May 172013

Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions’ much criticised work capability assessments for Employment Support Allowance continue to present a never ending saga of misery, disbelief and despair.

A recent post on the False Economy blog talks of meetings to try and discover mental function champions (MFCs). These are claimed to exist but so far none have been produced or found that adequately satisfies that burning question of where MFCs are or what exactly they do .

In addition, both the BMA and more recently, the RCN have voted to stop the process of Atos assessments, due to the harm they are causing.

On Thursday the 16th of May, Dr Greg Wood an Atos worker told most of us what we already know: Atos assessments are biased. He decided to resign and go public despite having signed a confidentially agreement with Atos, something they put in place after nurse Joyce Drummond also went public and said of her role at Atos:

‘‘I apologise from the bottom of my heart to all those people I had to assess during my five months in the job but the decisions were out of my hands. Once I realised how manipulative the assessment system was, I got out immediately. The stress of it all made me ill and I have not worked since.”

In January 2013 another nurse who worked with Atos told Atos Victims Group :

“I could not live with the knowledge of what I was doing and the effect this could have on somebody’s life.   Although there are a number of people who are more than capable of work, the majority are genuine, sick people who need our help, not to be demoralised in this way.  I saw so many people who would cry in front of me, because they want to work so much, but couldn’t”. 

Now Greg Wood tells the Guardian, if Atos assessors: “show deviation from the official line they are instructed to change the report. In about a quarter of assessments important documentary evidence such as the claimant’s own GP assessment is missing but the assessments go ahead regardless.”

Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions trot out the same lines in response: can anyone in the UK believe them at all? Apparently, everyone is lying but them.

Not only are these assessments supposed to be joy on earth, they are claimed to be backed by a mysterious force called a mental function champion. False Economy say:

“In 2011, Atos introduced Mental Function Champions into the ESA work capability process to “improve” assessments for people with mental health problems. A group of us have spent six months trying to find out exactly how this MFC role works, if MFCs have “improved” work capability assessments for people with mental health problems and if anyone at Atos or the DWP can prove that the role has had any impact for people who must go through WCAs.

We’ve had very little luck. We did manage to get a meeting with Atos, someone who said he was an MFC and the DWP on the topic, but that was not particularly satisfactory, as you’ll see:

For months now, mental health service users and campaigners from the voluntary sector consortium group Mental Health Northeast (MHNE), Newcastle user-led mental health support group Launchpad and False Economy have been trying find out more about the work done by Atos Mental Function Champions”.

Read more at False Economy

 update: apparently Dr Wood may have been an MFC but as he has now left- if  anyone has had any other sightings or knowledge of an MFC we’d be interested in hearing about it