Blog: Mr Perrin and the ATOS experience

“A Word in Your Ear” from Mr Perrin.

The Downing Street “Robber Barons” and the ATOS Healthcare “Gang”.

I recently accompanied my nephew, who suffers with chronic schizophrenia, to an “assessment” by ATOS Healthcare, in partnership with the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions [DWP], to determine his fitness for work.

I was appalled by the experience and considered the whole procedure nothing short of “state sponsored” harassment of people with serious physical disabilities or mental illness. They attend these” assessments” under duress and the” threat” that failure to attend could result in the loss of all or part of their disability benefits.

It fails to say that by attending they are also at serious risk of losing all or part of their disability benefits on the arbitrary assessment of an employee of a Company, paid by the Government, whose remit is to “force” the sick and disabled into work regardless of the consequences. These “assessors” know little or nothing of the history of the “client” and rely mainly on the answers given, by the “client”, on the day, to questions they have already answered in a form sent to them by the DWP some weeks or months previously.

My nephew received a letter from the DWP giving him the date, place and time he was required to attend and requested he arrive 10 minutes BEFORE the stated time, which he did. On arrival I noted that there were 20 “clients” already in attendance. My nephew informed the receptionist of his arrival and was immediately told that they were “running” late and that it was doubtful that he would be seen that day and a new date for his attendance would have to be made.

I protested and asked how late they were running and was told approximately one hour. My nephew’s appointment time was 1100hrs so we were prepared to wait in order to be dealt with that day. We were further informed that each appointment took approximately 40 minutes with a further 10 minutes to allow the assessor to complete notes. Assuming that each assessor would deal with 4 “clients” in the morning i.e.0900hrs to 1300hrs and, with an hour for lunch, 3 in the afternoon i.e. 1400hrs to 1700hrs there being 3 assessors available that day, 21 “clients” would be dealt with and as there were already 20 clients waiting when we arrived I anticipated that we would be the last to be seen that day at around 1600hrs i.e. 5 hours later than the actual appointment time.

Despite repeatedly being told by the receptionist that it was unlikely that we would be dealt with that day we were still prepared to wait in order to prevent having to rebook. The receptionist informed me that it did not work that way because there would be a further 20 “clients” arriving for the afternoon session so any morning “clients” not seen by 1200hrs would be sent home and rebooked. I could not believe what I was being told i.e. that probably 21 “clients” were being sent home daily and having to be rebooked at considerable cost to the taxpayer as many will have travelled a considerable distance, by car or public transport, and would be entitled to be reimbursed their travel costs, not just for that day but for any subsequent attendance. I “stuck to my guns” and insisted that my nephew would be dealt with that day and that he would head the list of the afternoon appointments which was, with some reluctance, eventually agreed.

At 1400hrs, 3 hours later than the original time of his appointment, my nephew was called to meet with the assessor, a young lady who I judged to be between 25 to 30 years of age, I deemed it would be impolite if I asked her to verify her age. However, bearing in mind that she was about to assess my nephew’s ability to work, I considered it justified and pertinent to ask if she was a qualified doctor or psychiatrist the answer was no on both counts and when pressed she stated that she was a “general nurse” with some training in “mental health care”.

So my nephew was to be assessed by a person who knows nothing whatsoever about my nephew as to how his illness and treatment affect him daily, other than what was given by the DWP, whose recommendation as to my nephew’s ability to work is based on a quick “question and answer” interview which the DWP, mindful of the Government’s “brief” i.e. get these “layabouts” back to work, will probably accept, ignoring the professional opinions and recommendations of his psychiatrist and GP who have known him and treated him for years and his “ family carers” who help him throughout each day. It is incomprehensible that such unqualified opinions should be given the same or even more weight than that of qualified professional s.

Based upon my own experience there are some serious issues that need to be addressed quickly regarding the treatment of “clients” summoned to these “assessment” interviews, especially , having heard from others who have attended at different assessment clinics, it would not be unreasonable to assume that what I witnessed is happening at assessment clinics all over the country.

The DWP needs to liaise with clinics and only make appointments for the number of “clients” each clinic can cope with daily. Re-bookings should be the exception not the rule thus saving a considerable amount of money due to having to pay travel costs more than once.

People should not be treated like cattle herded into a waiting room for hours only to be told that they will not be dealt with that day and that they will have to come back some other time. No consideration is given to the inconvenience and stress caused to the “client”.

I was troubled by the anxiety that permeated “clients” waiting to be “interrogated”, especially those afflicted by mental illness. The intimidatory atmosphere was made even more palpable by the presence of a person who one would normally expect to see on the doors of venues such as rock concerts and nightclubs, i.e. a “bouncer”, the purpose of his presence being all too obvious.

My nephew told me, had he been on his own, he would not have dared to remonstrate or dissent in any way fearful it would be interpreted as aggressive behaviour and he would have been forcibly ejected from the premises or at worst the police would be called and he would be arrested and probably sectioned.

