|Benefits cuts slammed as 'crime against humanity' as sanctions target most vulnerable
BILL Scott of Inclusion Scotland told a Holyrood committee that people with mental health problems were particularly at risk, and some had killed themselves as a result.
FULL ARTICLE HERE
Sister demands apology for brother’s death by starvation
Crisis as tory assassins Atos withdraws following death threats
Huge Victory For Sick And Disabled Claimants As Atos Chased Out Of Vicious Benefit Assessments
Only you can close the Atos slaughterhouse
AN ANGRY charity boss yesterday accused Westminster of committing a “crime against humanity” by imposing benefits sanctions on the most vulnerable.
Bill Scott of Inclusion Scotland hit out after it emerged 36,000 Scots had payments stopped or cut within eight months of new rules being brought in.
He said many people with mental health problems are being plunged into poverty because they don’t understand the system.
He said some committed suicide or starved to death as a result.
He added: “This is happening in a country which is one of the richest on the planet and we are allowing it to happen to our most vulnerable citizens.
“It is a crime against humanity, to be honest.
“People are having to prove they are innocent and a lot of people cannot play the system.”
Inclusion Scotland were one of several charities giving evidence to Holyrood’s welfare reform committee about the rules introduced in 2012.
Reasons for withdrawal of benefit include leaving a job voluntarily and failing to attend an interview.
Some can lose benefit for three years if they leave three jobs voluntarily.
John Downie of the SCVO said: “It’s disgusting that people are being treated so cruelly.”
The Department for Work and Pensions said: “Sanctions are only used as a last resort but it’s only right that people claiming benefits should do everything they can to find work, if they are able.”
Westminster’s Work and Pensions committee also found disabled people and their carers were hardest hit by the bedroom tax and a cap on welfare benefits.
Their report said many have little hope of moving to a smaller property to avoid being penalised by the spare room subsidy.
They urged ministers to exempt anyone whose home is adapted to help with their disability, and households containing a claimant receiving higher level disability benefits.
They called for the exemption of carers living with disabled people from the £26,000-a-year cap.
|Aspergers sufferer starved to death by the tory assassins ATOS and DWP
And this from the same rag that holds these murderers up as heroes
FULL ARTICLE HERE
'We were wrong': Government admits it should not have axed disability benefits of Asperger's sufferer who starved to death just five months later weighing five-and-a-half stone
A controversial decision to cut the benefits of a man who later starved to death was wrong, the Government admitted today.
Mark Wood, 44, weighed just five-and-a-half stone when he died after staff from Government contractor Atos assessed him as being fit to work - despite suffering from more than seven disabilities and illnesses, including Asperger's syndrome.
His income was cut to just £40 a week in March last year and he was ordered find employment. He died just five months later.
Today a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions confessed the decision was wrong, sparking an internal review.
It comes just two days after it emerged Atos is to quit its £500million contract early following Government criticisms.
Mr Wood's GP Nicolas Ward has blasted the Government-backed contrator for 'pushing him' before he died.
Speaking at an inquest into his patient's death, he said: 'Something pushed him or affected him in the time before he died and the only thing I can put my finger on is the pressure he felt he was under when his benefits were removed.'
He added that he was an extremely vulnerable and fragile individual who was struggling to cope with life.
Mr Wood, from Bampton, Oxfordshire, had suffered for years from obsessive compulsive disorder, Asperger's syndrome, phobias of food, pollution, paint fumes, and social situations, and cognitive behavioural problems.
However, in March last year Atos insisted he was fit to work.
Prime Minister David Cameron described the case in his constituency as 'tragic' before backing an urgent investigation into Atos.
But Mr Wood's grieving family have blasted the Government's announcement as a 'hollow victory' as it will not bring him back.
His sister, Cathie Wood, said the announcement was a hollow victory because it would not bring him back.
'We are pleased but sad,' said 48-year-old Cathie.
ASPERGER'S: MR WOOD'S SEVERE SYNDROME THAT ATOS RULED WAS NOT AN OBSTACLE TO WORK
Asperger's syndrome is a form of autism, often referred to as a 'hidden disability'.
It affects how a person makes sense of the world, hampering their social communication, social interaction and social imagination.
There is no treatment for the condition and very little research on medication that is used by sufferers.
