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August 29, 2012 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Atos Healthcare is a French company that's a contractor to the UK department for Work and Pensions, hired to test disabled benefits claimants on whether they're fit to work. If they are, they'll lose their disability benefits and are back on normal unemployment benefits. It is a controversial company, as its standards for declaring people fit to work are very low, as The Daily Mirror has been showing. By design or through incompetence, quite a few people who are clearly incapable of work are declared fit for work anyway, lose their benefits and some of them even die because of it, either through suicide or through the stress and healthcare problems caused by losing their benefits. (previously.)

So who better to "inspire a generation and sponsor the Paralympics?
posted by MartinWisse (35 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
So who better to "inspire a generation and sponsor the Paralympics?

Just wait until half the competitors are told that they aren't eligible to compete, and have to reapply to the Rio 2016 Olympics.
posted by jaduncan at 10:03 AM on August 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


As bad as this is, I think I'm more shocked by the fact that full-disability benefit is less than 100 pounds/week - 400 pounds a month would barely rent a crappy studio/efficiency in the UK city I lived in, let alone pay for all of the rest of your necessities.

This is PEANUTS. We're kicking people off benefits that are already PEANUTS.

Do we really want to return to the 19th century? Maybe we're already there - just waiting for them to take the vote away from women and unpropertied men.
posted by jb at 10:10 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sounds like Atos would do quite well here in the US.
posted by TedW at 10:12 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yep. Got yer death panels fer ya right here . . . . . .
posted by birdhaus at 10:13 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


This doesn't surprise me at all coming from the subsidiary of a French IT consulting company. They (French consulting companies in general) have proven more than willing to go for the jugular in all their business practices, up to and including management policies leading to suicides at France Telecom, as found and ruled in court. Management policies written up by the management consulting subsidiary of an IT consulting company. (Sorry I can't find anything addressing that in English.) Naturally, those same "management" practices were taken from their own parent company's for dealing with their employees.

Sounds like Atos would do quite well here in the US.

These sorts of companies definitely would. I can't help but roll my eyes so hard it hurts when someone from one of them sneers to me about American capitalism.
posted by fraula at 10:13 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good blog post about this here. He's an academic who writes about disability rights as civil rights and is disabled himself.
posted by leslies at 10:17 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this. Private Eye had a truly vicious piece about them a few months ago, and you can find "ATOS kills" and variants scrawled on walls around central London. They are not well liked, so it's interesting to learn more about them.
posted by metaBugs at 10:23 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Insert some Hitler quote about how handicap people are costing the Germans a ton of money, so the humane thing to do is kill 'em.

Insert complaint about goodwining the thread.

In a lot of cases, the U.S. social safety net is way worse then the UK's, but in this case I wonder.

How it works in the U.S. is that disabled benefits handled through Social Security. Once you get on disability, I don't think it's possible to lose it.

Also, the cases are actually decided through the court system, so you have due process when it comes to getting on disability. One downside, though is that it's pretty inconsistent, one judge may be way more lenient then another. On the other hand, you have your own lawyer - so it's not just you against some bureaucrat.

Anyway, this is all about making the numbers work for their braindead austerity program. They also just came up with a plan to force people on unemployment to work for free. Originally the plan had actually been to force people to work at corporate jobs for free.

The obvious, and insane problem with that is that - if you companies can get unemployed people to work for free, why on earth would they hire anyone? The new plan only makes them work for charities or some companies that "that provide a clear "community benefit"."

I wonder if some of them will end up working at ATOS.
posted by delmoi at 10:31 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


As bad as this is, I think I'm more shocked by the fact that full-disability benefit is less than 100 pounds/week

I'm kind of surprised by that too. The average monthly benefit for someone on SSDI, the US's federal disability program, is just over $1,100, more than twice what the UK seems to be offering.

Oh, and the US has more people receiving disability benefits than there are people in London.
posted by valkyryn at 10:36 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Insert some Hitler quote about how handicap people are costing the Germans a ton of money

I recently came across this poster (translation in the description). It's pretty amazing to actually see it.

