Atos’s PR company director wants me to phone him about one of my articles

Image result for atos healthcare controversy

Atos don’t provide medical assessments for disabled people needing to claim support: they provide ‘functional’ assessments, as ‘disability analysts’, who ‘focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t.’

I wrote an article recently, which was published by Welfare Weekly, about the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) assessments. 

The editor of Welfare Weekly, Steven Preece, forwarded an email to me regarding my article, marked ‘high importance’. It said:

Subject: Atos FAO Sue Jones
Importance: High

Hi there, 

Please could you ask Sue Jones to give me a quick ring on 0141 221 0707 re the article in the link below. We represent Atos and I’d like to have a quick chat about a couple of point in the article which are inaccurate.

http://www.welfareweekly.com/thousands-of-disability-benefit-assessments-deemed-unacceptable-by-the-governments-own-quality-audits/ 

Apologies for the email but I couldn’t find any numbers to call Sue directly. 

Regards

Lindsay McGarvie

Firstly, having been through 3 Atos assessments and a subsequent tribunal, I think it’s absolutely priceless to be lectured about ‘inaccuracies’ from a ‘representative’ of Atos. 

Secondly, I never ring people I don’t know, regardless of the reasons they may give me to do so. I did some research regarding who the person that wants to contact me actually is.

The email was from someone working with a PR company called 3X1. Atos are one of their clientsLindsay McGarvie was political editor at the Sunday Mail, and reporter for the Daily Mail, before moving into PR in 2005. He’s now a director of 3X1.

So, the director of Atos’s PR company wants to discuss my articles that are critical of Atos. The one in question was written while I watched the work and pensions select committee’s evidence session, then I read two articles in the Mirror. I wonder if Mr McGarvie has contacted the Mirror, too. After all, their two articles on the inquiry combined said pretty much the same as mine.

According to his LinkedIn profile, McGarvie’s specialisms include:

– Strategic public affairs counsel
– Reputation management
– Devising and implementing proactive PR and public affairs campaigns
– Media Training
– Digital communications

PR practitioners build and protect the reputation of their clients, whether they are individuals or organisations. Companies whose profits or reputation have been damaged can claim for ‘defamation’. Non-trading corporations can also claim where they can prove that their fiscal situation has been affected, or their property damaged. However, Atos’s reputation was damaged long before my article was written. That is because of  widespread  criticism of their ethics, standards and performance, not because of writers such as me.

3X1 is not the only PR company referring visitors to read my articles.

PR is concerned with persuasion, selling products, persons, governments and policies, corporations, and other institutions. In addition to marketing products, PR has been variously used to attract investments, influence legislation, raise companies’ public profiles, put a positive spin on policies, disasters, undermine citizens campaigns, gain public support for conducting warfare, and to change the public perception of repressive regimes.

Edelman Intelligence and Westbourne, for example, are engaged in rebuttal campaigns and multimedia astroturfing projects to protect corporate interests:

“Monitoring of opposition groups is common: one lobbyist from agency Edelman talks of the need for “360-degree monitoring” of the internet, complete with online “listening posts … so they can pick up the first warning signals” of activist activity. “The person making a lot of noise is probably not the influential one, you’ve got to find the influential one,” he says. Rebuttal campaigns are frequently employed: “exhausting, but crucial,” says Westbourne.” From The truth about lobbying: 10 ways big business controls government

Edelman Intelligence is among the world’s largest PR companies and either their staff or their clients have been quietly visiting my own WordPress site over this last year, the link shows they were referred to my site from Edelman’s own social media monitoring command centre. I’ve contacted the company to ask why, but have yet to receive a response. I’m not a paying client so it’s highly unlikely that the visits are in connection with promoting my best interests.

Cision are another PR company that provide social media ‘monitoring’ and I have had visits to my site from theirs. The company offers three web-based packages: the ‘CisionMarketing Suite’, the ‘Public Relations Suite’ and a ‘Government Relations and Political Action Committee Suite’. The Cision ‘Public Relations Suite’ allows users to distribute press releases, access a database of bloggers and journalists, and monitor and analyze news and social media sites. Designing responses to influential critical voices and general ‘image management’ is one of the things that PR is all about. 