Most people with Asperger's are prescribed a programme of behavioural therapy.
'They have reversed the decision - that is huge but they obviously had the information at their disposal to make the right decision and if they had done that last March Mark would not be dead.
'It is good because it hopefully means we can now get some answers.'
Ms Wood and her mother Jill Gant appealed against the benefit cut earlier this month, acting on advice from Oxfordshire Welfare Rights (OWR).
Today, they received a letter from the DWP saying it had 'revised' its decision to cut Mr Wood's benefits.
A spokesman said: 'The coroner attributed Mr Wood's eating disorder and food phobia as the likely cause of his death, rather than his benefits being stopped.
'However, after receiving new evidence from Mark Wood's GP which was not presented at the first assessment, we have revised our original decision.
'We have written to Mr Wood's family about this decision and are carrying out an internal review.'
Atos made £111.76m pounds operating profit in 2013.
Ms Wood added: 'I think it is good that Atos has withdrawn but it is only part of the story - the whole system needs to be looked at.'
Suzy Drohan, joint manager of OWR, said: 'Mr Wood lived in Cameron's constituency and this happened.
'We are very sorry this had had to come to light from his death. There could be other cases in which people have died too. We know there are hundreds of decisions which are not right.'
Between January 2012 and January this year OWR took 312 cases to appeals against DWP decisions and 281 were successful.
Mr Cameron said: 'This is a tragic case and my thoughts are with Mr Wood's family at this difficult time.'
The decision means the family doesn't have to take the appeal to court.
Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: 'This has been a tragic case and while this decision will not bring Mark back at least it sets the record straight.
'I have been very clear with the DWP that, in my view, Mark's case was badly mishandled by Atos and that the family's appeal needed to be dealt with as a matter of urgency and I am pleased they agreed.
'I also welcome Thursday's announcement that the Government's contract with Atos to conduct these assessments has been terminated early.'
Atos refused to comment opn the reversed decision.
|Tory assassins ATOS pay to get out of murder contract
Sickness benefit tests firm pays the government to quit its £500million contract early claiming death threats to staff
FULL ARTICLE HERE
The private firm which tests benefits claimants to see if they are fit to work has quit its £500million contract after claiming its staff received death threats.
Days after ministers said Atos Healthcare was 'committed' to its contract, the French IT company confirmed it was pulling out early.
It follows mounting criticism about its treatment of sick and disabled people lose benefits, including cutting benefits unfairly and ordering a woman in a coma to attend jobs courses.
The Department for Work and Pensions insisted it had achieved a good deal, with Atos paying to get out of the contract.
It had been due to carry out Work Capability Assessments until August 2015.
Ministers stressed that Atos will not receive any compensation from the taxpayer for the early termination of the contract, and had made a "substantial" financial settlement to the DWP.
Claimants undergo a Work Capability Assessment when applying for Employment and Support Allowance, to see how their illness or disability affects their ability to work.
The DWP said last summer it had identified 'significant quality failures' in the written reports produced by Atos following assessments.
An improvement plan was put in place, but the Government said it was now looking for a new provider to replace Atos.
The DWP said to ensure a smooth transition, one national provider will be appointed early next year to take over the contract. In the longer term it is intended to move to multiple providers to increase competition.
Mike Penning, Minister for Disabled People, said: 'The previous government appointed Atos as the sole provider for carrying out Work Capability Assessments and since then we have carried out several independent reviews and made significant improvements to the assessment.
'Today we are announcing that we are seeking a new provider to replace Atos, with the view to increasing the number of assessments and reducing waiting times.
'I am pleased to confirm that Atos will not receive a single penny of compensation from the taxpayer for the early termination of their contract, quite the contrary, Atos has made a substantial financial settlement to the department.'
Atos has regularly come under fire over the assessments – which are used to gauge eligibility for employment and support allowance and incapacity benefit – amid claims people are being wrongly recommended for work or put through stressful medical interviews.
One third of its decisions have been overturned on appeal and the firm has become a lightning rod for Left-wing critics of the Government’s welfare reforms.
But it has warned of the impact of staff who have been threatened for their decisions.
Each month last year they recorded about 160 incidents of the public assaulting or abusing staff, the Financial Times reported.
