WCA assessments suspended until another company replaces Atos!

benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/...

I'm copying and pasting the post from Benefits&Work in here:

DWP have told staff that due to a growing backlog at Atos all current employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants will be left on the benefit, without further medical checks, until another company can be found to do repeat work capability assessments (WCAs). The memo, dated 20 January, goes on to say that this will reduce the number of claimants moving off ESA, but that there are no plans to inform claimants or MPs about the change.

Benefits and Work obtained the memo from the DWP via a Freedom of Information request. It is headed: ‘FOR URGENT CASCADE. Control of the Referral of Repeat work Capability Assessments’.

The memo explains that back in July a ministerial statement announced that:

“in the drive to continually improve the Work Capability Assessment process and bring down waiting times for claimants, DWP had decided to seek additional capacity to deliver Work Capability Assessments.

“We are working towards having new provision in place – it will of course take some time for that to become fully operational.”

However, the memo goes on to explain that:

“The number of cases currently with Atos Healthcare has grown. A decision has therefore been taken to control the referral of repeat work capability assessments. Therefore, with effect from 20 January 2014, further routine repeat assessments referrals to Atos will be deferred until further notice.

“Controlling the volume of repeat Work Capability Assessments should help us to reduce delays for new claimants and those that have already been referred.”

The memo goes on to say that staff must still refer claimants for reassessment where there has been a reported change in condition, giving the example of a claimant placed in the Work Related Activity Group whose condition worsens and who might be expected to move into the Support Group.

Aside from this, however, reassessment of existing claimants is to end until further notice, with no new cases being referred to Atos from 20th January.

The memo is keen to point out that the decision to stop repeat assessments by Atos is not ‘linked to the quality issues outlined in July 2013’ which the DWP ‘has been working closely with Atos to resolve’. It also reassures readers that the change will have no impact on Atos’ ability to carry out personal independence payment assessments.

It does, however, admit that the result of the change is that the number of people coming off ESA each month will reduce because:

“the Work Capability Assessment is the main trigger for off-flows from the Employment and Support Allowance load. We will continue to assess the potential for alternative interventions on those whose repeat Work Capability Assessments are deferred to seek to manage this consequence.”

No details of what those ‘alternative interventions’ might be is given.

It is clear, however, that the DWP is not keen for people to be aware of the ever more disastrous state of medical assessments for benefits by Atos. The memo explains that claimants who enquire about when their next WCA will be, should only be told that:

“Although the Department will periodically review a person’s Limited Capability for Work, there is no set date for this to happen.

“The timing of this review is at the discretion of the Decision Maker acting on behalf of the Secretary of State and is influenced by the evidence available to them, which can mean on occasion longer periods between face to face assessments. “

In addition, the memo explains that as this is simply an ‘operational decision’ and not a ‘policy change’ there are no plans to notify ‘external stakeholders such as claimants, claimant representative groups, Members of Parliament, etc.’

It is hard to imagine that IDS and his fellow DWP ministers believed that they could keep this further Atos-related failure secret for long: you can’t stop reassessing thousands of claimants a week without anyone noticing. If, however, they could have kept it secret at least until they found a new company to take on the repeat assessments, it would have been easier to explain away and not added to the ever mounting pressure for a complete overhaul of the WCA.

“Yes, there was briefly a problem” IDS could have said “But we now have a new provider and it is no longer an issue.”

As it is, this news is simply further proof that the WCA is not fit for purpose, because as soon as the DWP attempts to impose proper quality controls a massive backlog results. It is, we hope, another nail in the coffin of a completely discredited system.

And, for all those claimants with static or degenerative conditions who continue to be forced to undergo repeat assessments, often followed by repeat appeals, on an annual basis, the news will come as a welcome respite.

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27 Replies

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  • Very interesting reading Kirby, well ATOS has proven themselves incapable, which is what a lot of us have thought for a very long time ! Let's just hope whatever replacement is more efficient and understanding than ATOS !!

    Thank you for posting this :-)

    Foggy x

  • You're welcome, Foggy.

    My fear is that we could get somebody even worse like G4S. But whoever the replacement is they will be under the spotlight for sure!

    K x

  • Hi Kirby

    I sincerely hope that you are feeling as well as you possibly can be today? I really want to say thank you for this extremely interesting and informative post.

