Call for IDS to be sacked

@DoleQueueUnite: We & the TUC call for Iain Duncan Smith to be SACKED! http://t.co/eQYT9pZtTv petition http://t.co/SWbITG5tV8 – The… http://t.co/O70E4WoCMP
Anyone this incompetent in any other job would have been sacked long ago. This man has no respect for the sick or disabled. It’s high time he went and he should be held accountable for the suffering he has caused.

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Anxiety from service users as ATOS appears in mental health units

12
Jul 2013

Anxiety from service-users as Atos appears in mental health units

theweeksubA mental health trust has defended its decision to carry out disability assessments on behalf of the controversial outsourcing company Atos.

Mental health service-users at four sites run by Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust have been alarmed to see Atos-branded leaflets displayed in waiting areas.

The four sites – in Preston, Ormskirk, Lancaster and Blackburn – are being used by trust staff to assess disabled people for their eligibility for the new personal independence payment (PIP), on behalf of Atos.

Atos information leaflets are displayed in the waiting areas at all four of the sites.

Thousands of people with mental distress have been found unfairly fit for work following work capability assessments carried out by Atos, and many have had relapses, episodes of self-harm and suicide attempts, and have needed higher levels of medication and even hospitalisation in the lead-up to those assessments.

One trust service-user said she had had an “awful experience” during an Atos “fitness for work” assessment, and added: “Their presence in the building increases my anxiety and isn’t helping my mental health.

“The hospital is meant to be a place of safety and a place to improve my stability and mental health. This is not the case at this time.”

Mark Hindle, the trust’s chief operating officer, said: “As a trust, we feel that we are best placed to provide these assessments as we have an in-depth understanding of the population and issues around health inequalities across the county.

“We also have the expert knowledge of both physical and mental health illnesses and the impact these can have on a person’s day-to-day living.”

He added: “The trust’s core values will ensure that people attending for an assessment will be treated with compassion, dignity and respect and involved in the assessment; as they normally would be in clinical practice.”

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DWP obstruction over ATOS deaths – a plea for sanity

DWP obstruction over Atos deaths – a plea for sanity

11 Thursday Jul 2013

 
 
 
 
 

 

 
4 Votes

 

Fear of fallout: Is Iain Duncan Smith desperately trying to keep a lid on the number of people who have died while going through his murderous ESA assessment regime, because he knows the resulting public outrage would finish him - and may even topple the government?

Emailed to the Department for Work and Pensions today:

Thank you for your response to my Freedom of Information request. I am writing to request an internal review, on the grounds that your refusal of my request, on the grounds that it is “vexatious”, is unreasonable. I believe the decision may also be politically motivated.

Your letter states that your refusal is entirely based on a single line – not in my FOI request itself, but on my political blog website – at the end of an entry in which I gave details of the request, the reasons it is necessary, and the information required. That line was “I strongly urge you to do the same. There is strength in numbers”.

Your letter states: “With this as the stated aim of the exercise I believe your request is designed to harass DWP in the belief that encouraging others to repeat a request which they know has already been raised will affect the outcome of that request.” Although you do not make clear what “this” is, the statement must be considered irrelevant. The stated aim of the exercise is the release of statistical information about people who have died, during 2012, while going through a DWP policy process, namely the Atos-led work capability assessment system for Employment and Support Allowance, while appealing against it, or after having had the benefit refused. This fact is made abundantly clear in the main body of the article and it is unreasonable to suggest that an afterthought on the last line changes the entire tone of the piece.

Guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office, ‘Dealing with vexatious requests’ supports my position. It may be found athttp://www.ico.org.uk/~/media/documents/library/Freedom_of_Information/Detailed_specialist_guides/dealing-with-vexatious-requests.ashx

Paragraph 86 states that, “if a public authority has reason to believe that several different requesters are acting in concert as part of a campaign to disrupt the organisation by virtue of the sheer weight of FOIA requests being submitted, then it may take this into account when determining whether any of those requests are vexatious”. It is unlikely that the ICO will consider an afterthought comment at the end of a blog post to be, in any way, “acting in concert as part of a campaign to disrupt”. A concerted campaign would, in my opinion, require me to be contacting other individuals and telling them what to do and when to do it, in order to cause the kind of disruption the guidance describes.