This Government appears to delight in harrying those on benefits encouraging the view that most people on benefits are parasitical, lazy, workshy, fraudsters “living a life of riley” at the expense of the tax payer. The pleasure they seem to derive from this harassment conjures up, for me, the unseemly sight of people in red coats, mounted on horseback, shouting” tally-ho, tally-ho” as they indulge themselves in a “blood” sport at the end of which they rejoice in the “kill”.

It is shameful that the Government does not exercise the same enthusiasm when tackling the problem of tax evasion, a cost to the public purse on a par with or greater than the cost of benefits to the sick and disabled.

Frankly, I believe, the Government’s treatment of people on benefits, particularly the old, sick and disabled, borders on wickedness.

26 Responses to "Blog: Mr Perrin and the ATOS experience"

  1. jmw118   June 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    No surprises here then Peter.
    I’m sure Mr Myles Cook will agree with your experiences.
    Its what we should expect from this government who are determined to reduce benefit costs at any human price.

  2. Snakebiteuk   June 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I am anxiously waiting for my call up papers, sooner or later I will have to go and prove why I should be entitled to Sickness and Disability Benefits. Should I ask someone from TBC, perhaps a Housing officer or Councillor to come along with me and explain that I was left to live in a Damp and Mouldy home for many years and it has now left their resident in a Terminal Condition. Or could I ask MP Jackie Doyle price to come along and explain my condition. I agree with Peter, this Government is wicked to turn society against the vulnerable to the extent of calling us fraudsters and parasitical, dear lord I have enough of that from the Employee’s at TBC, for those that are healthy and condem us, put the shoe on the other foot it’s not very pleasant.

  3. Anthony Auger   June 20, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    I have just received my ATOS Form. It’s 20 pages long. I will be going down to the jobcentre in the morning as I am registered blind and have suicidal depression and have been under the care of SEPT, the local mental health trust. Sadly I cannot see the small font of the form and it says to ring the jobcentre and a person will go over it on the phone. But I cannot see it. Why did they sent out a small font form to a registered blind person?

    Well, looking forward to workfare where we will work for nothing for an unlimited amount of time.

    It’s a pity the government closed down Remploy as most businesses view the disabled as dead wood.
    It’s a pity they gave all the money to the bankers, they might have been able to create a workscheme for the unemployed and disabled.

  4. Ed   June 20, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Before attacking the Coalition for their ‘war on scroungers’ we should remember that It was the previous Labour Government that piloted these interviews with ATOS and the coalition rolled this Labour Government initiative out across the country.

    So this is a Labour idea continued by the Coalition.So credit where credit is due – this was a Labour Government idea. I wonder why no Labour politicians are claiming credit for the monster they unleashed?

  5. Grays88   June 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    a great blog here peter,

    its just a shame that so many people have to justify their illness or disabilities to a complete stranger (many times not even a qualified doctor).

    however there is a need for assessments in general as some people don’t deserve the benefits they are claiming – i know of at least three people who get DLA and they in my mind don’t need it, they go to the doctors and get there pills and then go home and flush them down the loo!.- but those who do need it may never be able to get it.

  6. Catching the Bus   June 20, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Grays88 If you know of three people for god sake report them its easy. You would save the government tens of thousends.

  7. Catching the Bus   June 20, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Ed Labour, Tory or Lib dem whats the differance to Mr Perri’s nephew. Aint you clocked the major three parties are all alike.

  8. snadge   June 20, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    @ ED – what a typical “Tory Boy” reply.. its probably IDS himself!! – if the ConDem were so against it why did they make it worse and set 12% targets in the Support Group (not to forget 6 JSA claimants sanctions per month per advisor) …

    ANSWER: The Conservatives ‘loved’ that monster and took the opportunity to make it work for them…

    its all you hear from tories …”blame labour …blame labour” – if they spend as much time sorting out the WCA as they do pointing the finger then they might get somewhere…!!

  9. NoVoice   June 21, 2013 at 5:29 am

    I’ll put a tenner on it now that Labour don’t scrap this if they win the next election. If I went to the doctors and the receptionist tried to diagnose me I’d tell them where to get off. Similarly at a hospital. Although I do agree that some people do swing the lead it is unfair to target everyone in the same manner. They don’t ask HB claimants to go and prove they’re still entitled to benefits. if they think it’s a faudulent claim they have to have proof, It would appear that the proof is lacking here.

    The benefits they should be targeting are HB and working and family tax credits as these are openly being abused and is the largest area of growth in the welfare bill.

    The out of control welfare bill is the fault of Labour and is largely due to the situation they put this country in. Their aims were clear and they’ve admitted as much.

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  12. VINCE63   June 22, 2013 at 6:03 am

    Labour needs to make a pledge to dump this terrible company and the underlying practises. . Many people are found fit for work but as they are not signed off by their doctors they cannot work. The saddest thing is that most people do not believe the terrible things that are going onto benefit claimants until they are victims of the ATOS nightmare. Tribunals can be over two years away. The withdrawal of Legal Aid has led many advocates especially CAB’s to no longer provide Social Policy direction. Over a trillion pound has been spent on the UK banking industry and still criminal and potentially fraudulent activities continue to arise – COOP bailout over a billion. But be on Benefits or potentially a pensioner (Ed Balls) and you are seen by many as a criminal. Food Banks (well done volunterrs) in UK a disgrace. for a first world country. Labour introduced the ATOS nightmare and are unlikely to get rid of them but the Tories are truly revelling in the system. And MP’s want £100,000 pay salaries – PIGS IN TROUGHS. Time for indirect and direct people action but sadly the UK people are too apathetic or lazy to do anything!

