Sep 222012

When George Osborne was booed at the Paralympics it was the clearest expression yet of the anger building up against the Tory / Liberal coalition’s welfare reforms, and their treatment of disabled people and those who are ill.

 The death of cancer patient Cecilia Burns on 27 August and her treatment by the benefits system managed by the Department for Work and Pensions and in part the private company ATOS Healthcare illustrates the nightmare situation anyone can find themselves in if they become disabled or fall ill.

 While undergoing treatment for breast cancer, Cecilia approached the state for help. She was subjected to the new Work Capability Assessment (WCA) system that was introduced in October 2008 alongside Employment and Support Allowance. This resulted from New Labour’s long-term policy of reducing the numbers on incapacity benefits by one million.

 The WCA, which is administered by ATOS, usually lasts about 15 minutes and uses a points system that looks at how a person is able to function physically, intellectually and socially. This assessment is so flawed that at their conference in May 2012, representatives of Britain’s 44,000 General Practitioners voted to campaign to end it.

 Like hundreds of thousands of others, Cecilia was badly let down and told despite her ongoing treatment she was ‘fit to work’. Her benefits were reduced by about £30 a week. At a time when Cecilia should have been allowed to concentrate on her health and be free of pressure, she had to appeal this decision. Her appeal was successful and she had her benefits restored a few weeks before her death.

 Cecilia said herself:

I was treated badly. I’ve been working since I was 17, I’ve paid all my stamps, all my National Insurance. The only time I was ever sick was when I was pregnant with my two sons. It has had a financial effect on me but it’s more (that) they’re getting away with it. They are just treating you like a second class citizen. That’s how I feel – that I don’t count, I don’t matter.”

What Cecilia Burns went through could easily be experienced by your mum, dad, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, son, daughter, partner or you.

 Even those disabled and ill people who are assessed as being unfit for work are facing the prospect of fines of £71 a week if they fail to take part in work-related activities such as training or ‘condition management programmes’.

 At present about 70,000 claimants lose some or all of their benefits every month when they are sanctioned. The WCA is resulting in people being found fit to work who very few employers would ever consider giving a job to. People with moderate and mild learning disabilities, long-term and enduring mental health problems, and other complex conditions find it difficult to understand or complete the tasks demanded by the jobseekers benefit system. They face losing benefits for months for failing to do enough to find work they’ll never get.

 Disabled people have had enough and are fighting back. Disabled People Against Cuts organised 21 protests against ATOS on 28 August, and several other high profile protests in London during the Paralympics.

 ATOS has made hundreds of millions from running the Work Capability Assessment for the DWP, and is now about to heap more misery as they reassess millions of disabled people for the new Personal Independence Payments. We call for the WCA and recent Welfare Reform Acts to be scrapped, the DWP’s contracts with ATOS to end immediately, and the introduction of a more humane and compassionate welfare system.

 One person’s nightmare……

 I became disabled when I was hit by a car during my first year at University.  The collision put me in a critical condition with multiple injuries including a severe brain injury.  I survived the accident but was left with permanent disabilities as well as suffering from epilepsy.

I had wanted to study Law and become a Solicitor, but my disabilities have made that impossible.  In fact my disabilities, combined with the psychological trauma I suffered, have meant that I haven’t worked since my accident.
Until recently I was claiming two benefits, Disability Living Allowance as well as Incapacity Benefit.  My benefits didn’t amount to much but at least they allowed me to lead some kind of life.  Earlier this year that all changed when ATOS called me in for a Work Capability Test.
I was so angry when I first received the letter from ATOS.  After attending a Work Capability Test I was passed fit to work by ATOS and had all my benefits stopped.  ATOS made their decision based on a 15 minute interview.  They never contacted any of the medical professionals treating me; they never even researched my case history. 
Now I face a lengthy and stressful appeals process against ATOS.  I’m being treated for depression and at times have experienced suicidal thoughts.  ATOS never seemed to care what affect their ruling would have on my health or on the health of those around me.

A DPAC North East member



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  15 Responses to “End Benefit Sanctions, Work Capability Assessments, and Welfare Reform”

  1. I currently have a unique form of ulcerative colitis that behaves more like Crohns disease. Every day is a struggle and I’ve gone from being physically fit to a relative prisoner in my own home. If I ever feel I have the energy to go out it is for a brief amount of time pre-planning where I can rest. This is followed by agonising abdominal pain and severe energy loss after just an hour. I then ‘pay’ for my day out by being unable to go out for days as the pain and energy loss lasts for days after. I’m 33 but feel more like 70 most of the time. However, I refuse to let it get me down and try my best to remain upbeat as wallowing in self pity is pointless. Unfortunately due to my positive nature the person ‘assessing’ me gave me a ‘0’. After an appeal this assessment was upheld even though during the hearing I was in hospital, again. I’m now on a second appeal but have been informed it may take up to 19 weeks. In the meantime I struggle to make ends meet especially at this time of year I am also struggling to keep my positive attitude. The worst part is that I actually want to work and getting severely fed up of being reliant on these morons. 🙁

  2. those ignorant so called honourable members of Parliament who are smiling now bathing in the glory of the attentions of their peers may indeed receive a lifetime of false esteem & ignorant bliss, however they shall forever be written in true disgust & frowned upon endlessly by humanity.