The company’s ‘Government Relations Suite’ manages government contacts, analyzes lobbying activity, facilitates communication with elected officials and provides PAC compliance software for filing reports to the FEC and state elections commissions (US).

Some PR organisations claim that critical bloggers are ‘bullies’

“I often wonder what it is about social media that makes people anti-social. Perhaps the empty dialogue box creates a discomfort similar to silence in a crowded room. Maybe it is the need for instant gratification and peer recognition that comes from outing a company’s poor service. Or, it could be that the Internet provides a safe venue for bullies to vent with minimal repercussions. Whatever the reason, people talking badly about companies create a lot of drama and headaches for corporate leaders.”

As a public interest writer with a strong interest in social justice, equality, imbalances of power relationships, policy, human rights and as a strong advocate of democracy, I believe that ‘outing’ a company’s poor service is necessary to prevent citizens from suffering distress and harm and to hold those with power to account. I’m not motivated by profit – I don’t earn anything from my work. However, I’m motivated by a strong sense of ethical duty and solidarity with my fellow citizens. I want to see big businesses (and governments, for that matter) act in a socially responsible manner. I think it’s a reasonable public expectation that companies actually earn their profits by providing a service which does not cause harm to anyone.

My experience of ‘bullying’ comes from the other direction, from the top down – from powerful business groups and organisations that simply want to silence lone critical voices. Now THAT is bullying. Furthermore, our responses to being bullied are also being micromanaged.

Calling critics ‘bullies’ is a PR stunt in itself.

It’s an oppressive tactic commonly used (by bullies) over recent years by those in positions of power, from the top down. 

I won’t apologise for writing critical articles or holding my informed opinions. I always research and produce evidence throughout the articles I write. That’s not to say I never make mistakes. However, if there is an injustice being done, I will say so.

And I will keep on saying so. 

I have written more than one critical article about government policy aimed at cutting the lifeline support of disabled people, and of Atos, who are employed by the state to implement the cuts via the Work Capability Assessment. Because there is a significant and catastrophically damaging injustice being done to disabled people.

Last year, the United Nations verified that the UK  government have systematically violated the rights of disabled people. Resistance to the injustice of austerity cuts that are targeted at disabled people disproportionately – and among them, at some of our most vulnerable citizens – begins at the raw, weary and often fearful front lines of those impacted first and impacted the hardest: disabled people. 

Disabled people have been forced to pay nine times more than the average citizen to reduce the budget deficit and people with high or complex support needs have been forced to pay 19 times more. From the despotic Bedroom Tax, cuts to Employment and Support Allowance and the closing of the Independent Living Fund, it has been a relentless political assault on one of the most disadvantaged social groups.

The government have contracted private companies to deliver the cuts.

The UK has become the first country in the world to use the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities to be investigated forgrave and systemic violations’ of disabled peoples’ rights and it is telling that the government has since denied the findings of the inquiry, refused to make public the findings and refused to listen to the accounts of disabled citizens.

I was among those involved in contacting the United Nations in 2012 and have submitted evidence regularly since, regarding the impact of government policies on disabled people. 

Atos have played a part in these events and have made a hefty profit from their role. No amount of PR work will convince me that Atos have disabled people’s best interests at heart. I have experienced 3 assessments delivered by Atos, myself. I was told I was ‘fit for work’ after I had taken the painful decision to leave a profession that I loved because I was much too unwell to work. I then had to face a Tribunal. The stress of that exacerbated my illness. I won the appeal. However within 3 months following the successful Tribunal I was sent by the Department for Work and Pensions for another Atos assessment. I collapsed during the subsequent interview. Even the doctor whocarried out the re-assessment stated that I should never have been made to go through it gain so soon after winning my appeal. It’s very difficult to believe that this kind of ordeal is unintended.