Protests had erupted outside their offices this week, when staff received deaths threats in person and on Facebook and Twitter.
Examples on social networking sites include someone calling staff ‘murdering scumbags’, adding: ‘We won’t be smiling when we come to hang you b******s.’ Another said: ‘Know anyone who works for Atos? Kill them.’
Labour's Kate Green said: 'People have been badly let down by Atos which is why Labour has repeatedly called on the Government to sack them with immediate effect.
'But changing the contract isn’t enough. It’s time for the Government to reform fundamentally Work Capability Assessments so that disabled people who can work are given support they need to find a job.'
Steve Winyard, RNIB's Head of Campaigns and Policy, said: 'Atos were part of a wider system and process problem.
'It's departure might be welcomed by some but it leaves blind, partially sighted and other disabled people in a very uncertain situation.
'DWP will face lots of questions but it also has an opportunity to re-examine the whole process. Blind and partially sighted people need to know what further delays will now be experienced in seeking an assessment or accessing support to find work. People already face months of delays and RNIB would urge DWP to work quickly to ensure people needing support are not left in limbo.'
|The mentally ill murdered by the tory assassins ATOS and the DWP
How many more need to die before the sheeple realise the evil that emanates from a murderous eton groomed
government and why does the International Criminal Court continue to ignore the genocide being inflicted on some of
the most vulnerable citizens to satisfy the greed of the ruling elite?
FULL ARTICLE HERE
The way a woman was assessed for benefits led to her suicide less than a month later, according to a mental health watchdog.
The woman had a history of depression and was on significant medication, but scored zero points in a Work Capability Assessment (WCA), carried out by Atos.
A Mental Welfare Commission report said it could see no other factor "in her decision to end her life".
The Department for Work and Pensions said correct procedures were followed.
The woman, who is identified only as Miss DE, was in her early 50s and had been out of work for just under two years due to stress-related depression when she was assessed for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
ESA replaced incapacity benefit as part of changes to the benefits system, introduced by the UK government in 2007.
Miss DE did not receive a self-assessment questionnaire and no evidence was requested from her psychiatrist or GP.
The doctor who conducted the hour-long assessment for Atos, on behalf of the DWP, concluded that Miss DE showed "no evidence that she has a significant disability of mental health function" and she was notified by letter that she had scored zero points in the assessment on 9 December 2011.
When a welfare rights officer informed Miss DE that this would mean her £94.25 per week incapacity benefit would be reduced to a Jobseekers Allowance of £67.50 per week she became very upset and said she did not know how she was going to pay her mortgage.
She took an overdose on New Year's Eve.
"This lady had a lot to look forward to," said the chief executive of the MWC, Dr Donald Lyons.
"She was getting married. She was being treated. She was undertaking voluntary work. She had a good social network.
"There wasn't anything else which we could identify that would lead us to believe that there was any other factor in her life that resulted in her decision to end her life."
When a DWP representative analysed the process, he told the MWC that the steps taken showed "nothing untoward."
The MWC said a survey of psychiatrists conducted as part of its investigation found that 13% reported that at least one of their patients had attempted suicide as a result of the assessment process.
A total of 75% said they had not been asked by the DWP or Atos to take part in benefit assessments, although the majority said their patients had asked them to provide medical evidence.
About 85% of the psychiatrists said that the benefits assessment had led to patients needing more frequent appointments.
The MWC said there were examples of patients who had stopped receiving ESA despite their doctors being adamant that they were completely unable to work.
A spokesman for the DWP said: "This was a tragic case and our thoughts go out to the family. We conducted an internal investigation which found our procedures of the time were correctly followed and the relevant safeguards implemented.
"This report is narrowly focused using a single case from 2011 to make conclusions about the Work Capability Assessment process without taking into account the significant improvements we have made - and continue to make - for people with mental health conditions.
"We worked with the Mental Welfare Commission throughout their review and formally responded to their recommendations with a commitment to further improve our processes where required. "
The mental health watchdog, however, has said that more change is needed.
Dr Lyons added: "There are some things that haven't changed and we still don't see a commitment from the DWP to changing.
"One of those is the need to have more than one piece of evidence before making a decision like this.
"We think the DWP should pay very careful attention to the lessons in this report. If they do, it will make it less likely that others will be as distressed or - heaven forbid - take their own lives the way that Miss DE did."