Skipping ahead to Paragraph 92, this states that “it is important to bear in mind that sometimes a large number of individuals will independently ask for information on the same subject because an issue is of media or local interest. Public authorities should therefore ensure that they have ruled this explanation out before arriving at the conclusion that the requesters are acting in concert or as part of a campaign”. You have no proof that I have launched a campaign against the DWP. Even if others making the same request have mentioned my name or the blog article, this does not constitute a campaign – it indicates that the issue is of interest to the public. They would not be asking if they did not want the information. It is the information that is important – not any unjustified claim by the DWP that it is being harassed.

Since you have made that claim, let’s look at Paragraph 87, which supplies examples of evidence an authority might cite in support of its case that a request is vexatious. The example that “requests are identical or similar” can be ruled out because this is likely in a case that has come to public attention at a particular time. Also to be ruled out is the example stating there is “an unusual pattern of requests, for example a large number submitted within a relatively short time” – this is to be expected when a matter of public interest comes to public attention.

The question of whether you have received email correspondence in which other requesters have been copied in or mentioned is relevant, though. Have you received such correspondence? I have not, and as the suggested instigator of your imagined campaign, I think I would need to be a part of such communication!

The question of whether a group’s website makes an explicit reference to a campaign is also relevant. My website is my own, and does not belong to a group but, for the sake of fairness, let’s ignore that in your favour. Does my comment, as quoted by you, make an explicit reference to a campaign of harassment against the authority? Of course it does not. I’m sure the Information Commissioner would laugh at such an inference.

Paragraph 89 states that “If the available evidence suggests that the requests are genuinely directed at gathering information about an underlying issue (in this case, the number of deaths occurring in relation to a DWP policy process), then the authority will only be able to apply section 14(1) where it can show that the aggregated impact of dealing with the requests would cause a disproportionate and unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress. You cannot prove this.

The DWP habitually collects the information I requested, and has already turned the data from 2011 into an ‘ad hoc’ press release without claiming that it caused a disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress.

At a meeting of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee on July 10, David Frazer, your Director of Information, Governance and Security Directorate, said: “If Ministers themselves want to use information publicly, and it’s not readily available from a first-release publication or a tabulation tool, then we also produce what’s known as an ‘ad hoc’ statistical release… It’ll have the key numbers and advice on how to interpret.”

We know that ‘Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients (9 July 2012)’ was an ‘ad hoc’ release – so Mr Frazer was saying that the information it contained is gathered as a matter of course. It should, therefore, be easy to gather it together and release it into the public domain.

Mr Frazer said: “We put out regular publications that say [for example]‘this is the latest number of people on working-age benefits; here’s a summary of the key trends and matters around that.” He went on to say this was supported by background information and charts created by dedicated statisticians and analysts. In that context, it stretches credibility for the DWP to claim it does not keep statistics on the results of ESA work capability assessments, including – especially – the number of people who have died. This government department has an army of experts compiling data on its activities every day.

In your refusal letter, you argued that “Compliance with multiple repetitions of a known request also causes a burden, both in terms of costs and diverting staff away from other work, due to the significant time required to administer these requests.”

However, we know from the evidence of Mr Frazer that this is not the case. He said, on the record, that the DWP makes its responses to FOI requests publicly available on its website: “Besides sending them to the person that’s made the FOI request, they’re readily available to everybody else”. Clearly, then, if someone sends in an FOI request for identical information to that requested by someone else, they can be directed to the relevant webpage with a minimum of effort from DWP staff. The time required is tiny, not “significant” – therefore any claim that a request is “vexatious” on such grounds is obstruction on the part of the authority – abuse of the legislation.

And consider this: If the purpose of s.14 is to protect the resources of a public authority from being squandered on disproportionate use of FOIA, the fact that multiple requests are being made, by different people, means that this use of your resources is NOT disproportionate but would, in fact, rectify an omission in the Department’s statistical coverage. This is information that should be in the public domain and it is remiss of the DWP to withhold it. Some might say it constitutes dereliction of duty.

So you see, the aggregated impact of dealing with the requests, according to the DWP’s own Director of Information, would not cause a disproportionate and unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress. It may be handled as a matter of course and, in any case, the information should be publicised as it is a matter of public interest.

You may wish to claim that public interest arguments are irrelevant as ICO guidance states there is no public interest test when considering whether a request is vexatious. This would be a misreading of the rules. Public interest is relevant when considering the context of the request, and the guidance states that a public authority may take this aspect into account. The subject of my request is clearly a matter of substantial public interest, acknowledged as such by the DWP, otherwise the ‘ad hoc’ statistical release of 2012 would not have been published.