/And now I have to go clear out my search cache.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:43 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


"As bad as this is, I think I'm more shocked by the fact that full-disability benefit is less than 100 pounds/week - 400 pounds a month would barely rent a crappy studio/efficiency in the UK city I lived in, let alone pay for all of the rest of your necessities. "

The disability benefit is for living expenses. Separate benefits such as Housing and Council Tax benefit are designed to cover housing costs. Derisory as these benefits are, disability payments and housing benefits are two distinct things with different purposes.

However to make things even worse, the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) in 2013 will combine almost all benefits (ESA/JSA/IS and Housing/Council Tax benefit) in one payment. This UC will not work. I work in the benefit sector, and I am constantly disappointed by how low the DWP and ATOS will stoop.
posted by v.barboni at 10:49 AM on August 29, 2012


as its standards for declaring people fit to work are very low, as The Daily Mirror has been showing.

I read the OP and was a bit confused that the paper was complaining of standards that are too low until I realized it was the Daily Mirror and not the Daily Mail. I assume the Mail has taken the exact opposite stance and declared all disability benefits claimants* to be lazy/fraudsters/immigrants? [does quick search] ... Ah, of course they have: 2008, 2010.


(* excluding, of course, any war veterans or retirees who might be reading)
posted by rh at 10:59 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the Daily Mirror is sort of the respectable rightwing tabloid; iirc they were also against the War on Iraq.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:07 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe it should be noted that the CEO is one Thierry Breton ex French Finance Minister, so has friends in high places.
In 2011 he got a £1m bonus.
I wonder if these immoral shits ever hear tumbrils in their dreams.
posted by adamvasco at 11:11 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the Daily Mirror is sort of the respectable rightwing tabloid

The Mirror is (broadly) left wing, the only other left-wing paper in Britain alongside the Guardian.
posted by influx at 11:20 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


... The Indie is left of centre too
posted by MuffinMan at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if these immoral shits ever hear tumbrils in their dreams.

No, because there won't be any tumbrils.

There will be a lot of talking about tumbrils, but there won't be any tumbrils.

Or walls to put people against. Or pitchforks. Or torches. There will not, in fact, be a single stone cast. A pie, maybe. Maaayyyybe.

So why should they ever sleep poorly?
posted by aramaic at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm constantly surprised at how many people (i.e. voters) honestly believe that poor people are the cause of their nation's economic problems.
posted by rocket88 at 11:23 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


The disability benefit is for living expenses. Separate benefits such as Housing and Council Tax benefit are designed to cover housing costs. Derisory as these benefits are, disability payments and housing benefits are two distinct things with different purposes.

Thank you for the correction. I was generalizing from Canada, where we don't really have housing benefits (only something like council housing, and spaces are extremely limited). Our local disability is about $1300 CND/month, or about 800 pounds.

I wonder if these immoral shits ever hear tumbrils in their dreams.

Probably not, especially since not many people know what a tumbril is. (I had to look it up in the dictionary, and I've done research on 18th century farming equipment).
posted by jb at 11:38 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Once you get on [Social Security] disability, I don't think it's possible to lose it.

This is not the case. I think it's only the case in right wing fantasies, really.
posted by hoyland at 11:39 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


The beauty of the ATOS attacks on benefit recipients as fraudsters is that it is happening at the same time as parliamentarians are desperately trying to re-rig their expense oversight so they can resume their actual substantial and documented criminal fraud without any meaningful monitoring. Mind you I can understand why they might feel a sense of urgency about constructing and or repairing their moats.
posted by srboisvert at 11:41 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Gareth Keenan approves.
posted by FJT at 11:50 AM on August 29, 2012


Long the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrils carry the day's wine to La Guillotine.
I'm sure M. Breton knows about this in his countries history. After all the Revolucion did give birth to his countries national motto.
This arseholes bonus could keep over 10,000 people in ''cake'' for a week.
posted by adamvasco at 11:56 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


... The Indie is left of centre too

They've been on this too:

Paralympic sponsor engulfed by disability tests row: Atos accused of wrongly classing benefit applicants as fit for work

Hundreds protest against Paralympics sponsor Atos as anger about its role in slashing benefits bill intensifies
posted by homunculus at 12:33 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Top fun for the next few weeks: report every English paralympian as a benefits thief. Cause if they can run the 100m, then surely they can get a job and stop scrounging of the state, right? Damn crips, thinking they're entitled to our hard-earned money! Disability benefit? A workshy's charter more like!
posted by Jehan at 1:14 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jehan: no, you're mistaking fun for being an arsehole. Grow up.
posted by dmt at 1:36 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was really hoping some of the British Paralympians might boycott the games because of this, but then I realised it was unfair to expect people to sacrifice their hopes and dreams over a political point.

