Atos are one of the sponsors of the Paralympics.
I struggle to know why. Atos have the multimillion pound contract from the Department of Work and Pensions to assess people who are sick. There are multiple problems with their assessments, and they have never published the evidence, or audit standards for the work they do. They refer to people as ‘clients’, not patients. Their assessments for fitness to work includes things like pressing a button or ensuring that someone is not mentally unwell by not shaking or trembling. Nor do the assessments reflect someone with chronic disease; they are especially poor at assessing people with significant and severe mental illnesses. It’s not just me who thinks that. The BMA has called, via their Local Medical Committees, to scrap the assessments that are currently carried out. The National Audit Office also thinks that Atos are underperfoming – and indeed, Atos assessments are often wrong. A third of appeals are successful – even more if the person has advice from Citizens’ Advice – which is worrying, because it means that some people are likely to be further disadvantaged when not supported at appeal.
The human cost of this is huge. People are worried, anxious, uncertain, and the process is not transparent. GPs are often asked to write letters in support of patients – meaning that many people are being charged for reports – which should surely be paid for by Atos, as it is plain that they cannot assimilate the necessary evidence as they currently operate.
And yet Atos are sponsoring the Paralympics.
On their website they say “The Paralympic Games are elite sport events for athletes from different disability groups. However, they clearly emphasize the participants’ athletic achievements, not their disability.”
I’m worried about Atos view of ‘disability’. I’m worried that they somehow think that all people with disabilities somehow have an elite athlete inside them. The truth is that some people are physically different and it is society that disables them; there are some disabled people who are phenomenal athletes, and there are some people who are so sick or disabled that they can’t work. Atos has made many disabled peoples’ lives miserable, and it would have been far better had they put their sponsorship money into making their system fairer. If there is a legacy from the Paralympics, I hope a small part of that will be considering how fairly we treat sick people when they are most vulnerable – currently, Atos is failing us all.