I draw your attention also to paragraph 27 of the guidance. The information about an “accusatory tone” is irrelevant as my tone, although formal, may not be considered aggressive in any way. But the paragraph goes on to state that if the “request has a serious purpose and raises a matter of substantial public interest, then it will be more difficult to argue a case that the request is vexatious“. As you know, my request was for very specific information that has been withheld from the public (in my opinion) unreasonably, and it is in the public interest to have that information published.

Finally, taking all of the above into account, it seems likely that there is a political motivation behind the refusal of my request. Paragraph 13 of the ICO’s guidance states explicitly that “Section 14(1) is concerned with the nature of the request rather than the consequences of releasing the requested information,” but in his evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee on June 10 – in relation to this very request – Mr Frazer revealed that it is likely my request was refused by a Minister, for political reasons. He said: “In the first instance we have officials who will look at what the request is; they will look at whether it would produce a disproportionate cost for what it is – they will make that judgement, but I believe it will come down to Ministers to make that call.”

With regard to this alone, it is clear that the DWP is abusing the ‘vexatious’ exemption. It is not intended to shield the government from politically challenging fallout.

So you see, there are no possible grounds for refusing my request. Please carry out an internal review – with alacrity. There should be no difficulty with this as John Shield, your director of communications, has already promised the Commons Work and Pensions committee that he would check this request, to make sure the response is “copper-bottomed, 100 per cent accurate”. He will find that it is not.

Afterwards, you must immediately release the information I requested. My FOI request was made after I learned that a previous request, made in November last year, had been refused. The DWP delayed responding for more than seven months before notifying the requester that it had no intention of releasing the details he had requested. It is now eight months since that original request was made. According to the ‘ad hoc’ statistical release last year, this means an average of 2,482 people are likely to have died while going through the process in the intervening time – but those figures are out of date. How many deaths have really taken place?

If you persist with your negative decision, I will have to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office for a ruling.

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ATOS Costing the Taxpayer £1.6bn

Atos Protests4Atos, the private firm responsible for carrying out Work Capability Assessments on benefit claimants on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), will cost the UK taxpayer nearly *£1.6bn in private contracts.

The staggering figure consists of a number of different contracts ranging from disability assessments for benefit claimants to IT services for the governments enGage Gateway; IT infrastructure which allows for secure identity management and payment transactions for things like tax returns and registrations to government websites.

Atos has come under a great deal of criticism from disability campaigners, healthcare professionals and politicians, who argue that assessments to deem whether a person is capable of some form of work are ‘fundamentally flawed’ and should be scrapped.

DWP figures show that Atos recommendations have been wrong in as many as 1 in 5 assessments and successful appeals at Social Security Tribunals have been as high as 38%. The government claim that they are continuing to make improvements following reviews of the assessments and that successful appeals are now closer to 1 in 4 (25%).

This will not satisfy critics of Atos who say that the contract between the private contractor and the DWP should be revoked and that their poor performance in carrying out disability assessments for the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance, should mean that they should not be awarded a contract for carrying out assessments for the new disability benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance for disabled people. Both PIP and DLA are available to those both in work and out-of-work whilst ESA is only for those who are incapable of working – both can be claimed at the same time.

The medical services contract awarded to Atos to assess unemployed sick and disabled persons readiness for work will cost a total of £983 million from 1st September 2005 to 31st August 2015. The Atos contract for the new Personal Independence Payment will cost taxpayers close to £390 million, whilst their Occupational Health contract, which includes jobcentre employees, costs £12 million. Their IT contract with the DWP is worth £200 million whilst Atos involvement in back-to-work schemes (aka workfare) costs the taxpayer over £3.1 million. In total the full cost to the UK taxpayer of Atos contracts is close to £1.6 BILLION! Some believe that the total cost of these contracts could be much higher.

Atos are not alone in the windfall. Capita, which is another private firm, have held 16 contracts with the DWP worth over £586.4 million.

*Data Source: Disability Rights UK

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was first published by the Welfare News

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Most people on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) will at some point have to undergo an assessment which will be carried ou by the French company ATOS. It is my belief that this assessment should be carried out by a Doctor, also before you attend they should contact your GP at present they don’t the reason for this is cost. They have to pay for a medical report. In my opinion this I should happen Especialy when 40% of appeals are being won at a cost to the taxpayer

Stop Atos using non doctors for medical assessments – e-petitions http://t.co/IrHHKtcNO3

Most people on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) will

Aside