‘ATOS not fit for Purpose’ – Mickey Brady
Mickey Brady, Sinn Féin MLA and member of the Assembly’s Health Committee, has written a scathing letter of complaint to the Chief Executive of ATOS in the north.
Mr Brady’s letter comes in the wake of a shocking decision to deem a severely disabled Newry man ‘fit for work’.
Mr Brady explained;
“ATOS is a multinational, IT company based in France which the British Government has contracted to carry out Work Capability Assessments to determine an individual’s entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), formerly Incapacity Benefit.
“ATOS claims that ‘healthcare professionals’ are carrying out these assessments but if that is the case I am at a loss as to how they reach some of their decisions.
“For example last week I met a gentleman from Newry who has been severely disabled from birth. He attended his Work Capability Assessment and was deemed to have no mobility issues.
“I supported this man to appeal this decision and the appeal panel overwhelmingly supported this man’s case and overturned the original decision.
“This whole fiasco has upset this gentleman terribly and placed an undue burden of stress on him. This has also left him out of pocket and I am furious that my constituent has been put through this ordeal.
“I don’t have any medical background and I can tell that this man’s disability prevents him from working. I fail to see how ATOS’ supposed healthcare professionals came to their decision.
“There is no confidence among the public in the ATOS system and I am not surprised by this. People see it as a thinly veiled mechanism for reducing the number of benefit claimants in line with Tory ideology.
“The system of Work Capability Assessments is severely flawed. It forces people to complete a random questionnaire on the state of their own health instead of making decisions based on medical evidence.
“Why is the opinion and expertise of medical professionals with intimate knowledge of the individual not considered by ATOS? It is a disgrace that disabled people or those who are suffering from severe illnesses are being forced to run the ATOS gauntlet.”
Mr Brady continued by demonstrating how the huge number of people who are appealing ATOS decisions is impacting on local advice centres.
“The flaws in the ATOS system are so great that people can only be advised to appeal the decisions made. Invariably people from Newry are seeking support from the Sinn Féin advice centre and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau but the volume is such that people are being left to represent themselves at appeals.
“I have notified the ATOS Chief Executive that I will be putting future concerns directly to her and I call on her to address the glaring inadequacies in the current arrangement.”