The MWC has recommended that medical reports should be routinely obtained for anyone with a mental illness or learning disability and says that it has "major concerns" that the Work Capability Assessment is not sensitive enough to capture the elements of mental illness which mean that a person is unable to work.
Atos, which is in the process of negotiating an early exit from its contract with the DWP, said: "We understand that applying for benefit can be a difficult and emotional time which is why we work very hard to try to make the part of the process we are responsible for as comfortable as possible.
"The Work Capability Assessment was designed by the government as a way of assessing how an individual's disability or illness impacts on their day-to-day life. It is not designed to diagnose or treat a medical condition.
"In line with guidance from DW, so as not to overload the GP community, we will request further medical evidence only where this is likely to mean that a person will be eligible for benefit without the need for a face-to-face assessment. We do this in about a third of all cases."
|Tory assassins ATOS out and effective and humane tests in
Tory assassins ATOS and the DWP murdering with impunity while the tory scum and filth are held up in their
vile gutter press as heroes for instigating legislation that is psychologically torturing the disabled and
reminiscent of the gestapo regime with a different form of eradication method than gas ovens.
FULL ARTICLE HERE
The assessment used to decide whether ill or disabled people can work should be made more "effective and humane", a Holyrood committee has said.
The UK government said the criteria was developed in consultation with medical experts and disability groups.
It looks at an individual's ability to work, "taking into account the modern workplace and developments in healthcare".
MSPs believe five changes are needed to improve the assessment process.
They say those claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) with long-term conditions should not be subject to re-assessments.
The MSPs also believe that those being assessed should be seen by health care professionals who have the knowledge and experience to understand and recognise the individual's condition.
The committee said changes should be made to Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) to recognise fluctuating conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and hidden symptoms such as fatigue and pain.
The MSPs want to see people applying for ESA to be treated with dignity and respect, and say Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) communication should be written in plain English and be clear about the impact of decisions made.
Convener Michael McMahon has written to Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, outlining the proposed changes.
"There have already been independent reviews of WCA and yet the evidence coming to our committee demonstrates there is much more to do to make them effective and humane," he said.
"It is ridiculous to expect people with conditions like Multiple Sclerosis to keep going through assessments. Whilst their symptoms may fluctuate, there is currently no prospect of the disease being cured and the stress on individuals is out of kilter with a society that cares for the sick and vulnerable.
"We have made five constructive and practical suggestions that, if agreed to, can help reassure people claiming that they will be treated with respect."
A DWP spokeswoman (as ever anonynmous) said: "The work capability assessment was introduced in 2008 by the previous government and we continue to make significant improvements to the process to better recognise fluctuating conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis.
"We think it's right to look at what work people can do - with the right support - rather than just write people off out of work sickness benefits as sometimes happened in the past.
"There is also strong evidence that working can be beneficial for many people who have a health condition - and many disability organisations, including the MS Society themselves point out, many people continue to work for many years after their diagnosis."
The call for changes comes amid reports that Atos, the company outsourced to carry out the tests, wishes to withdraw early from its contract which is due to expire in April 2015.
|Tory assassins ATOS not fit to sponsor Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games VIDEO
|Tory assassins ATOS and DWP keep the dying endlessly waiting for welfare payments
MPs have said it is unacceptable that disabled and sick people have to wait six months or more to find out if they are eligible for benefits as a result of government changes.
FULL ARTICLE HERE
The Commons Work and Pensions Committee said delays to decisions about the new personal independence payment (PIP) were causing stress and uncertainty.
They also questioned the language used by ministers and the use of statistics.
Ministers acknowledged the delays but said benefits were being backdated.
New claims for the personal independence payment (PIP), the replacement for the disability living allowance (DLA), began in April 2013. They are worth between £21 and £134 a week.
Most people applying for PIP have a face-to-face assessment to determine eligibility, which is carried out by the private contractors Atos Healthcare and Capita Business Services.
In a report last month, the National Audit Office found claimants were waiting an average of 107 days, and terminally ill patients 28 days, for a decision on their cases - much longer than had been predicted.
Some of the claimants affected by these delays are people with terminal illnesses.