  13. Ed   June 22, 2013 at 10:01 am

    VINCE63 – ATOS have the contract to switch people from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

    http://www.atoshealthcare.com/pip/

    It was Labour who first used ATOS – Labour have no plans and have made no pledges not to use them if they ever regained control. They have made no pledges to undue any of the current reforms as far as I can see. Do correct me if I am wrong. All I hear is plenty of hot air and hand wringing from Labour but no pledges on what they will do.

  14. Catching the Bus   June 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    So what will the Tories do for Perins nephew ED?

  15. Ed   June 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Catching the Bus – perhaps you should ask the Tories what they would do?

    In any of these types of debates it is very rare for any Conservative politicians to join in and defend what is happening. Conservative Councillors and our MPs read YourThurrock. I know several Conservative Councillors who regularly post comments on her under various names (but never their own).

    Perhaps a local Conservative Councillor – even if they post under one of their screen names – would like to defend the benefit reforms? Perhaps they would even like to write an article for YourThurrock?

  16. Catching the Bus   June 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    My point is you bash labour at every opportunity. I don’t see you bashing the right. what differance does it make to Mr Perrin Nephew. the way I see it Labour will cut his benefits so will the condems. They are as bad as one another. Please don’t turn this into a Lab Con battle this will not help the person at question which is how best to help mr Perrins Nephew.

  17. Ed   June 22, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Catching the Bus – you obviously haven’t read many of my posts then. I actually work administering welfare benefits. Until a few months ago I used to hold a weekly welfare benefits advice surgery. I see first hand daily the impact these reforms are having. If you think so far has been bad wait until the benefit cap comes in during July, Universal Credit starts getting rolled out across the country and people migrate from DLA to PIP.

  18. Catching the Bus   June 22, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Ed – Then I look forward to your posts, it will be good to see politicians of all sides held accountable.

  19. NoVoice   June 22, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    So what will all the parties do when interest rates raise our debt repayments to over £100 billion a year in interest alone. Does anyone here think the welfare state in it’ scurrent form will still exist. The never never is gone. The credit card limit won’t be extended. Isn’t it funny how Labour now advocate all current Tory policies. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to get worse.

  20. Catching the Bus   June 22, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    I agree with you Novoice. they gave all the money to the banksters and when the hyperinflation goes up all the homeowners lose when the interest rates go up the debt is unrealistic.
    Pensioners will have no pension thats for sure.
    Mr Perrins nephew will have to beg on Grays High Street
    NHS will be sold no doubt to the banksters.
    I’m going to beg on Grays High street and I am not joking.
    Never trust Labour, Cons or Lib Dems. they sold us all out over the last 30 years.
    We should of put the banksters in jail and those that follow them.

  21. Peter Perrin   June 22, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    I am heartened by the mainly sympathetic response my blog has received, especially those who have expressed their concern with regard to my nephew. However, I feel obliged to point out that the main purpose of my blog was to make people aware of how thousands upon thousands of mentally ill and physically disabled people are being” harried” “intimidated” “threatened” by this iniquitous programme of assessment carried out by ATOS Healthcare in partnership with the DWP on behalf of this coalition Government. I do accept that the Government has to tackle the country’s debt problem but I am shocked that they feel they are justified in “persecuting” the sick and disabled whilst turning a “blind-eye” to millionaire” tax dodgers” who cost the country far more in lost revenue than is paid in benefits to the sick and disabled. Am I being cynical in suggesting that there maybe some members of this Government who are themselves benefitting from tax avoidance?

  22. NoVoice   June 22, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Mr Perrin ATOS is a farce and I hope your nephew appeals any decision made against his welfare. The system is counter productive. I spoke to someone who tells me that it has to be done to prove the governments credentials on equality which I find hard to believe but who would put that past any goverment currently. It’s the wrong target but none of the parties will get rid of it. Ane easy target with a long drag period in terms of appeals.

  23. Catching the Bus   June 22, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    What can I say
    We live in a plutocracy (the rule or power of wealth or of the wealthy)
    Capitalism died in 2008,

    small and medium sized businesses can fail but the banks are too big. the end of Capitalism

  24. hot press   June 23, 2013 at 12:11 am

    I think if a death occurs as it already has done alter the evaluation process at ATOS , I think the person who implicated the whole process should be charged with corporate man’ slaughter perhaps then and only then ,it will stop the farcical behaviour of the Minister in charge if this process

  25. VINCE63   June 23, 2013 at 4:15 am

    Good Luck Mr Perrin – Appeal via Benefit Teams at Beehive Grays. CAB / DIAL
    Current NAO statistics show you have over a 40% chance of success at Appeal. But Tribunals maybe up to 2 years away. Come on Conservatives / Labour / LibDems show some humanity and also investigate ATOS now. Over 40% appeal success means a botched system is hurting people with real difficulties.

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