    It may just come as a massive welcoming surprise for many of the members. Thank you.

    Take care

    Ken x

  • Thank you, Ken. I don't think we're out of the woods yet because the replacement providers could be more of the same, but at least a breather for now. x

  • I am very pleased that this has happened but my only concern is that I hope it is not going to be out of the fire into the frying pan :o) (I am looking at that and not sure if that is the right way around) And it was also bad/good timing for me as my ESA50 went in at the end of January. Lets watch this space.

  • Hi Graces

    Yes, not sure how it will affect ESAs already submitted. My fear too is who will they be replaced by. Many of these private profiteers are much of a muchness but maybe just maybe the Atos fiasco will demonstrate the power of the opposition to them.

    All the best

    K x

  • My ESA50 went in on the end of January as well, I have panicked when the post comes since then expecting my WCA date........I might greet the post a little easier now for a while.......I hope :)

  • Hope so too, Suz! :-)

  • I am waiting for a date for my review to come out of the w r p group to the support group as my condition has got a lot worse so looks like I have a long wait As the last time I went to have my assesmnt the woman who did it told a lot of the wrong things that is why I am in the work related group So I know they do get it wrong

  • If you've already submitted something, Leonard, it could be caught up in the system. But if by waiting for a date for your review you mean them sending another ESA50 then yes that looks as if it would be delayed. However, if you have already reported a change then they should still look at that as a change of circumstance ie your condition getting worse. I don't know who'll be doing the processing of them, mind.

    Best wishes and hope you get in the Support Group

  • ATOS are looking for a exit to their contract which is until 2015. They have had their shares drop 6.6% after 144 of their assessment centres had protesters outside and even had one centre have the staff walk out and joined the protest. The idea was sound but implication and interpretation was used as a money saving exercise and not fit for purpose.

  • Yes, it was in Southend where staff joined in with the protest. Many of them were closed on the day of the protest. I have to disagree with you though that the idea was sound. It was rotten from the off and is just a ruse to cut people off benefits as you rightly point out. I don't agree with 'health care professionals' who have been trained for a few weeks being able to make a decision over and above GPs and other professionals.

  • Dear team members, ATOS sent me another ESA50 to be filled in May 2013. I did not filled in and I wrote to ATOS that my appeal to the ESA support Group is still pending at the HMCourt/Tribunal. I also told them that I already filled the first ESA50 in November 2012 and had ATOS medical assessment. They awarded "0" Points. I appealed in January 2013. DWP put me in Conributory ESA in WRAG groupwithout any hearings. I appeal again in April 2013 to put me in ESA support Group. While my appeal pending at the HM Courts/Tribunal, DWP send another ESA 50 to me. I never filled in. At this stage in April 2013 ATOS/DWP sanctioned my entire ESA WRAG payment from my migration of Long term IB. In this case I had two appeals at the HM Court/Tribunal. One appeal for ESA Support Group and the second one for not filling in the second ESA 50 send by ATOS in May 2013. To cut short my story, I had my first appeal on 03/12/2013 heard by Tribunal Judge, Independent Medical Doctor and an Independent observer doctor. My husband and my daughter represented my at this hearing. I won my appeal and the Honorable Judge awarded me ESA with Support component. He applied Schedule 3 of the ESA Regulations 2008 and regulations 35 of 2008.

    My second appeal for failure to return the second ESA 50 by ATOS came for hearing at the tribunal on 23/12/2013.This includes my failure to attend work focus interview by ATOS/DWP and ESA sanctioned. I also won this Appeal on 23/12/2013. My representative told the Judge that I don't need to filled in the second ESA50 as I was migrated from IB to ESA in February 2013. Furthermore the ESA50 Form clearly sated that the form is only for those who are getting Incapacity Benefit, severe disable allowance and etc, and it is not for ESA existing claimants. We also produce a letter that we sent to ATOS ,stating that they sent me second ESA50 questionnaire by mistake again as I already filled in one and had ATOS medical in December 2012.

    The Judge agreed with us and accepted all our evidence about this appeal. The judge said I am right for not filling in another ESA50 in May/June 2013. She said " You are entitle for ESA in her JUDGEMENT December 2013".

