Just a few weeks after the Paralympics closing ceremony the idea that Atos was allowed to sponsor a celebration of the enormous achievements of disabled athletes still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
Atos has a lucrative contract with the Department of Work Pensions to carry out Work Capability Assessments, which are used to decide whether an individual is fit for work immediately, in the medium term or not at all. We are consistently approached by clients who have been wrongly assessed as fit to work, even when they are suffering from serious debilitating illnesses
One such example is Mr Y. Mr Y came to see us having had an assessment with Atos where he gained only 6 points and was declared fit to work, despite having a complex combination of serious illnesses. When we spoke to him and examined his medical documents it was quickly apparent that he was in no state to work and thus had a good case to mount an appeal.
We lodged the appeal immediately in order to have his Employment and Support Allowance reinstated as soon as possible. However the very next day Mr Y’s sister called us to say he had been rushed to hospital with complications arising from illnesses. At the hospital he fell into a coma, where he remained for 6 weeks. This shocking news strengthened our resolve to fight as hard as we could to have his benefits reinstated, so that he wouldn’t wake from his coma to find himself in debt.
After much hard work, submitting detailed evidence and arguing DWP decided to reinstate his benefits and reverse their original decision to find him fit for work. Even though we managed to secure a good outcome for our client in the end this raises serious questions about Atos’s assessment procedure. If such a seriously ill man can be declared fit to work then surely there must be something fundamentally wrong with the system?