Tribunal system in limbo whilst Atos holds medical files back due to contract dispute with DWP?

A person who says they work at the Tribunals service gives a very plausible explanation for why there are such serious delays in disability benefit decisions.

If this is true, it represents a new low in the corporate stance of ATOS. Is this multinational information technology firm holding the health of sick and disabled people as a bargaining chip in a contract dispute?

Thanks to the facebook page Atos Miracles for spotting this comment to an article posted on the website ‘MoneySavingExpert.com’.

“I actually work in the tribunals office, for DLA, ESA, etc etc, I will be quite honest and tell you that we have had no work at all for the past 6 months, this is why no one are having appeals, or reassessments done. At the end of last year our office recruited and trained, 32 extra staff to deal with appeals, these people have now been dismissed, because of the lack of work, many of the experienced staff in our department have been advised to apply for voluntary redundancy, or apply for a posting in a different department.

The reason why we have no work is because ATOS will not release all the medical files that they have, until their contract has been resolved. ATOS were not up to doing the job, they did not realise how difficult it will be. We have some people on our system that have been waiting for 3/4 years for answers, and we can not do anything about it.

Our bosses told us this morning, that this is going to be like this for at least another 6 months. And in the meantime, the trained staff are leaving for other postings, and when the work does start coming in. There will be no staff capable of doing the job everyone will have to start from scratch. It is so damned annoying, all I do all day is play solitaire on the computer, or read magazines, I want to work, but there is no work to do.

This is the reason why the decisions are being overturned, we know that we do not have the paperwork to fight an appeal, so until things change people are being allowed to keep there benefits.”

http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=4991220

 

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Another Shambles At The DWP: Community Work Placements Fail To Launch

the void

g4s-workfare Despite a high profile launch of the latest mass workfare scheme two weeks ago, DWP documents confirm that in fact it hasn’t started yet.

The unpaid Community Work Placements are one element of ‘Help To Work’.  This is the latest draconian scheme concocted by Iain Duncan Smith as part of his increasingly desperate attempt to prove that unemployment is caused by unemployed people.  The £300 million initiative involves claimants sent on six month’s full time workfare for ‘community organisations’ under the threat of benefits being stopped.

The scheme is mired in chaos with sources at the beginning of the month saying that no-one who works in Jobcentres has “been told anything about it”.  This is confirmed by a DWP newsletter which says that “the first claimants will be referred onto Community Work Placements from the end of May 2014”.  It is even unclear whether daily signing, or mandatory interventions –…

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Chaos At The DWP As Bungled Help To Work Scheme Attempts To Launch

the void

Unlike Help To Work, the new Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign has already been a huge success. Unlike Help To Work, the new Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign has already been a huge success.

Despite wildly optimistic claims from the DWP, today’s launch of mass workfare seems to be in chaos behind the scenes.  With barely any information yet available on the scheme it appears that the flagship Help To Work programme has no-one actually running it, no guidance for companies involved and no real plan to deal with the huge influx of claimants to Jobcentres from daily signing.

According to the BBC a mere 70 so-called charities have signed up to provide placements on the scheme which will involve forcing unemployed people to carry out 780 hours of unpaid work.  For ‘Help To Work to be successful, these charities will need to accept hundreds, or possibly thousands of placements each.  Predictably the DWP are not saying who the charities are.  So far the only voluntary sector organisation…

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Black hole fears as Atos ends ‘fit-to-work’ contract early

French outsourcing firm Atos has walked away from a contract to assess whether benefit claimants are fit to work.

Senior industry sources warned that the Government would not find anyone prepared to take on the £100-million-a-year contract. They suggested the Government would be forced to pay a “substantial premium” to any new contractor.

Officials in the DWP are believed to be talking to two other companies, Capita and the American outsourcing firm Maximus, about taking over. It is understood that they want to split the contract up with the possibility of two or more companies sharing the assessments.

However, sources with knowledge of the assessment programme predicted the department would “struggle to get anyone to do it on anywhere near the same terms”. The pointed to the reputational damage done to Atos as a result of its involvement in the contract and changes to the complexity of the assessments – which meant any new entrant would charge much more to take on the work. Maximus hinted that it would be unlikely to bid for the contract on the existing terms.

The Government also became embroiled in a dispute with Atos after Mike Penning, Minister for Disabled People, suggested that ministers had been responsible for the early end of the contract. “They haven’t pulled out actually, we’ve removed them from the contract,” he said. “This is not them walking away.”

However, sources close to the company dismissed this. “People don’t usually pay a fine if they’ve been sacked,” they said. “Atos went to the Government to negotiate its way out of the contract, not the other way around.”

Atos is understood to have become increasingly unhappy with the terms of the work capability assessment contract and the public anger associated with it. The company said that last year there were on average 163 instances per month of staff being abused or assaulted, culminating in a week of protests in February. Jenny Gulliford, of The Work Foundation, said another problem facing any new provider would be the costs associated with taking over the contract.

“I can imagine it would be more expensive because of the administrative costs of having to set it up for such a short period of time,” she said.

“The speed at which it’s likely to be set up is something I do worry about. We’ve had previous contracts which have been set up very quickly, like the work programme, which did take a long time to settle down and for outcomes to improve.”

