Apologies to those of you who worked through this on my Twitter account @secretassessor1 today. Basically the same idea but hopefully easier to read and an opportunity to add further detail
Anyway I opened my Facebook account this morning, to find it’s 3 years to the day since I had my @atos interview, having so far dealt with @sjbmedical. I remember it clearly, partly because like today, It was beautiful and crisp. I arrived way too early, and after a nervous coffee, I headed to an nondescript building, with no sign of it being linked to either @atos or @DWP. I signed in and was introduced to two people, one clinical, one managerial, Maria Monaghan. Maria conducted the majority of the interview, with the clinician taking notes of my responses. Just to give you an idea of how the role was sold to me and how professional the set up appeared to be, when she asked if I had anything to add at the end; I told her it was the first time I’d ever enjoyed an interview.
As I left the building and rang my mum, I clearly remember expressing doubt to her about the ethics of the role; but how it would also allow me to help people like her, for whom PIP is designed, but in such a way that they have to be made to jump through hoops by @atos, #Capita#maximus & @DWP and even then with little hope. Anyway, a day or two passes and @sjbmedical call with the news that I’ve been offered a job.
So, we know that I made a huge mistake, and accepted the role. I will come back to the training but for now, jump forward to the 17th October 2016. Mrs Monaghan turned up at our office, where she allegedly held a 4 hour training session on “Keeping Safe at Work”. I can’t swear which one it was, but in addition to her and line “manager” Alison Povey, there was one of two other, senior “managers” (whose names I recall) present.
So approx 15-20 assessors (home consult and office based), are dragged in for this training. Mrs Monaghan began with a rather odd story about a pal of hers, who was a regional manger (I’ll do the bookies the courtesy of dropping the ” ” used around @atos “manager” ), at a bookies. She recalled how one of her branches had a staff member killed, after opening a door to the public, that she wasn’t supposed to. Whilst I feel bad for the member of staff, it felt like a strange opener. We the assessors looked at each other and suggested that if the sign says “don’t open the door”, then guess what?
Anyway, things went from the sublime to the ridiculous, when Maria began to tell us a story, about empathising with the journey of the PIP claimant (not sure why, as it was keeping safe at work training). She told a tale of an imaginary world where some people could survive on regular food and others couldn’t and needed special nutrition. She invited us to imagine being one of the non-normal eaters. They had to sit on the back of the bus, couldn’t share a bathroom with normal eaters. A world where the non-normal eater had to wear a symbol to show their identity to the wider population. I sat there with my jaw getting closer and closer to the floor. I couldn’t help myself, but point out that as the descendant of a father who at 11, came alone to England, whilst my grandparents and other family members died at CC Stutthof, this little tale felt disingenuous at the very best. After a brief moment (during which one of the “managers” may have Googled disingenuous ), Maria said she couldn’t see what my concerns were. She had given this speech at numerous offices and nobody else seemed concerned. I said that nevertheless, comparing the PIP claimant’s journey to what were obvious references to Nazi Germany and apartheid era South Africa was offensive to me.
I honestly don’t remember learning anything about Keeping Safe at Work, but when it was over (definitely not 4 hours), Maria and line “manager” Povey, came into my room, shut the door and asked me what my problem was? I basically pointed out what I’ve just told you guys, at which point they left my consultation room, Povey at the time implying agreement with me. I can’t recall how long later, but within a couple of weeks, I got an email on my atos email account from Monaghan, which I think would have been very useful in demonstrating to any tribunal or court that I was being bullied by a woman who at that point was going under the title of “Claimant champion”.
I say would have been useful, because by retrieving access to my atos email account, we would have found dozens of emails that show i had raised concerns in writing many times. Oddly, @atos, one of the biggest IT firms in the world are unable to retrieve any email that was beneficial to me.
I guess what I’m trying to say in this piece is that the recruiter and “claimant champion”, were not recognisable as the same individual. I’m no fool, and one of the biggest cynics you could meet, so I assure you had I heard Maria Monaghan speak in anything approaching that tone at interview, I’d have told her to stick her job. On a positive note however…