    My dear Team members, our entire family members have suffered alot of stress because of the ATOS appeals and the flawed assessments against me. Especially my health has deteriorated very badly during this one year. I am really very ill now. I am seeking medical help with GPS and Hospital consultants. My advise to our team, is never give up. We have have to fight for our entitlements and our Human Rights until these two elements are given to us. Thank god ATOS contract is going to end. I cannot imagine how much harassment I underwent in their hands for not attending their bloody work focus interview. To be honest I did not attend their work focus interview until my appeal was heard at the HM Courts/Tribunal on 03/12/2013. Now the DWP saying that work focus interview does not apply in my case as I was put in ESA support group. We know for fact that ATOS/DWP does not care about claimants health whether it is deteriorated badly. I know for a fact many sick and disabled claimants have suffered the worst at their hands for their flawed assessments for ESA. I was one of the Victim who suffered the worst until the god gave me winnings at the HM Court/Tribunal Services.

  • Hi Haney

    Very sorry to hear about all the terrible things you've had to go through like so many people and as a result of Atos. But you are right to mention the DWP because it is their policies that Atos have been carrying out (albeit in a cruel and inhumane manner). But as it is the DWP at the helm Atos going isn't the end of the story and I fear their replacement could be as bad eg G4S. They are all much of a muchness. However, my feeling is that campaigning groups and disabled activists and all sort of people will be monitoring them closely and won't let them get away with what Atos have. So let's hope this is the beginning of the end. Best wishes.

  • What else can I say but .........Hallelujah!!!!! :)

  • I'd like to celebrate too Sue but their replacement will probably be someone as bad like G4S, Capita or Serco but I'm also a bit hopeful that they won't be able to get away with what Atos have because of the close scrutiny that there'll be. Let's hope anyway :-)

  • Aye, we can but hope. But surely any new replacement would have to do something different so that they don't get the bad press and threats that ATOS have received. XX

  • I would have thought so, Sue! :-) xx

  • My esa50 had to be in by the 15th Jan, and I was pretty muddle headed at the time. I feel sure I missed out a few things, I bet I get thrown out of the support group, :-( I haven't received a date for my review yet though.

  • Best wishes with it, lampain x

  • Thanks Kirby x

  • Hi there

    just joined forum to day. i had read this on another site. what i wm worried about is that i have not been migrated from Inacpacity benefit to ESA. i sent forms back July2013 and have still not had any reply i am so worried and twitch everytime the post drops on the floor.

    husband had his medical last month and has been moved form SG to WRAG, cant understand as only 6 months have gone by and nothing has changed in his health.

    i hope this news is good for the many and not just the few.

    jan

  • Hi Jan

    It's because they are very behind with the assessments that they need to catch up with people who've not been migrated and those, like yourself, who are stuck in the backlog.

    It is horrible waiting for the post, I know very much how that feels and also have two in my family who are stuck in the system. I hope your husband will get advice and ask for a reconsideration before appeal. It may be that he was one of those who were placed in the SG for six months. It is ridiculous the frequency of the reassessments. No wonder they have got so behind.

    Wishing you all the best.

    K x

  • Hello Kirby,

    Thank You for the information and replies to other members on this subject, your contributions to the community are always helpful

    Best Wishes

    Emma :)

    FibroAction Administrator

  • Thanks Emma :-)

  • That's strange because I was only off ESA support group for 8 weeks I took a job I thought I could cope with I couldn't so I claimed thinking under the 12 week rule they would put me straight back in to the support group no I had to make a new claim I now have depression which my doctor diagnosed got a letter in they want me to go for a medical it's made me I'll already why when my health problems haven't changed

  • Sorry to hear this, Lisa, especially when you tried to work. Nothing is straightforward any more. They punish you if you try and help yourself and try and work. No wonder people are scared to come off benefits. It should be easy to move in and out of work. I think this was the original idea for Universal Credit but that is now tainted with the whole system. If you can get your GP to support a home visit for you if you can't face going for a medical or if you go make sure you have someone with you and don't put on a brave face. Let them know how bad you feel and how it affects you. Remember if you can't do something reliably, repeatedly, safely or in a timely manner then you can't do that function at all. Best wishes

    K x

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