Rainbow Warrior - They don’t give ATOS
There is more news from the wonderful world of ATOS – the firm responsible for the highly dubious conducting of the medicals – or Work Capability Assessments as they call them – on claimants of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
A huge backlog of these assessments has built up because 31 of the 123 centres used by ATOS are not fully accessible so people have arrived for their medical only to be turned away because they can’t get to the examination room.
The centre at Norwich is one of six such buildings which between them are responsible for three quarters of these delays.
Demonstrations have been held by groups of disabled people outside the Norwich centre, as they were in London during the Paralympics, pointing out the dual standards of a multinational interested only in the company’s profit margins.
There seems to be quite a political consensus on ATOS’ efforts.
The House of Commons’ Work and Pensions Committee heard evidence from Mark Hoban, the Employment Minister who said: “There’s a challenge in ensuring interview centres are accessible.
“What we don’t want to do is to get people to turn up to centres that they can’t effectively access.”
In a reference to the Equality Act, looking particularly at equal access for all to public buildings, the committee’s chair, Labour MP Dame Anne Begg, said it would be difficult for the Department for Work and Pensions to ask businesses to “put in access when the department cannot itself guarantee it in buildings used for assessments.”
Let’s just pause and take a closer look at this chaotic conundrum. There are several pieces to the barmy jigsaw.
1. Here we have a firm being paid a small fortune (£500 million) to conduct a service for a government department which wishes to save money on this particular bill.
2. Is there a get-out clause if they make mistakes with their assessments? No.
3. Are they penalised if there are monumental delays in the process? No.
4. Remind me. Who is it that they are assessing? Isn’t a large proportion likely to be disabled people who might not find it too easy to make a flight of stairs? So wouldn’t it have been sensible to have chosen ground floor spaces for these assessments, just in case?
I leave the final word to Lib Dem MP Stephen Lloyd who gave a pretty good personal assessment of ATOS’ own work capability: “Just potty.”
n Jonathan Toye can be contacted at West Norfolk Disability information Service (WNDiS), 14 Tuesday Market Place, King’s Lynn, Norfolk PE30 1JN or on 01553 782558 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The West Norfolk Disability website is www.wndis.org.uk
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Weather for King's Lynn
Wednesday 22 May 2013
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