Labour MP Dame Anne Begg, who chairs the cross-party committee, said any delays were regrettable but the time that it was taking in such cases was "completely unacceptable".
The MPs say the average time taken to process new cases should be reduced to the expected 74 days, and seven days for terminally ill people.
Dame Anne said basic failures - such as appointments being cancelled without notice or unsatisfactory responses to queries about claims - were happening too regularly and claimants had often been unable to get any information about when a decision would finally be made.
"This not only leaves people facing financial difficulties whilst they await a decision, but causes severe stress and uncertainty," she said.
"It is vital that all disabled people, but especially the terminally ill, experience as little delay and stress as possible in making a claim."
Ministers, the committee added, should consider invoking penalty clauses in their contracts with Atos and Capita if the "current dire situation" did not significantly improve.
"By the end of last year, decisions had been made in fewer than 20% of new claims submitted since April 2013," Dame Anne added.
"It is essential that the backlog is cleared before the limited natural reassessment of existing DLA claims is extended any further."
Macmillan Cancer Support said the time being taken in many cases was "appalling" and the government must agree to publish waiting times for decisions on a quarterly basis.
Scope said the benefit was a "financial lifeline" for disabled people to reflect the extra costs they incurred in performing basic tasks.
The introduction of personal independence payments is one of a series of major welfare changes being pursued by the government aimed at reducing the benefits bill and encouraging greater self-reliance and incentives to work.
But the committee said ministers must "exercise care" in the language used in press releases about these benefit changes and how they present statistics about their impact so as not to "feed into negative public views about benefit recipients".
"Statistics should be used to shed light on policy implementation, not to prop up established views or feed preconceptions," the report added.
"The Department for Work and Pensions should set out the specific steps it is taking to ensure that statistics are released in a way which is accurate and fair to benefit claimants."
In response, the Department for Work and Pensions said PIP was a new benefit, based on face-to-face assessments and regular reviews.
"In some cases this end-to-end claims process is taking longer than the old system of Disability Living Allowance, which relied on a self-assessment form," a spokesman said.
"We are working with providers to ensure that all the steps in the process are as smooth as they can be and the benefit is backdated so no-one is left out of pocket."
Claims by those with terminal illnesses were fast-tracked, the department added.
"Latest statistics show over 99% of people with terminal illnesses who have applied have been awarded the benefit, which means over 9,500 terminally ill claimants are now receiving PIP."
|Vulnerable man starved to death after benefits were cut by tory assassins ATOS
Only ONE of many victims of the tory assassins ATOS and DWP. But why aren't the International Criminal Court
stepping in to stop the ongoing genocide of the disabled through psychological torture?
FULL ARTICLE HERE
44-year-old died months after sickness and housing benefits were stopped following Atos fitness-for-work assessment
The family of a man who starved to death four months after his benefits were cut off has called on the government to reform the way it treats people with mental health problems when it assesses their eligibility for benefits.
Mark Wood, 44, who had a number of complex mental health conditions, died at his home last August, months after an Atos fitness-for-work assessment found him fit for work. This assessment triggered a decision by the jobcentre to stop his sickness benefits, leaving him just £40 a week to live on. His housing benefits were stopped at around the same time.
The Oxfordshire coroner, Darren Salter, said that although it was impossible to identify the cause of death, it was probably "caused or contributed to by Wood being markedly underweight and malnourished". He weighed 5st 8lbs (35kg) when he died; his doctor said his body mass index was not compatible with life.
Wood, of Bampton, Oxfordshire, was not told his housing benefit and employment and support allowance (ESA) had been stopped, and struggled to survive on the £40-a-week disability allowance that remained. He was reluctant to ask relatives for help and they were unaware his benefits payments had been removed until shortly before he died.
Concerned about his patient's condition, Wood's doctor, Nicholas Ward, wrote a letter for Wood to pass to the jobcentre in support of his benefits application, stating that he was "extremely unwell and absolutely unfit for any work whatsoever".
The letter, presented to the inquest, stated that his anxiety disorder and obsessional traits had been made "significantly worse" because of the pressure put on him by benefit changes. It continued: "Please do not stop or reduce his benefits as this will have ongoing, significant impact on his mental health. He simply is not well enough to cope with this extra stress. His mental and medical condition is extremely serious."
It was not clear whether the letter reached the jobcentre.
