Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Private Eye Report On #SpartacusReport

Private Eye article about Keith Tilbury, ESA, WCA, Atos, Unum and the Spartacus Report. The image was sent to me as a jpeg (I think!) which I'm aware isn't accessible via screen reader. Lack of spoons means I can't sort this out but if anyone can help out so that it's properly accessible that would be fantastic thank you!

Updated 1721, text with thanks to Steve Budden

in the Eye's growing post-bag of appalling decisions made by French service company Atos in assessing sick and disabled people as being "fit for work", one of the most shocking concerns Keith Tilbury. Mr Tilbury (pictured) spent 13 days in a coma fighting for his life after he was accidentally shot in the stomach by a police firearms officer. The bullet smashed a rib, damaged his sternum and put a hole in his liver. He had to have part of a kidney removed and lost part of his bowel. He had massive entry and exit wounds, muscle and other extensive soft tissue damage.
Since that disaster in 2007, Mr Tilbury has suffered two heart attacks, two while undergoing surgery, a quadruple coronary bypass, two transient ischemic attacks (mini-strokes), one full-blown stroke resulting in reduced vision in his eyes, post-operative complications — and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mr Tilbury, 60, says: "I have had many hours of cognitive behaviour therapy with a psychotherapist trying to work out why a Thames Valley Police firearms instructor would fire Dirty Harry's weapon of choice — a .44 magnum — in a seminar room."
Given his well-documented health records, Mr Tilbury, who had been a civilian emergency call centre operator, is trying to establish how on earth the Atos nurse or doctor — he is not sure which ¬could decide that he is fit to work without "dropping down dead" when there has been no improvement in his health since his last assessment. Like thousands of others, Mr Tilbury is having to go through the ordeal of appealing against the decision. He sees the box-ticking Atos test — drawn up with the help of the US insurance giant Unum, which was fined millions in the US for cheating its clients — as no more than a govermment tool to slash the benefits of people who through no fault of their own can no longer work.
Unum has been helping both Tory and Labour governments with so-called welfare reform, going right back to Peter Lilley's 1994 social security "Incapacity for Work" shake-up.
Atos, which boasts that its contract with the current govemment is worth
1 "approximately £100m a year", happened to a be the only other private company sitting alongside Unum on the then Labour government's panel which reviewed and came up with the hated "work capability test" which is now failing Mr Tilbury and thousands like him.
Companies like Atos and Unum (which markets its insurance on the back of welfare reform) now stand to make even more millions, however, as the coalition presses ahead with its plans for similar assessments for those receiving disability living allowance (DLA). By replacing DLA with a personal independence payment which is subject to regular review and face-to-face assessments, the government says it can save £1bn because it claims many people no longer require the support.
But a recent detailed study, Responsible Reform, accuses the govemment of consistently using inaccurate figures to exaggerate the rise in DLA claimants, while concealing the overwhelming opposition to its latest reform. The detailed 40-page study — dubbed the Spartacus report and written and funded by disabled people — found that the number of working-age people receiving DLA, excluding those with mental health conditions, had remained remarkably stable. One of the authors, Kaliya Franklin, said: "Cutting spending on DLA will increase the burden on local authorities, the NHS and community services at the very time they are seeking to find savings by reducing eligibility, particularly for social care support."
There is no point in subjecting people with permanent disability to regular assessments and those whose conditions do improve would welcome reform — and indeed assessments — if they were simplified and considered robust, fair and transparent. But as Mr Tilbury and so many like him have found, the government's work capability test, delivered by Atos, is none of those things. PS: After the shooting incident in which Mr Tilbury was injured, Thames Valley Police was fined £40,000 with £25,000 costs and the PC who fired the weapon. David Micklethwaite, £8,000 and £8000 costs, for breaching health and safety regulations.


Matthew Smith said...

Both the picture and the text underneath it are too big for the column they're in, so there's a strip missing on the right in both (making the text incomprehensible).

Jackart said...

My question is this. Given the plural of "anecdote" is not "data", how widespread is a case such as this? How did this story come about, presumabley as part of an appeals process, in which case, why worry?

Sure, bureaucratic box-ticking exercises are going to throw up some silly answers, but after an appeal, how many, really, deserving people are going to lose out, vs the number of flagrantly fit people abusing the system.

You'll point out the low fraud numbers for DLA, while ignoring the widespread abuse of IB.

Yes. What this chap went through is shocking. There's no indication that this is a final decision, or of appeals.

You claim to be in favour of checks on eligability in principle, but will rule any attempt to do so as bureaucratic box-ticking exercises. Well of course they are.

Hard cases make bad law, and are usually picked up on appeal.

Ami said...


To try and answer your question, between October 2008 and August 2010, 69800 people (15% of all those found fit to work by ATOS) had the decision overturned by the appeals tribunal.

The appeal success rate was higher for those who had representation - the Citizens Advice Bureau reported a 70% success rate for their clients.

Processing appeals is expensive. Currently ATOS suffer no financial penalty for wrong decisions.

(Figures from These figures do not include those wrongly considered capable of 'work-related activity' who were placed in the support group after appeal.)