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Thursday, August 02, 2012 

ATOS and Chris Grayling continue to not give a toss.

Right on cue, up pops Chris Grayling in the Graun to argue that white is actually black and that even though you can see he's pissing on you it's in fact raining. Despite the BBC and Channel 4 doing their level best to bury their separate investigations into Atos Healthcare's helming of the work capability assessment, the Dispatches revelation that those administering the system are told if they put any more than around 12-13% of the cases they review into the support group of Employment and Support Allowance they're liable to have their decisions as a whole reviewed by management seems to have rattled the Department for Workfare and Penury (surely Work and Pensions? Ed.).

Since it's not worth engaging with much of Grayling's piece, as it's mostly the same old story reheated with a new anecdote, in this instance a woman who having been found fit for work was "hysterical" on her first day on the ill-named Work programme only to soon be volunteering for work in the community and applying for part-time jobs, the key word being applying, we'll instead focus on the untruths. Grayling claims that those called in for the assessment now "get telephone calls to explain the process". Not true. You still have to call them. He also says that there's now a new stage where Jobcentre Plus can reconsider a decision before claimants have to make a formal appeal to the tribunal service have been deemed fit for work. While this is the case, this is the way it's always been since the introduction of the WCA, and all it involves is the person on the other end of the phone line looking at the decision and OKing it. If you've already presented every piece of evidence that supports your claim at the assessment and still been deemed fit for work, then it's a complete waste of time even bothering.

There is it should be noted absolutely nothing wrong with wanting, as Grayling claims is the government's intention, to help those currently on ESA back into the work if indeed they're capable of doing so. The first problem with this noble aim is reality: there are already 2.58 million people unemployed, and the number of vacancies remains stubbornly just below 500,000. There are simply not enough jobs to go round. Second is that the Work programme Grayling continues to laud, bound together as it is with the other various Jobcentre schemes, is failing. Third is that Grayling and the government as a whole continue with the blanket statement that if it wasn't for the WCA millions would be left to languish for the rest of their lives on sickness benefits, when reassessment has been a part of the system since the introduction of incapacity benefit, not to mention how people do get better on their own and take up work of their own accord. Finally, if as Grayling and ATOS insist there are no targets set for how many claimants have to be found fit for work, or "statistical norms" meaning essentially the same thing, then they should have no objection to the contract between the government and the company being published, suitably redacted.

Instead, in a none too subtle fuck you, ATOS have been awarded most of the contracts to administer the replacement for Disability Living Allowance, the Personal Independence Payment. The only bright spot is that there look to be changes to the WCA on the horizon, in the form of alterations to the descriptors on the self-assessment form. Whether this will make much difference when it seems more than likely that only slightly more than 10% of those reassessed can be put into the support group remains to be seen.

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