A French-owned IT company awarded a £100m government contract to carry out benefits assessments has been slammed by charities after forcing a thriving support forum for disabled people and their carers to shut down over mysterious libel concerns.

The forum, which boasts more than 400 registered users and is run by the successful campaign group CarerWatch, was taken offline on Sunday after its hosting company was contacted by lawyers acting for multinational technology firm Atos. In a letter to the contractor, which has an annual turnover of £4.4 billion, the site’s owners described the devastating effects of the decision:

“We have many members who are very fragile and the sudden disappearance of a support group has caused a lot of distress and fear. Some are ringing us in tears.”

Speaking to Scrapbook, group administrator Rosemary O’Neill said that CarerWatch would have been happy to co-operate with the company if given the chance, saying: “Had they used common courtesy and contacted us direct, we would have removed any possible material they took exception to.”

A spokesman for Crossroads Care and the Princess Royal Trust for Carers agreed:

“It’s a real shame that carers will no longer have a place to turn to support each other. The dispute could have been resolved by discussing it, rather than by just shutting the site down.”

The disproportionate move follows actions against other websites After Atos and Atos Register of Shame. The former was forced to close in May after receiving a cease-and-desist letter objecting to the use of phrases such as “Atos Kills”. But the CarerWatch forum covers a range of issues of benign interest to disability campaigners, and it’s owners claim to have no idea what has provoked the company.

Charities are on the case — and it won’t be long before MPs follow suit.

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  1. On what legal basis does a private company issue threats to people discussing the provision of a public service? If they can’t handle the responsibility, they shouldn’t receive the contract.

  2. Sasha Callaghan says:

    My latest letter to Atos Origin. Funnily enough they never threaten me with legal action.

    James Loughrey
    UK General Counsel
    Atos IT Services UK Limited (Legal Department)
    4 Triton Square
    Regents Place
    London NW1 3HG

    August 22nd 2011

    Dear James Loughrey

    I understand that Atos is once again threatening disabled people who dare to speak out about their treatment at the hands of your ridiculous employers.

    No doubt shutting down websites and Facebook groups which reveal the truth about Atos gives your legal team something to keep them occupied when they aren’t drawing up 500 page contracts with the DWP but it really is rather revealing that a multinational corporation is so defensive that it feels the need to silence any criticism of its activities.

    Perhaps you wish to protect the reputation of Atos and its employees, including its Healthcare Professionals. If that is the case I would like to know what action Atos has taken against two of its employees, Anthony Treasure and Debbie Carr, both of whom demeaned disabled people on their respective Facebook pages? And what action has been taken against the 12 doctors, employed by Atos as Disability Analysts, who are under investigation by the General Medical Council?

    I note that you do not seem to have replied to my communication of 15th August 2011. I am sure this must be an oversight and look forward to hearing from you.

    Yours Sincerely
    Sasha Callaghan
    Inspired by Atos Origin

    Disclaimer – The above photograph first published by The Guardian Newspaper is purely for illustrative purposes. Of course Atos has never [EDITED]. Ever. Relax, Atos loves you.

  3. After Atos was the first to receive a legal challenge from James Loughrey after setting up a online feedback survey for all those going through the Atos medical assessments and getting the facts and stats and personal witness from the disabled themselves. The biggest threat that AA could do was try and give the disabled a voice and get the facts. Whoever it was who did not want the facts brought us down and hacked and attacked our site several times. The copying of evidence and documentation that period of AA’s short history since March is there. As horror stories rolled out and people had committed suicide and terminally ill and those with severe conditions died during going through the ESA process and even in their own medical centres as a man with a heart condition dies after going through an assessment in their waiting room and 2 weeks later after being buried declared fit in a letter to his family. And medical professionals and nurses say how patients are suffering and qualified medical advice is being dismissed and ignored

    Yet when an image shown – like all satirical images that have challenged the abuse of giants before Atos legally challenges them to take them down. Maybe we should just have a Roll of Honour Gallery and Atos face the faces of those it has hurt?

    After Atos carries on and has rebuilt website and the feedback form is there.

    We have to do this for ourselves as most press and now Guardian who has a contract working in partnership with UNUM are under Atos thumb and influence, and as one of the world’s biggest and greatest international IT systems Atos just has to look at a host server or IT business and snap its fingers like a jumped up Pharoaoh and the IT business will do as it says – or no more business for the IT business.

    One of the things After Atos suggested is that as Atos attacks any images or criticisms of it on line that every one go into their free web space and blog space on the servers and create Anti Atos sites and throw them up serious sites, satirical sites, piss taking sites. Such as ArmadilloAgainstAtos, SuffragettesAgainstAtos, CatLoversAgainstAtos, HomeGuardAgainstAtos – with a nice “They Don’t Like it Up ‘Em” poster. and I am pleased to announce that all domain names which include [EDIT]. are free. so go buy them up and stick up what you bloody well want. Make it so there are so many Atos does not know where to look or who and how many to sue. atosgofuckyourself.com is also possibly free.