People have died within a short time after being told they are fit for work. They clearly weren’t. My friend and fellow campaigner Karen Sherlock is among those people who are simultaneously ‘fit for work’ and dead. She died in fear and despair because the system failed her – because a cruel government refused to listen and powerful men and women refused to act.

My friend Lottie Ryan had a brain tumour. The Department for Work and Pensions sent her a letter demanding that she attend a work related interview or face having her lifeline support cut. She couldn’t even feed herself at this point in time because of the advanced stage of her cancer. She was dying, but that didn’t stop the government from trying to coerce her into work. Now THAT is more than bullying. It’s despotic, savage state persecution.

There are many more disabled citizens’ accounts like these.

I don’t need repressive tactics or ‘reputation management’ strategies flung at me. My aim (and that of many other fellow campaigners) is to ensure that people recognise the systematic political oppression of some social groups in the UK. It’s real. Disabled people are living in fear of a bureaucratic brown envelope arriving through their letterbox. They live in fear every time the government claims they want to ‘help’ and ‘support’ them into work – by cutting their lifeline support even further. 

So, I will continue to criticise. I will continue to speak out and to do my best to raise public awareness of what is happening in what was once a civilised and democratic society. 

I’m far from alone. Atos have been the subject of widespread criticism in the media, among campaign groups, charities, the National Audit Office, Atos ex-employees and whistle blowers, and opposition MPs. Must be hard work having to contact all of those people about ‘inaccuracies’. 

If I’ve made a couple of points that are ‘inaccurate’, then there is a comments section beneath the article in question to accommodate some transparent debate and dialogue. Leave your comment and evidence there, Mr McGarvie. 

My phone number is reserved for my friends, family and people who I trust not to intimidate me.  

Update

I have had four visits to my site today originating from Edelman Intelligence. I know this because on my site’s stats page, referrers are listed, such as Facebook, Twitter, search engines and so on. You can click on the link provided and it shows you were site visitors have come from

Additionally, a listed app called meltwater showed up. Outside Insight is Meltwater’s  Media Intelligence and Social Media Monitoring tool. Their site describes this service: ‘PR professionals lean on Meltwater’s product suite to help them boost their brand’s position and demonstrate their ROI (Return on Investment).

One of the most valuable things that legitimate criticism tells companies is that they have an audience that cares. The worst outcome in public relations isn’t mismanaging criticism or anger; it’s apathy and indifference. Criticism tells you that something is wrong, if you have enough visibility to warrant feedback.

It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that PR is located within local, social, political, cultural, economic and historical contexts. PR approaches often lack critical thinking and analysis needed to improve ethics and societal impact.  

Companies need to understand and listen to audiences as well as evaluate the results of campaigns, in order to identify more ethical, sustainable and socially beneficial ways of practising public relations. However, in the UK, there are few regulations that govern PR firms. That is why public feedback is so important.

In democracies, publics need and demand information about what companies, organisations and governments are doing. Inequities in power and influence, lack of transparency, or negative or harmful societal impacts affect every citizen, potentially.

However, provided it is conducted ethically, public relations may be a legitimate part of free speech which fosters diversity of viewpoints and facilitates democratic dialogue in society.

In short, PR companies and their clients need to listen to ordinary citizens like you and me, rather than simply refusing to accept a viewpoint. One of the most oppressive tactics that has arisen this past few years is the now habitual political dismissal of citizens’ experiences and accounts, as ‘anecdotal evidence’ of the harm that government policies are inflicting on people. Instead of denying the experiences of others, and engaging in techniques of neutralisation, the corporate sector and government need to engage with us using an open and dialogic approach to resolving the growing conflict of interest presented by the private sector profit incentive and the need for ensuring public safety and democratic inclusion.

Related

Reputation launderers: the London PR firms with their own image problems

What you need to know about Atos assessments

 


I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. But you can help if you like, by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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38 thoughts on “Atos’s PR company director wants me to phone him about one of my articles

  1. Lindsay McGarvie you are a hero. And a human of the highest standard. We may have never met and we may never meet. None the less I am glad you are on the same planet I am, where ever you may be on it.