Dr Ward told the inquest the Atos decision was an "accelerating factor" in Wood's decline and eventual death, according to his family. Wood told housing association staff he was very distressed housing benefit had been cut off, and by letters about rising rent arrears and warnings from the electricity company his supply would be cut off. Many letters were unopened, so he was unaware he needed to visit the jobcentre to reapply for support, his sister, Cathie Wood, said.
He was a "sweet and gentle" person, she said. "He didn't deserve to die. He wasn't harming anyone."
Her brother had struggled with undiagnosed mental health issues all his life, which made it impossible for him to work. He was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder in his late 20s, and had an eating disorder and cognitive behavioural problems when he died. He was sacked from his first job because his employer said he was "unable to follow instructions".
"We worked for years to create a place for him to live safely. But that stopped when his benefits were stopped. He tried so hard to survive," Ms Wood said.
She is to write to David Cameron, who was her brother's MP, and to the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, to ask them to acknowledge that the system is not working for vulnerable people with mental health issues.
"I would like Iain Duncan Smith to stop talking about this as a moral crusade, and admit that this whole process of reassessing people for their benefits is a cost-cutting measure. I want and Cameron to acknowledge the personal costs of this flawed system. This is not just someone being inconvenienced – this is a death," Cathie Wood said.
She is angry Atos did not seek medical evidence from her brother's GP, and made the assessment that he was capable of preparing to return to work after a half-hour interview at his home. The Atos report concluded his mental state was "normal".
Cathie Wood wants the government to put new safeguards in place for vulnerable people when removing their benefits. She believes her brother was unable and possibly unwilling to convey the seriousness of his condition to the Atos assessors and should have had an advocate to support him.
"He was quite a proud person. He would have wanted to be seen as normal. He was desperate to get by as normal," she said. He was reluctant to call for help from his family. "He didn't want to impose on our mother. He wanted to survive without her help."
Wood's vicar told the inquest that he was a man of "dignity and integrity".
Between April and August 2013, Wood's BMI dropped from 14.1 to around 11.5. The inquest heard that a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy for a man. The inquest noted that he had developed an eating disorder.
"I am not saying that the government shouldn't reassess people's eligibility for benefits, but someone other than my brother should have been told that he had lost his benefits. This is an inappropriate process for people who are mentally ill. The Atos test is crude; they are not capable of making a judgment on complex mental illness in half an hour," said Wood.
Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said: "We were deeply saddened to hear of the death of Mark Wood. Unfortunately this tragic case is not an isolated incident. We hear too often how changes to benefits are negatively impacting vulnerable individuals, who struggle to navigate a complex, and increasingly punitive, system.
"We know the assessment process for those applying for employment and support allowance is very stressful, and too crude to accurately assess the impact a mental health problem has on someone's ability to work. This leads to people not getting the right support and being put under excessive pressure which can make their health worse and push them further from the workplace.
"We urgently need to see a complete overhaul of the system, to ensure nobody else falls through the cracks."
An Atos spokeswoman said: "Our thoughts are with the family of Mr Wood at this difficult time."
A DWP spokesman said: "A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence from the claimant's GP or medical specialist."
"Our sympathy goes out to the family of Mr Wood."
On Thursday, a government minister apologised after it emerged that the Department for Work and Pensions had written to a woman asking her to begin "intensive work-focused activity" although at the time she was in a coma.
|Grim toll of the tory government's assassins ATOS/ DWP fit-for-work tests
I read with increasing queasiness the story of Mark Wood, an employment and support allowance (ESA) claimant with mental health problems, whose death by starvation was largely attributable to the Atos assessment of his being fit for work and the subsequent stopping of his sickness benefits (Vulnerable man starved to death after cut to benefits, 1 March).
FULL ARTICLE HERE
Years after the Holocaust, ordinary German citizens were called upon by the younger generation to justify themselves: Surely you knew what was going on? Why didn't you put a stop to it?
I hope I may crave an indulgence to use your paper to put on public record that I was one of those opposed to this government's policy of abscission against the vulnerable. I submitted to the Harrington reviews on ESA and its assessment processes. I inveighed against the callous manipulation of public attitudes against claimants by the popular press that has driven many people to turn a blind eye to the real agenda. And it is in vain that I now look towards other political parties to protect the weak, when they so obviously realise that the propaganda battle has been lost.