Gillian Guy, of Citizens Advice, added: “The work capability assessment is broken and innocent people are caught in the middle. Atos terminating its contract is not going to result in an overnight improvement in support for sick and disabled people. We need urgent root-and-branch reform of this whole system.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said it would never comment on the value of contracts.

by Emily Duggan in the independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/black-hole-fears-as-atos-ends-fittowork-contract-early-9219832.html

Atos is out: Government seeks new company to carry out fit for work tests

(thanks to Martha Tulip for pointing me to this)
The government has announced it will be seeking a new company to carry out disability assessments, replacing controversial French outsourcing company Atos.

Minister for disabled people Mike Penning said he was “pleased that Atos will not receive a single penny of compensation from the taxpayer for early termination.” In fact, Atos made a “substantial financial settlement” to the government, he added.

Atos has repeatedly come under fire during its tenure, with Labour MP Dennis Skinner describing Atos as a “cruel heartless monster”. There have been questions over the application of their tests, with claims people are being wrongly recommended for work, or put through stressful medical interviews Charities have branded the test “farcical” and “hugely flawed.” Meanwhile Labour has repeatedly called for the firm to be stripped of its contract, accusing it of making too many mistakes after 42 per cent of appeals against the DWP were upheld. The government has admitted as many as 158,300 of the assessments wrongly branded people fit for work.

Deputy Chief Executive at deaf blind charity Sense, Richard Kramer, said that more needed to be done to ensure that the next provider was fit for work.

“There needs to be a root and branch reform of the system to ensure disabled people are judged fairly on their ability to work,” he said.

 “The current points-based test is simply not responsive enough to people’s individual circumstances and fails to take into account all of the factors that may limit their ability to work. Ending Atos’ contract will not fix all the underlying problems that led to so many people appealing their work capability assessment decisions.”

Ursula Morgenstern, CEO of UK Atos said: “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Government to allow us to exit this contract early and we remain committed to delivering essential services to the UK Government as a strategic supplier.

“We have supported and been flexible in implementing all the changes asked of us from the reviews of the Work Capability Assessment process.”

The DWP said the aim of the new contract would be to drive up the number of assessments and cut waiting times.

However Atos Healthcare will continue to deliver the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments in Scotland, north of England, London and south of England.  This is separate from the Work Capability Assessment contract, which is used when the government decides whether people should get disability benefits because their ability to work is affected.

read the rest of this article by Felicity Morse on 27th March in the Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/atos-is-out-government-seeks-new-company-to-carry-out-fit-for-work-tests-9218505.html

New Childcare Contract for ATOS – WHY

jaynelinney

I know from the number of press articles, I’m not the only one astonished that ATOS – the now infamous IT Company with more trading arms than an octopus and renowned for both its part in the disastrous Border Agency computer meltdown in 2012 and its failure to administer the equally beleaguered Work Capability Assessments (WCA) for the DWP, have now been given the contract for delivering the Coalitions Childcare Voucher scheme. What I don’t get is WHY?

Before anyone tells me about the links between ATOS, its parent company UNUM and the extensive range of links – I’ve seen the speculation; but what I don’t understand is, given the recent scathing reports from both the public accounts committee, and the Work and Pensions Select on ATOS; WHY has the Treasury backed NS&I decided that ATOS are a suitable company to deliver anything; unless the caption below is true!

Image

I find…

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Government accused of deliberate attempt to cover up fraudulent, incompetent and embarrassing outsourcing contracts

The Government is today condemned by MPs of all parties for hiding behind a “veil of secrecy” over the award of contracts worth nearly £100 billion a year to huge private companies.

 

Problems are particularly acute at the Department for Work and Pensions, which is on the “verge of meltdown” over the privately-run operation of welfare reforms and employment programmes, they say.

In a scathing verdict on the Coalition’s drive to contract out public services, the Commons public accounts committee (PAC) accused ministers of trying to cover up mistakes by refusing to divulge details of contracts. It said the Government was failing to get best value for money and lacked the expertise to ensure “privately-owned public monopolies” provided quality services.

The committee’s chair, Margaret Hodge, said: “If it’s not sorted out it will become the biggest ad for renationalising public services.” Protesting that contracts were too often “shrouded in a veil of secrecy”, she claimed: “We are in danger of creating a shadow state that is neither transparent nor accountable to Parliament or the public.”

Its conclusion follows a series of scandals involving corporate giants, including the disclosure that G4S and Serco charged the Ministry of Justice for years to fit electronic tags to non-existent offenders and the spectacular failure by G4S to supply enough security guards to the 2012 London Olympics.

The committee demanded that contracts with private companies are put into the public arena. It said four major firms it quizzed – Atos, Capita, G4S and Serco –were prepared to agree to the move, adding that it appears that “the main barriers to greater transparency lie within Government itself”.

Mrs Hodge said: “An absence of real competition has led to the evolution of privately-owned public monopolies which have become too big to fail. Some public service markets such as for private prisons, asylum accommodation or disability benefit assessments, are now controlled by just one or two major contractors.”

She tore into the Department of Work and Pensions over the involvement of private companies in the Work Programme, which aims to aims to find jobs for the unemployed, and in the administration of the Personal Independence Payments for the disabled and in the new Universal Credit scheme.

“If it doesn’t get its act together, it’s in danger of meltdown in relation to too much of its business,” the former minister said. “The reluctance to be transparent is in part a reluctance to be honest about a failure to deliver services. They hide behind commercial confidentiality.”

read the rest of this article by Nigel Morris in the Independent, 13th March 2014, here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/government-accused-of-deliberate-attempt-to-cover-up-fraudulent-incompetent-and-embarrassing-outsourcing-contracts-9190788.html