    Eternal Gratitude

    Like

    1. You must be very familiar with Lindsay McGarvie, calling him a “hero”, because you’re the only one here who knows that Lindsay is a man (Lindsey would be a ‘heroine’).

      One can only guess that either you’re egging for a promotion (unlikely), or that you have a marvellous sense of irony and sarcasm.

      “Eternal gratitude” — hilarious! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ah the words of atos sailing one the wind the words of atos taking away your support yet these devils sit at the same table has the decision makers her in wales the Swansea one I argued with this highly trained snake in the grass whose only concern was to take away my benefits yet has soon has she left the room a little old lady came into the room who was that decision maker for that department house who they say they don’t but its their wording points that are awarded are the weapon that takes your support away I wonder will we ever see these creatures ever taking to court for their crimes against their own peoples yes there are far to many who cannot fight back against this system shamefully they all know now that its culling the stock while they all talk about it in the side rooms of the house of ill repute more to die more to suffer at these our governments hands jeff3

    Liked by 1 person

  3. i agree with your article atos are a farse you are there to see a trained doctor not a nurse who puts anything in the reports to pip. i went for my assessment on the 2nd of nov i was sitting for 10 min,s when the assessor came out and said i am one of the doctors here it turned out to be a nurse i only found it out when i got a copy of my report i have copd, asthma, bronchitis, diabetes thats out of control arthritis anemia high blood pressure and high colestral i had to walk to the center which is five min walk from the train station it took me 20 min,s as i had to stop and catch my breath and let my legs ease off a bit

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You’re obviously doing something right if you’ve got ’em hot and bothered. As one who lives in daily fear of the dreaded brown envelope, I applaud you. And to Mr McGarvie I say, “B*gg*r off and pick on someone your own size.”

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Well said Kitty Girl!!!
    Though I think that they will only read and interpret what they want to. They can’t do anything about it because you have right on your side, I don’t even think they would try, unless they are complete imbeciles.

    Yesterday I was threatened with prison for £30 council tax I hadn’t paid, I haven’t broken the law once in my adult life. They wanted it in 7 days, I have no family but I have one friend who I had to go to to get me out of trouble, I wish I din’t have to but they gave me no choice and feel terribly guilty for it.

    I hope you have a peaceful and lovely Xmas and New year!!

    Thank yopu for fighting for us Sue!!!

    Jo

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I just notified DWP PIP that a change in my circumstances mo means i have been issed on the instructions of my Doctor a wheelchair. This is because the condition Athereosclerosis (hardening of the Arteries in my legs due to failed operation in my legs) has got worse and now i can only walk about 15 yards ( Not Metres) before i have to stop and rest because of excruciating pain from hip to toes.
    Result ten weeks later a while new claim form is delivered to be completed as a fresh claim. Now this could result in 1) claim left as is now 2) extra payment for Mobility 3) claim dissmissed 4) having to go to a face to face with the Atos biggoted stranger who sees me as a number to get his/her bonus. Well i say scrap the system get the £500 million plus that the DWP has paid back and share it between the disabled and elderly

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you for your dedication and time. I so appreciate your voice. Without you, and others like you, I would not have had the courage to carry on. It is so lonely and hard as a disabled person under the current regime.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Well said, Kitty.

    In my experience as a jobseeker and participant on government-funded training courses, corporate bullies are often motivated to use intimidation to cover up for their short-changing of supposed ‘beneficiaries’ of their schemes. Eg, in 1998 a ‘training provider’ called Direct Computer Training in central London told its trainees that if they did not complete a jobsearch portfolio each week listing a minimum of 16 job leads followed, they/we would be ‘terminated from the course’ [sic] and have to go back to the jobcentre with our tails between our legs before ‘making a fresh claim’.

    Meanwhile, they were short-changing us by driving 4 classloads for 2 hours per day through each ‘Machine Room’ in order to treat us as ‘cash cows’. That made me very glad that I had done my initial keyboard training in 1980 on a 12-week government-funded typing course, and in 1997 at Camden ITeC, with follow up access to complete my NVQ Level 1 Portfolio by way of regularly walking to the CITEC training facilities three miles away.