But it would be good if this could become a high-profile talking point during the games.
posted by Summer at 1:57 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jehan: no, you're mistaking fun for being an arsehole. Grow up.
I think your mistaking ironic satire for a serious statement. But thanks for taking me seriously, it was "fun"!
posted by Jehan at 2:03 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Canadian Disability depends on province, and is often much less than 1300, and often incredibly difficult to get onto. As well, disabilities connected to mental illness--like depression, or to cognitive difficulties, like Autism, are often thought to be empolyable--if you have a good day or a good week, then yeah you can work, but a bad day or a bad month less so. Add to that, proving cognitive difficulties requires engagement with a beurocratic system which actively seeks to disenfranchise you, it reminds of the Hungarian philospher Lukacs on Kafka:




Gryogry Luckacs was not a great admirer of the work of Franz Kafka, whom he declared to be 'idealist' and a bad example of decadent aesthetic modernism. Lukacs advocated an aesthetic realism that rejected the Kafkaesque world of Angst and allienation where isolated individuals were arrsted for unkwon crime,s submitted to absurd trials and condemned without reason. After the Societ tanks moved into Budapest to crush the Hungarian uprising...Lukacks was arrested in the middle of the night and thwon into a miliary lorry along wiht other givernment officals. The lorry that disapparered into the obscurity of the countryside for an unkonw but proably unsavoury fate. Lukacs was taken to a vast castle in TRanslvania and was told whether he was going ot be freed to prrmantley detained. So the story goes, Lukacs turned to one of the detainnd ministers and said, 'So, Kafka was a realist after all" (as quoted in Critchley's Book of Dead Philosophers)
posted by PinkMoose at 2:22 PM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Mark Steel rant about it here. I particularly like the part in the comments where commenters contrast the 0.5% rate of disability benefit fraud with the 30% rate of MP's expenses fraud.
posted by Slyfen at 2:40 PM on August 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


you can find "ATOS kills" and variants scrawled on walls around central London.

I've seen those and had been wondering what that was about until now. Thanks for clearing it up!
posted by the cydonian at 7:56 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Paralympics GB contingent, rapturously received by the crowd to the now familiar strains of David Bowie's Heroes, appeared to have hidden their lanyards inside their uniforms so that the Atos logo couldn't be seen.
Paralympics 2012 opening ceremony: Games launched on a storm of ideas

What a great protest, I love it.
posted by harriet vane at 1:03 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Disability benefits in the States depend on, what level of disability, they depend on medical records, and are hard enough to get that almost no one gets them without a lawyer.
You can lose benefits if you get married. You can lose benefits for criminal activity. ( that seems fair...) of course if you recover your health you can lose benefits.
There is paradoxically also an obsession with spending hundreds of thousands of dollars getting disabled people equipment to help them work.
Special wheel-chair vans and cars, special reading equipment, all sorts of stuff. Few of these things are designed by people with disabilities, especially the accessibility tools on the computer.
I either need a very large screen with FANTASTIC resolution, or something light and small like my iPod.
Working when you have a number of things physically wrong with you, and you can't drive is not exactly wonderful.
Trying to get to work on foot or by bus, or even para-transit can also be exhausting.
The system here in the States isn't perfect, but what is going on with ATOS makes me want to kill things and break people.
France itself has such excellent medical care, the UK used to have damn good health-care.
I guess a bunch of people dying on the streets of some epidemic disease that eventually hits rich people is what it will take.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:08 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


George Osborne booed at Paralympics medal ceremony

George Osborne should have expected to be booed, say Paralympic spectators: Chancellor was given hostile reception at Olympic Stadium due to his government's heavy cuts to disability benefits
posted by homunculus at 9:33 AM on September 4, 2012


Iain Duncan Smith - ATOS Downfall Parody
posted by homunculus at 10:08 AM on September 4, 2012


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