The ATOS assessment.

So, now, to get back to S. This is what happened at the ATOS assessment in August 2012, in his own words.

I was driven to the assessment centre which was badly signposted at the back of a local government building, almost like they wanted to hide it. I eventually got inside and hobbled to the desk, paperwork in hand. They kept me standing for ten minutes or so whilst they loudly talked about their weekends and made coffee in the back room. Eventually someone came out to see me, and after looking at all the documentation, told me to go and wait to be seen.

The bland waiting-room had plenty of uncomfortable seats in it, and none that I could see had arm rests. After a sweaty, anxious and painful wait, sitting and standing as my spine dictated, I was ushered into an office/consultation room. I was greeted by the “health care professional,” a large jovial man with quite heavily accented English, who tried to put me at ease (off my guard). He explained that he would assess me and give me a physical examination.

He asked a lot of questions, most of which I now realise were somewhat leading. He didn’t enquire about my eyesight, didn’t even get a test chart out. The physical consisted of lifting my hand to shoulder level, and my legs to whatever height I could manage without pain (not far).
I was up and down like a yoyo as I couldnt sit for very long, and still can’t without an unpleasant level of pain.

He quizzed me on my family and hobbies, which I talked about to him. When I dropped my meds on the floor he didn’t even try to assist, just looked at me like a bug as I shuffled them to a place where I could reach them with my feet, and sort of kick them along until I could half-crouch and scrabble for them. This all seemed to satisfy him and he ushered me out.

When I got the results back, I was stunned. Apparently I have a great social life, enjoy wearing armour, running about, archery and so on. I “claimed to have vison in only one eye.” How the hell would he know? Did he have ct scanning vision? Because he sure as hell didn’t test me.

Also, “Can touch forefinger and thumb on both hands.” Weird that. I dont have an index finger on my left hand. The whole thing was riddled with inaccuracies and downright lies.

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8 thoughts on “The ATOS assessment.

  1. I came across similar things with my assessment by Atos dr – “has no trouble walking” if by no trouble you mean the dr almost ran off down the corridor and I took a good 5 mins being supported by stick one side and then husband the other side, stopped about 3 times to rest and was still too out of breath to answer questions for several minutes after I’d sat down; “no problems using bath or shower” despite us both telling him I need someone to lift me out of the bath; “can get in and out of wheelchair unaided”, despite never having been asked the question and at that time had never used a wheelchair so couldn’t answer either way in all honesty; on one page saying I had restricted movement in shoulders and hips and couldn’t straighten my legs properly, then on next page saying no problems and further on saying no reason why I would fall; given that I told him I live in 1st floor flat with step between levels and no lift and that he thinks I have no mobility problems he then recommends that I could use an electric wheelchair! My mum read his report and actually rang them to ask if they’d mixed up part of mine with someone else’s as it made no sense.

    He twisted things like I said I occasionally go to karaoke because although I’d love to go more I find it too exhausting and painful and he put “she sometimes struggles to go to karaoke”. This was despite knowing that they ask your favourite tv programmes to be able to claim you can sit comfortably for 30 mins/1hr or whatever and that seemingly casual questions about hobbies are to claim you are well so I tempered everything with what caused me problems e.g. glad I have v+ so I can pause tv when I can’t concentrate through pain, have to get up for urgent toilet break etc, only watch tv on sofa as can change position easily from lying to sitting, using cushions in different places etc without disrupting the programme too much and saving programmes that rely concentration on v+ so I can watch at a time when I feel able to.

    At appeal I had 11 A4 pages of what the dr had written ambiguously, got wrong, not asked me, the omissions, the change from page to page of physical findings and the doctor at appeal told me in the most patronising tone that I didn’t understand that the assessment wasn’t a neurological examination and he was discounting what I said. They also said my then husband and mum, who were in the room with me, couldn’t speak unless asked to so they couldn’t defend me and spent the whole time firing questions at me then asking more over my answers, with an abiding memory of some social worker woman yelling at me that I could lift 2 potatoes in a milk pan, which had nothing really to do with my ability to cook a meal seeing as you are meant to qualify if you can’t do one of the things necessary and she could see my right hand was spasming and shaking so that holding a knife would be dangerous.

    I really do feel for what you’ve both been going through and know how those of us who find it hardest to admit weakness and shaming to have to tell strangers the most intimate things about what are bodies are now refusing to do (or doing of their own accord) are the ones who get picked on and told we are lying. When before I was ill I would happily stand my ground and defend my truth to the death, afterwards I just found it too sapping, words leaving my head, pain addling my thoughts with just the knowledge that the people who cared about me knew I wasn’t lying and that by backing me they were tarred with the same brush but felt helpless to fight back without hurting me more.

