ATOS & Incapacity Benefit

(Dispatches on Ch4 20:00hrs on 31/07/2012)

As a disabled person, I cannot find the words to describe how disgusted I was when I watched the documentary on the relatively new Work Capability Assessment being run by ATOS on behalf of the Government; but I am going to do my very best to find some words that explain how sickened and repulsed I was by the 30 minute Dispatches programme.

OK, there I was, minding my own business, key-tapping away on the laptop, and the programme starts. It soon becomes apparent in the exposé the re assessment on nearly 2 million people receiving incapacity benefit, a benefit which is about to come to an end. An experienced GP goes undercover within ATOS, the French Company who has the contract to re-assess these people, perhaps revenge for Waterloo or a reversal of Agincourt. Whatever the motivation, other than monetary of course, the stated aim is to weed out those claiming this benefit designed to support people with disabilities and other conditions that are unable to work – after all people need to eat.

Now I am a big fan, no matter how I come across, of the NHS and Social Care, it is a unique system that has supported generations of people through the most horrendous issues, the reality is that no one born in Britain today can say they have not used the NHS, we all have, and yes we should celebrate its existence and preserve its fundamental purpose, to provide free access to health and social care at the point of access and according to the assessed need. A vision the world is jealous of, including those pesky French, and one we should celebrate where ‘need’ is put before cost, where support is now weaved into the social fabric of our society. To support this we pay National Insurance and I am glad to pay this too, and long may it continue. Yes we have some really tough decisions in the future with an ageing population, which is hurtling towards me like a speeding train too (obviously not part of British Rail), as it is for everyone. But we should keep to the original values that we give a damn as a society and support those assessed as needing support, the NHS & Social Care must continue, it’s worth fight for.

And this brings me back to the point, the assessment should be fair, proper and keep to the original values, that we assess need and deliver to ease suffering, to improve health, to improve the lot of those who need our empathy, compassion and our best efforts to help them overcome the barriers they face, whether health, societal or economic based. The way we treat people in need is a reflection of us as a nation and the morality we state we have to the world, so what does it say when someone undergoing chemotherapy for a terminal cancer based condition is told they are able to work as the sickness is only temporary from chemotherapy? What does it say when someone returning from fighting our battles for us abroad, under the guess of keeping us safe, giving everything for their country, more than most of us were prepared to do, when they have given their limbs in our service they are told they have been assessed as fit for work because they can operate a checkout with legs and the post-traumatic stress disorder they suffer from does not impede this. They are therefore assessed as being fit for work.


That’s right, the new assessment does not look at ‘need’ but looks at how to avoid paying anyone Incapacity Benefit, by their own admission on camera will be cutting up to 94% of people from this benefit.

They were there on camera teaching willing Doctors of the criteria to assess people by, criteria and standards so ridiculous that it was nearly impossible to remain on Incapacity Benefit. Even the undercover GP asked what one would have to have to qualify for the new version of Incapacity Benefit, and the Instructor didn’t know. Putting all these people through such a trauma is sure, it has to be obvious to anyone with an IQ out of single digits that this is a nuclear missile to crack a nut, by this I mean if it is truly just about weeding out benefit fraudsters who can and should be working, then the cost of assessing nearly 2 million people can be better spent, rather than pumping millions of pounds into the French economy via ATOS.

This point is one that doesn’t need addressing, the statistics show out of this many people some will be claiming fraudulently and these people do need targeting and they are stealing money from those that need it. So I say target these people, spend money increasing fraud teams, creating employment, prosecute these people and have them serve in work gangs in chains to do public works like building housing, weeding people’s gardens that are unable to do it for themselves, work every hour of daylight until they have paid back every single penny. They are taking money from the disabled and the children of the genuinely ill people, make these robbing beggars curse the day they signed the benefit form to cheat the system. Yep, I want them to serve hard labour in community and until they beg for forgiveness of every single person they have taken benefit from.

However, to do this you don’t alienate and persecute genuine individuals and their families who we should be supporting, you don’t say you want to look after someone by turning your back on them, and this is what they State are doing through ATOS, they have fixed their sights on the most vulnerable in our society as they think they won’t fight back.


Persecution is what it is and it is demonization of the all, treating the most vulnerable being part of some paranoid delusion of the State that they are all deceiving tax payers and taking money they are not entitled to.


OK, so you put the majority of these people onto Job Seekers Allowance, or whatever the thing is going to be called, so where are the jobs, where are the employers that need to supply hundreds of thousands of jobs to significantly disabled and ill people, which employers are going to say to someone, “of course you can have lots of ad hoc time off to rest when your fatigue levels are high, sure don’t worry about it.”? The reality is we are in a global recession and people without significant illnesses and conditions are struggling to find work, and this is the same Private Sector being expected to absorb thousands upon thousands of people being laid off to save money in the Public Sector.


The whole system of assessment is wrong anyway, over 40% of appeals against assessment recommendations of removal of Incapacity Benefit are overturned, so it is actually a colossal waste of money and is not achieving what they set out to, as in the end it is costing more as you have the cost of appeals and assessments – even my cat can work this out – it’s a floored strategy.


I am a really big fan of the way Conservative/Liberal coalition are tackling the recession head-on, yes we absolutely need to make cuts, pull our spending down and yes it hurts, my wife hasn’t had a pay rise in three years, but that’s OK as we accept we all have to do our bit, but this is just plain wrong to engage ATOS to ravish and bleed people they think can’t fight back.