The government made much of the fact that they were going to be getting rid of Atos recently. This ‘sacking’ of the company is all part of the drive to change problems in the field of disability and employment, with one particular aspect being the main focus.
Up until Atos having to leave the arena, which should be formally ‘over’ as a process within the next twelve months, the company will have been responsible for carrying out the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for anyone wishing to claim benefits , specifically the Employment Support Allowance (ESA). The assessment clarifies whether a person is sick or disabled enough to qualify for the allowance.
Disabled people not getting a fair deal
Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are squabbling over who asked whom to go, but the general consensus is that Atos made a hash of effectively carrying out the WCA for disabled or sick people. The chances are another big player may step into the breach, and that this may quite possibly be Capita.
Many people who are at the client end of the WCA (disabled or sick people) feel that the test has not been handled very well so far. The main area of complaint covers the questions that are being asked and how they are being asked. Many disabled people, for example, feel like second-class citizens when the questions are presented to them, because they feel that they are being patronised by the process rather than helped.
The problem is empathy. While Atos, for example, may have been told how to carry out the test by the DWP, they have still come under fire for not behaving with empathy or an understanding of how disabled people feel generally about work and employment. It has even been suggested that Atos had problems with working objectively.
This is a big part of disability in the workplace, and it is important to remember that, whichever company takes on the WCA, it will have to show that it understands disabled people and how they feel about potentially returning to work or working in the first place. It is a sensitive area, and the allowance is vital to many people and their wellbeing. But the general feeling that Atos have not handled things well shows how attitudes towards disabled or sick people have to change.