Green Party calls for the removal of ATOS from benefits assessments

Green Party members meeting for their annual Conference in Sheffield yesterday passed a motion calling on the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to stop using IT firm ATOS as its assessor of benefit claimants.

ATOS Healthcare, a subsidiary of ATOS, conducts disability assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for people claiming a range of disability benefits including Employment Support Allowance (ESA), Incapacity Benefit, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

Concerns have been raised over the company’s suitability to conduct assessments, ranging from the lack of disabled access at their assessment centres to the shocking fact that 40% of their decisions have been found to be wrong on appeal [1].

Keith M Ross of Swansea Green Party and a former benefits adviser said, “I know from personal experience working with clients in Swansea that the “box-ticking” method used to assess claims for ESA and DLA is close to useless when dealing with conditions such as autism or post traumatic stress.”

“Over the past few years I’ve dealt with numerous cases where the claimant has been assessed as fully fit for work by ATOS, only for the decision to be overturned without demur by the appeals tribunal.  In at least two cases in the last year the tribunal granted the application for DLA without even interviewing the claimant, the case being so obviously compelling.”

Jillian Creasy, Green councillor for Sheffield Central who also works as a GP, added, “ATOS’s computer-led assessment is far too blunt an instrument to assess a benefit that is vital for so many. Not only that, but the number of decisions that have been reversed means that an awful lot of taxpayers’ money has been wasted.

“Disabled people should be afforded the dignity they deserve throughout any assessment process, and should not be presumed guilty or treated like they’re avoiding work. ATOS has no place in such a sensitive area, and we urge the government to sever all ties with the company.”

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Notes

1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2011/jul/25/disability-benefits-atos-government-hiding

2. Full text of the emergency motion:

Conference expresses deep concern at the use of ATOS to assess incapacity benefit receivers for their ability to return to work. As evidence continues to mount that the work capability assessments are being used politically to remove Employment and Support Allowance payments, with 12 doctors referred to the General Medical Council in August, Conference calls on the party leadership to demand that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions removes ATOS as its assessor of benefit claimants.

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