July 29th, 2011 (03:45 pm)
current location: On the Borders of Bizarro-World
current mood: angry
current song: Everybody Hurts
The letters to the Guardian reacting to its latest article discussing problems
within the administration of the Work Capability Assessment by ATOS Origin
have drawn an interesting, if rather odious, response.
The powerful article by John Harris can be read here
and is a reaction to the new report by the Select Committee on Work and
Pensions (see here),
but steps beyond the report to look at a string of examples of malpractice, and
wonder how all this can be happen while the general population remain
And now today we see a response from Geraldine O'Connell, National
Secretary of Prospect, the 'union' for ATOS Health Care Professionals (the
doctors, nurses and physios who administer the test). Does she join in the horror
at what is happening? I'll let you make your own minds up:
John Harris's article makes
compelling and disturbing reading. But there are always two sides to a story.
Having introduced herself she goes on to explain:
Recent media interest on the
experiences of claimants during the migration of incapacity benefit to
employment support allowance has left heath care workers feeling bruised and
I'm sorry? Several disabled people are dead, dozens, if
not hundreds or even thousands have been reduced to contemplating suicide, tens
of thousands more have been forced through the stress of appeals (and left
without the benefits they depend on for months, even years), the Tribunal
Service is creaking under the strain of dealing with all of the foul-ups
created by ATOS Origin HCPs (at a cost to the country of £50m), while
thousands upon thousands of disabled people (including me) have been
treated with utter contempt by her members, and she wants us to feel sorry for
them? What kind of twisted mirror-world does she inhabit to think that her
members are the sinned against?
She goes on to state:
Prospect fully supports the absolute requirement for all
claimants to be treated with dignity and respect.
But gives no indication of how she proposes to ensure that
is the case, because it certainly isn't the way her members are behaving now.
Then follows the big justification:
criteria for qualification for benefit are determined through government policy
and not by Atos.
Or in other words 'we were only following orders', and
that's a defence that works really well, isn't it?
And for her grand exit she goes for the Big Lie:
health care professionals do not make any decisions on
Yet Professor Malcolm
Harrington made clear in his review of the WCA, as Geraldine O'Connell must be
well aware, that the DWP 'decison makers' are institutionally incapable of
overriding the ATOS HCPs due to an overdose of Doctor As God
syndrome, meaning that every conclusion by an HCP is in near certainty a
decision on a claim.
I'd like to congratulate Geraldine O'Connell on her
letter, I didn't think that it was possible for my opinion of
ATOS HCPs to sink lower, but her breathtaking arrogance in trying to claim
that her members are the sinned against means that she has achieved it. If she
really wants the sympathy of the public, then isn't it time the members of her
organisation remember the oath they swore to do no harm, and the basic humanity
that demands that they ensure that every WCA assessment takes place in
such a way that the claimant understands what is being scored by every question
asked of them, how their answers will be interpreted, that sits, and listens,
and asks about things like repeatability and limitations they might not have
thought to mention, and beyond all else, treats the person on the other side of
their monitor screen as fully their equal, and a person in need of, and fully
entitled to, their help. Anything less is a failure in their duty of care, and
a violation of their oath.
And perhaps when her members have done that, then they will be worthy to ask
the forgiveness of the disabled people they have abused.