ESA unless (a) the assessment is delayed or (b) the claimant is appealing - in which case the assessment phase is extended.
71.6% claimants left ESA having a claim duration of longer than 3 months.
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Jun 29, 2013 8:59:07 GMT
IDS has nothing to be proud of
In fact he should be absolutely ashamed of himself
There is nothing more sickening than IDS deluding himself with visions of 'pride' over his treacherous welfare reforms.
All IDS has done is drip feed the public, via the media, with complete tripe over how effectively he is tackling welfare dependency, reducing benefit fraud, simplifying the claiming system and making 'work pay'.
He wins over support for each and everyone of his reforms by completing misrepresenting the facts in an attempt to vilify those who, for whatever reason, have to turn to the State for support. IDS belongs to a government which makes people unemployed and then harasses people for being unemployed. Contrary to all he says the growth of long term welfare dependency is far more deeply routed under his own government when they were last in power between 1979 and 1997 - during which time incapacity claims more than trebled. Any claim IDS makes to stop 'parking' people on the sick are nothing short of pure calculated evil when he knows only too well that his is the government which parked them there in the first instance.
His disastrous Work Programme is a catastrophic failure when it comes to helping the long term sick in to work, no better example can be found than in his own constituency where DWP figures will confirm not one single person has been found a job following an incapacity benefit or ESA claim via the programme - hardly inspiring confidence is it?
IDS boasts to be getting people off sickness benefit are no than sheer fantasy, the numbers of claimants has barely shifted despite sifting through now well over 5 million ESA cases and assessing over 3.4 million with the dreaded Work Capability Assessment.