    I wish both of you the best of luck appealing and if there is anything in my failed appeal and subsequent successful DLA application that you think might help you please let me know and I’ll be happy to pass on as much info as you like.

    • Thank you. Your assessment does sound very similar – words being twisted, signs and symptoms being ignored and not followed up, and what amounts to how folk with mental illnesses were treated. “Pull yourself together, you can’t really be ill” etc. Only this time it is with physical illnesses. And the shame and embarrassment. Likewise at the tribunal – that’ll be another post later on – I was told not to speak unless it was necessary. So I only spoke twice.

      You’ve summed up that feeling exactly – people normally able to raise hell being so sapped by the process that they can’t even begin to make sense and defend themselves from all these untruths used against them. Hence the blog name/description actually! – all that pent-up emotion, passion and fight is still there, but frozen solid. It’s only now, more than a full year after the process began that I feel able to start expressing myself.

      Thank you, lovely. x

    • Thank you. I’m not sure how we make it through sometimes, but we have come this far and are still going – that counts for something, right? We are all of us stronger than we think we are. Please try not to let the fear get to you too much – there is no giving up, for then they win. And that is not an option. 🙂 x

  2. Reblogged this on serenityjack's Blog and commented:
    This is absolutely disgusting behaviour from Atos and quite frankly they should all be imprisoned for hate crimes against sick and disabled people.
    It does frighten me though, hearing people recite their experiences when they clearly have an obvious disability, what is going to happen to me when I go for my assessment with a mostly invisible disability? Its going to be a long, drawn out battle.

  3. They’re dehumanising people- they break them down into little boxes that they can tick on a form, not wanting to see the overall picture. This is terrible. Thank you for speaking out. It hurts to read this, to learn that this is how people are treated nowadays. But that makes it all the more necessary to share your story. Lots of strength to you and S., for a united front in battling ATOS and the system.

    • The ticking boxes bit is so true. Hardly any illness or disability fits into a hardline yes/no without further clarification and it seems that if you just tick boxes and fit your info into the small boxes on the forms they will fail you for not answering questions they didn’t ask (like the theoretical wheelchair question on ESA forms where they ask if you can mobilise 50m using any aids you usually use and if you just say no they tend to decide you could use a manual wheelchair even if you don’t have one or couldn’t use one unless you specify that you couldn’t use one despite not being asked that!). I also found in my appeal several years ago that they would ask me a question and if I answered yes they would cut me off before I could continue with the rest of the sentence like… if someone does xyz or if I’ve had total bed rest the day before etc. I found if I said no to them they tended to pick a very distilled example and try to get me to say yes to that, badgering me if I still said no or tried to say I could maybe do that once every so often but not regularly e.g. although plainly unable to use a sharp knife with my shaking hands one woman kept insisting I could lift a milk pan with 2 potatoes in (not every day and not if I had to do the other stuff I’d need to do to make a full meal) practically yelling at me that I was a liar.

      The physical is not any kind of representation of whether someone can do things – yes I can put my hand on my head but that doesn’t mean I can do it repeatedly without pain or do up a bra every day or work in an office etc. If you then refuse to do something, explaining how it adversely affects you e.g. I can’t bend over as if to touch my toes 99% of the time as I will fall over/throw up/put my back out/get dizzy and collapse/have severe back pain for hours or even days and can’t be sure which of those will happen, you are likely to have something nasty written on your form – mine being I wouldn’t bend down “due to lack of confidence.”

      All of us who go through this know how demoralising it is to tell loved ones, let alone strangers and least of all strangers who seem to be hard-wired to believe you are lying, what problems we have with things others take for granted. I am certain that no one who is genuinely unable to do these things enjoys having to rely on others, to show their vulnerable side, especially if they always considered themselves to be “the strong one” and will probably out of fear or embarrassment or not understanding how many things are designed to trip you up try to comply and do too much for their condition with the “assessors” (used in the loosest terms) deciding that was easy for you and only you and your loved ones dealing with the aftermath of you having done all of that.

      I’m not sure what the answer is unless any government consults heavily with all manner of disability and illness groups to find a better way of testing people.

      • Thanks for your comment, tigerbabe. I have followed a few blogs from people who live with chronic illness, and what always shines through is their desire to lead an independent life. You would if you could, but you simply can’t. And society should accept that, but the whole debate hinges around the question of taxpayer’s money which is now treated as personal investment, not a contribution to a better society. Consultation with groups and people involved, as you suggest, and a listening open attitude would help a lot.

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