The first question most people ask when they discover that I worked as a disability assessor at Atos.
I will endeavour to explain, but before I do, it’s quite important to establish one thing; the job advert did not overtly seek to recruit sociopaths. It was quite clearly sold as a caring role, something that the range of allied health professionals (AHP) involved, were used to in their day to day roles.
Now whilst I am the first to admit that there were AHP and more so, managers who shouldn’t have been paid in buttons; most staff were simply working to a set of rules laid out by Atos, which made it very difficult to complete the fair and objective assessments they had been recruited to do.
So, on to the why. Having returned from working abroad in 2015, I set about contacting recruitment agencies and looking through the NHS jobs site for roles commensurate with my experience. Despite my mature years, I had only qualified 2 1/2 years earlier.
Let us not beat around the bush; the band 5 NHS roles for which I was qualified were paying approximately £21,000, whilst at that point Atos were offering £32,000. Of course, had I realised at that point, the toxic nature of the Atos role, I would have taken an NHS job, and now almost certainly would be heading towards a high band 6 rating in the NHS. Anyway, under those circumstances, let he who can turn down a greater than 50% salary difference cast the first stone.
Beyond the salary incentive and the very attractive package of benefits promised, I was told by the non-clinical woman who interviewed me (and who later held the title of ‘Claimant’s Champion’), that this job was as much about caring and empathy as any role a physio, nurse, paramedic or occupational therapist (OT) could take.
I asked questions about how the role would allow me to maintain continuous professional development (CPD) to satisfy my regulatory body, and was advised there was more than ample opportunity to remain up to speed.
Finally, having seen my mother, who has a 40+ year history of rheumatoid arthritis, either jump through hoops, or be denied any help, because she ‘gets on with it’; felt like a good enough reason to take the role.
How wrong I was!