ATOS Assement Appointment Scheduling and Rescheduling

By: A.C.

There was a story over the weekend that caught my eye in the National as I browsed the Scottish News. The headline ran: DWP tell stroke victim to use food banks after being left with no DLA payments

The article states:

“Alan, who lives in Callander, had his first stroke at the age of 50. It was the first of several major seizures that left the successful businessman, who had run his own company and traveled the world, bedbound and entirely dependent on his wife, and the occasional visits of carers.”

Now, one would think there would be no problem with a PIP assessment when one is bedbound.

Clearly Alan’s wife took all precautions to ensure he received his payment when they were informed of the shift from DLA to PIP. She telephoned the DWP and informed them that the assessor should only call after 11:00 as before that time her husband was with his carers who were toileting, feeding, bathing, and getting him dressed for the day ahead.

The assessor turned up two hours ahead of the appointment, and this resulted in the following:

“On the day of the assessment, the Atos inspector turned up at 8.50am. Despite being offered the chance to see the state Alan was in, and to see the house, the assessor offered to rearrange.  That never happened, and a fortnight later the Buchanans were told they would be getting nothing in their PIP, as “there wasn’t enough evidence”.

They were offered a tribunal date, and when Heather asked officials for advice on what they should do if they were struggling, they were told to use the local food bank.”

When a person is contracted to do a job, it is expected that the work contracted for is carried out. One could argue doing what the assessor in the newspaper report did, is gross negligence and the assessor (or the person who scheduled their arrival, despite being informed that it should be after 11:00) deserves to be sacked. 

Or maybe it could be argued that doing work in that fashion, by deliberately turning up early and probably knowing that no assessment could take place due to the information that was transmitted beforehand, is fraud as no work could be done. Yet the assessor collected wages from ATOS and, indirectly, the DWP. 

However, to then use that negligent and perhaps even fraudulent (as they had been informed that no assessment would be able to take place at that time) visit as reason to cut off a disabled persons means of income, which resulted in Alan & Heather being put in a position of near penury is disgraceful.

One has to wonder if the assessment was deliberately timed, to avoid an actual assessment so that some kind of bonus, linked to how many claimants could be taken off PIP that day. Or maybe the agent just fancied some time off until the next appointment.

A few decades ago I was heavily involved in Time Study & Bonus in Local Government and I recognise the methods and the pattern of trying to get more bonuses. That all depends on what the incentive is. Is the incentive to get through as many claimants as possible; or maybe strike as many as possible off a list? Maybe by just turning up early they can do both. 

The element of this story that raises my suspicions, is in the fact that the Tribunal said there was “no evidence”. This is despite the agent offering a rearranged time and not doing so. So it would seem to my eye then, that the agent is meeting targets on volume, or possibly in how many they can send to Tribunal with no evidence, and therefore pick up a bonus on clearing lists of claimants.

This story is truly shocking, but even more shocking is the fact that an agent of the government feels they can alter an appointment time to suit themselves (for whatever purpose they feel) and not the client without informing them, and then simply strip them of benefits by not doing their job as requested and required by rearranging the assessment

I think we are all aware that any employee who fails to do their duty, and as a result damage is caused to the company or the public because of their incompetence or neglect would be sacked immediately, or at least disciplined by their employer or professional body.

So how is it that an assessor can simply take away peoples benefits when it is clear that it is their failure to carry out their duty as reported in this case, by rearranging an assessment, and that neglect, coupled with what appears to be an attitude of “nobody can touch me” appears to  encourage these employees to evermore outrage. 

This idea of  “quotas “ or bonuses in use by these companies, has been at the back of disability campaigners minds since the changes to the benefits system started. This Freedom of information request was published 5 years ago.

The DWP have repeatedly denied (in the reply to the FOI request above and elsewhere) that there is any bonus structure related to benefits assessments, but also claim that they hold no information on how ATOS and other companies remunerate their staff.

I wonder how the agent signed off the official forms at the end of the day.  How was that worded? 

Benefit claimants are told repeatedly to make truthful statements as it is fraud to do otherwise.

A very recently, a tribunal panel member was quoted on the BBC website: 

“Judges and others who sit on tribunals can lose their jobs if they speak to the media, but some were prepared to talk on the condition of anonymity.“As a tribunal member we often have to start again when it comes to appeals,” said one.

We often see people who get nothing at all in the first assessment. Then we end up giving the maximum award possible and just can’t understand [the original decision].

It’s pretty obvious assessors are rushed and they are just copying and pasting answers.“Sometimes they don’t even change the pronouns, so you get a woman being described as ‘he’ in the assessment document.

“Not all are like that but the problem is, if some can’t be trusted, then it taints the whole system.”

It would appear that the particular agent in the case of the Buchanans was particularly rushed or could not be bothered to do their job, so  why is a failure on the assessor’s part to do their job so easily overlooked?

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