    Also this morning heard on Radio 4 Today that there are no more unions in the private sector. This is serious. Yet some people are still sleeping or sitting in the pub drinking or sitting at home bonging and being happier out of it than in it and active. The vast majority of the public still does not know what is going on. 1933 – here we go again.


    Aunty AA

  4. 100million per year it originally was for about 500 million overall just for IB contract but I saw a calculation that said 500-700million because it involved a lot of extra subcontracts and that is without the proposal they are going to do for assessing DLA and do not forget they are in charge of DLA assessments and appeals board. Talk about conflict of interests????

  5. These charities that are speaking out, are they the same ones Carerwatch were saying not to trust and that they were working with the government to screw disabled people and carers? Hypocrisy rules at Carerwatch.

    So should Carerwatch come back ‘online’ after talks with Atos will they be seeking permission from Atos over anything that mentions them?

    A new motto, “Carerwatch, owned and brought to you by Atos Healthcare”

  6. I have edited this comments thread. With several sites taken down, I don’t plan for Scrapbook to go the same way. There are numerous other places on the web you can read the manifold allegations against the company (use Google) but on here please keep comments to what has been proven, please.

    NB: If you represent Atos and are reading this, please get in touch with us directly before doing something ridiculous. http://politicalscrapbook.net/contact/#mainsection

  7. Dear All,

    Lets stop this inhouse fighting. We all have problems with each other and I for one am not keen on all these charities and overblown sert ups and quangos and experts and self appointed consultants taking over the basics of my life and what I need and how. God knows I do nto need another Drop In Art Class, Reiki Relaxation Workshop or horrible community centre built to house me away from everyone else during daylight hours. We can argue the toss later and I certainly have quite a few ongoign arguments at the moment. But as a severe disabled with impairment and rocket propelled high explosive PTSD and having been a daughter ofa mum who degenerated into severe dementia and a second parent and aunt to a high needs challengign behaviour autism lad – can we quit the shit at aiming and attacking at each other?

    Any one who thinks that any disability, disabled person, disability site, support group or “charity” should be dismissed and destroyed because it does not meet the grade on their ecpectations of perfections may be missing what that group and website and forum actually does and without it many of the disabled and lone dependent 24/7 carers would fall flat. The supporters and disabled contributors to the site, group, forum are the ones to decide whether it goes up and continues, not those baying from the sides.

    Carer Watch offered a vital support and nertwork of communication and information for disabled and carers. They were cut off when it went down. As were those of dwpexaminations who also went down and was pulled over night without warning. There seems soem pretty comfy cosy arrogant opinions by people who are probably not in the position of being a 24/7 carer for a high needs dependent and not having any relief or any oen coem in and help or see any one through the door oen day from the next. Who when they get their charges to bed can then go on line and reach out and find someone else out there also trapped in the same situation but who would like to pal up befriend and talk. No. nothign is perfect and many of the so called helpers and supporters are more likely to piss me off with their assumptions I am one step up from a mushroom in intellect because my ticket says severe impairment and Gross PTSD. and I am the first one to swing if talked down to or patronised or intimidated or threatened by those who say they support me. But the fact remains. Many people do a lot of things and set up things for others and for themselves and without them and their vigor and tenacity and grit and determination we would have nothing.

    There is one things harder and more difficult to deal with than any 24/7 disability or being a carer without relief, money or support – and that is the constant grind and criticism from others when you get on line to find relief.

    So lets cut each other some credibility and cut some slack and give each other respect. If you are not a disabled memeber or carer member of Carer Watch then sod off and keep your opinion to yourself. Or maybe you are a troll sent here to upset others and bring down those who are already struggling in their self belief and resolve. About time we learnt to appreciate and support each other. There is nothing more abusive than a family and community who turns in against each other.

    Also, in regard to Google. I think Google and other IT systems such as Atos ate rivals to each other. Hence, go find a google site to post and discuss on and do not jeopardise others. The most important part of communication is to keep it open. Even if we have to keep it to code or allegories – but that could be highly amusing.

    So quit the shit when it comes to attacking others, especially for carers and high dependents who do not have the luxury of the freedom many have and enjoy. Carer Watch may be their only facility to speak out and touch the rest of the world

    And it not for any man to suggest and advice another man how he may run his vehicle into the ground. Crashes do not just happen in vitual reality, they happen for real and communications must be kept open.


  8. DWP/ATOS Nightmare-

    from my painful experience I would advise the following.
    1. Refrain from any telephone conversations with them as these are designed to infuriate people and are nearly always in my opinion contradictory depending on who you talk to.
    2. Keep them on their toes by requesting SARicon from all parties atos, gp and dwp , demand Audit Trail explain your grievanceicon very clearly in writing.
    3. From this moment ensure a good strong paper trail for everything they are doing and trying to do.. use internet to contact any MP’s in your area very clearly explaining your grievance.

    I know its difficult and stressful but try and treat it like a game that is what they do.

    I am not an expert but hope this helps in some way and I am sure the senior Site people will be long soon with better advice also.

    good luck


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