  3. I have been on incapacity and Disabilty after being retired though I’ll health by my NHS consultant I worked
    As a Aux nurse for 15 years and had many jobs before that I have worked all my life until I took Rumatoied
    And all my joints are affected ,now after my Apeal I am told at 58 with loads health issues that I have to go back to work
    My money will stop in march as as my partner works I will get nothing for myself they have now told me that I need to go to a Tribuneral and this could cost me money I have got a letter from HM Tribuneral i feel like I am a criminal I am on 8 pain killers a day sulphazaline twice a day meloxiclm stomach pills high blood pressure pills
    And they are telling me I will have to work until I am 66 as I was born in 1954.

  4. i myself have an appeal on 1 october…there will be a witness and someone who represents those in my situation….the DWP who have fierd the gun that ATOS loaded did not send on proof of the 2 past medicals that i passed even though they have been asked three times by the appeals people….however this gentlemen who will be there has found 2 points of law to defend me on and my witness will atest to is worth 9 points each even though i gained 0 point and was only at this so-called medical for 10 minutes in which i was asked 3 questions….what a joke…make no mistake i will be after the DWP since they could be trying to sobotage my chances at this appeal…THE FIGHT GOES ON AND WE CAN WIN….regards….sandra.

  5. Its time all these so called HCPs and indeed DMs had their names published for there complete wrong doing to human kind
    The length and Breadth of the UK is all a great Shambolic mess only likely to get worse , HCPs work from and apply descriptors the DM at DWP simply rubber stamps these descriptors with points and we all know what the outcome is,
    Highly Professionally trained Medical / Nursing staff must be reminded of what they were once taught “There is No Such Thing As An Average Patient”, however as we full know the LiMA system used by ATOS guides influences and practically writes a personal (if you can call it that) report of a person being assessed. ATOS staff do not act in accordance with their respective Professional councils they are Honourable only to the Rules and Dictat of their company and this Government.

  6. The people responsible for these tests, the ‘professionals’ who work for ATOS and the government ministers who could do something like this are spineless cowards who pick on the weak. If they only applied the same energy and enthusiasm to chasing up those engaged in tax evasion/avoidance (by closing the loopholes) and ensuring that those responsible for the crash were held accountable, we’d be living in a better society.

    Kick them out at the next election (the same for any opposition MPs who refuse to hold the system to account). They do not deserve to represent constituencies.

    I am not disabled or on a sickness benefit, but I appreciate that it must be awfully hard if you are on such things and are having to deal with the stress of an immoral company like ATOS. Any company that does that – and any government that allows it – is lower than dung.

  7. I don’t know if this is just me, but I have been having awful trouble getting the capcha code to work in order to post my messages. I had to keep pressing the back button dozens of times for a new capcha that still didn’t work! However, I think I have found a solution for anyone else having the same trouble:

    1. Type your message
    2. Use CTRL X to “cut” your message
    3. Reload the page to get a new capcha code
    4. Use CTRL V to “paste” your message back into the box
    5. Use the new capcha on the reloaded page to post your message.

  8. Well that’s good news! I do not have cancer or know anyone who has, but I am so very pleased for all those who will benefit from this. Cancer is a hard enough battle without the stress and pressure of a fight with the DWP/ATOS on top of it. I hope a lot of sufferer’s minds are eased today. God bless you all.

  9. I have several friends going through this horrible process at present. One was awarded zero points despite having done everything to co-operate with the system. After becoming disabled for a while she managed to hold down a very part-time job, which under-utilised her skills, but her condition has been deteriorating and she had to give the job up a few years ago. She has always been eager to work and was seeing a DEA once a month, but the DEA told her (off the record) that she will never work again. Yet ATOS considers her entirely fit to work. It’s a complete joke. ATOS hadn’t even got her form when she went to the interview and when she offered them a copy they refused it and then sent a letter stating she had not returned her form. Yet they don’t call you for interview unless they get a form back – so they are lying apart from anything else. This vicious system is killing some and will make many more much sicker. We need to get rid of this foul government before they do any more damage to disabled people’s lives.

  10. We now experiencing what it is to live under an authoritarian tyranny this Government are the rich for the rich they must be removed from power a.s.a.p.

  11. The state of this governments actions against the sick and disabled is absolutely disgusting, so many people are suicidal because of the actions of ATOS and related departments.
    Unfortunately Some can only see one way out, something needs to be done.

    Has anyone who has lost their benefits been to the european court of human rights, maybe that would start a presidence and could one day help the rest of us.

    • we live in a selfish society and that is our biggest problem the only way forward is to get back that community spirit stop the problem before it starts not deal with after so many of us now are feeling the constant pressure of this governments victimisation of the old sick injured and disabled at the end of the day it is bullying from the highest level we must fight back using every legal way possible lets not forget we have the right to a decent standard of life

  12. how many more people have to die before the whole population of the uk realise the wellfare reforms are designed to pick on the weak and disabled and make them pay for rich mans follies what has happened to our community spirit how much is 1 persons life worth

    • how right you are clifford…how many more bodies do they want…i think that atos and the dwp think life is cheap and the delete button is more important….those who pick on us should wonder how it would feel it it was a loved of their’s then talk about it….their crap i wont put up with and none of us should…WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS AND WE HAVE OUR DIGNITY….clifford…THE FIGHT GOES ON…WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND….regards….sandra.

  13. Macmillan have just overturned this and now all claimants undergoing treatment for cancer will remain on full benefits.

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