    The only reason I went to Direct Computer Training was basically that the Training & Enterprise Company would not let me go back to the training provider that had satisfied my needs as much as possible for my learning difficulty. The TEC told me patronisingly that if I was allowed back at CITEC on a funded basis, there was a risk that I could become “institionalised [sic].”

    Re the specifics of criticising Atos Healthcare’s rubbishy ‘services for vulnerable people’ so what? Such ‘vulnerable people’ are claimants, not patients, Atos PR would say.
    Sickness benefit clawback firm tells GP people are ‘claimants, not patients’

    All the more reason to expose them for the abusers that they are!

    Dude Swheatie of Kwug

    PS: Re Atos, see also atos carerwatch

    Liked by 2 people

  9. “Atos don’t provide medical assessments for disabled people needing to claim support: they provide ‘functional’ assessments, as ‘disability analysts’, who ‘focus on what you can do, rather tan what you can’t.'” Can you breath yes fully fit for full time work then. That is what happens when they concentrate on what you can do and don’t take into account what you can’t do and how it would impact on you working in any given field of employment.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely Barry, these Assesssors will take something you can do no matter how miniscule and run with it, they’ll magnity it a thousand fold. It could be something as simple as making yourself a cup of tea. Anything you mention that would most likely support your claim and score you points will go unreported. The Work capability assessment in its current form is fundamentally flawed, it needs a complete overhaul, it’s a complete and utter catastrophe that so many vulnerable people are being failed in such a cruel and callous way.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Why not talk to them but record the conversation? Oh wait, atos don’t like you to record, do they? I’d love to know how they intend to defend a company whose employees are apparently protected from mistreating claimants (my evidence: the people’s review of the wca http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/uploads/attachment/410/the-peoples-review-of-wca-further-evidence.pdf). As these cases were done when atos were still employed their staff are largely responsible for the horrendous experiences described. Keep going with your blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Excellent research Kitty and well done for all the blogs you do. Having also been “chewed-up and spat out” several times over the years by Atos, I am grateful that you highlight what they are up to. They make people’s lives a misery on behalf of the DWP and make plenty of money doing so. When the time finally comes for an accounting, saying “I was only following orders” will not cut any ice.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Make sure you have loads of minutes on your mobile and withhold the caller ID or use a BT line and put 141 before the number. As you are like me and don’t phone people you don’t know then I would find her email and tell her you aren’t on my friends & family list so I won’t be calling you. Even my GP surgery is blocked if they use their own mobiles to call me.

    Like

      1. I think that it’s highly unlikely I’ll be asked to work for either a PR company or Atos/Maximus. Basically I make my ethical position very clear throughout my work and declare my politics. Because of the critical nature of most of my work, I think anyone reading it will understand that I write what I do because I’m driven to. I write with conviction, authenticity and frame that with principles, and that won’t change.

        I guess I’m rather set in my ways. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  13. These vicious people will stop at nothing to appease their tory masters. Shameful. This society is mired in cognitivie dissonance and doublethink when it comes to how the disabled are being treated: material deprivation is help. Up is down. War is peace, etc. Orwell would be shocked.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you. I hate ATOS, Maximus and Capita with my whole being. I have been repeatedly assessed by all 3, and they lie.
    My ATOS assessor decided how far I could walk after seeing me lie on a sofa for 1 1/2 hours. She only saw me move when one of my leg muscles spawned badly.
    Needless to say, I appealed and won. I now support others in the same situation.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. when i went for my assessment i took my blood glucouse meter with me as medical evidecne thay din not look at it it shows that my glucouse is out of control and she reported that when sitting i can reach my shin plus she missed out a lot of my meds to on the report i took it to cab and thay just laughed at it with all the mistakes on it for example he was hit on the heat with an iron bar in 1970 which is the wrong year it was in the 60s and i take my dog a walk around the block as i can only go in the garden because of my atherists and copd

    Liked by 1 person

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