The benefits system has failed those that have most needed help for decades, but it has not until now sought to eradicate them entirely.
• Your article quotes a DWP spokesman stating: "A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence from the claimant's GP or medical specialist". But the DWP does not itself request medical documentation, and it is up to the ESA claimants to produce it. Reasons for claimants not doing this include them assuming the DWP has requested medical records, claimants not realising the importance of such records, and disability such as depression or psychosis resulting in default.
Assessors rely on claimants to say what their medical illnesses are, but claimants sometimes give the wrong diagnoses and often don't understand the complexity of their illnesses. Although Atos assessors fill in a "medical report form", Atos nurses and physiotherapists far outnumber medical practitioners. Even when hospital records are obtained, the nurse/physiotherapist may not understand important details eg that an eGFR of 17 means that renal function is severely impaired. Without medical records, the Atos medical practitioner assessors also make decisions having woefully inadequate information. On appeal to first-tier tribunals, a significant proportion of sessions are adjourned to get medical evidence covering several years. A "thorough assessment" it is habitually not.
• Following the death of Mark Wood, who starved to death after his benefits were withdrawn, it is surely time for a citizen's arrest campaign targeting Iain Duncan Smith. The death of Mr Wood, who was disabled, follows the call for a woman in a coma to attend job training, and cuts to benefits after letters were sent to a blind man that he could not read. The responsibility for these appalling infringements of basic human rights lies squarely with the minister who designed and implemented the system. Could legal experts please advise on the case for charging him with manslaughter? I would be happy to place a hand on his shoulder.
• Our twin 41-year-old sons, who have learning difficulties, epilepsy and other problems, have just been informed that they will have to reapply for their welfare benefits through a process conducted on behalf of the coalition government by the French-owned private company Atos.
Dr Giles Youngs, who wrote a letter to the Guardian (19 February) about his recent resignation as a medical assessor for Atos, in which he referred to "unrealistic criteria, set by the DWP, for a claimant being awarded employment and support allowance", is absolutely right in expressing his concerns that people with disabilities are unlikely to be given even a job interview, never mind a job. Despite the Disability Discrimination Act, discrimination still continues, eg in February 1999 we arranged for one of our sons to meet the North Wales personnel manager of the Benefits Agency, requesting that he give our son work experience in its Wrexham office. At the interview the manager said that although they had given work experience to physically disabled people, they had never done so for a person with a learning disability. We heard no more from him.
What confidence, if any, should all disability welfare claimants now have of the work capability assessment in light of Dr Youngs' revealing and damning indictment of both Atos and the DWP?
Ken and Mary Mack
(72-year-old unpaid carers), Wrexham
• We are beginning to see the results of several years of campaigning against unjust welfare reforms that target disabled people. But Atos attempting to pull out of its contract (Report, 22 February) represents only a partial victory. Other private corporations are already lining up to take over. So long as the work capability assessment (WCA) regime continues, so will the misery it causes to disabled people and their families, and to the workers involved in implementing a system they don't agree with.
The WCA should be replaced immediately with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to disabled people or those with chronic health issues or terminal illnesses. The UK government and opposition should follow the Scottish government's pledge that private for-profit companies are removed entirely from having anything to do with the assessment of disabled people. This area of public policy belongs firmly within the NHS and the public sector.
The PIP contract must be removed from Atos with immediate effect: targets in its handling of the WCA have affected thousands of disabled people, leading to hastened deaths, waits of up to a year, and leaving people without income or food.
Linda Burnip Co-founder, Disabled People Against Cuts
Tracey Lazard CEO, Inclusion London
John McArdle Co-founder, Black Triangle
Mark Serwotka General secretary, PCS Union
Frances O'Grady General secretary, TUC
John McDonnell MP
Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite
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Sean Vernell National secretary, Unite the Resistance
Eileen Short Chair, National Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation
Rev Paul Nicolson Taxpayers Against Poverty
Claire Glasman WinVisible (women with visible & invisible disabilities)
Ariane Sacco WinVisible
Mark Harrison CEO, Equal Lives
Kevin Caulfield Chair, Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Cuts
Rahel Geffen CEO, Disability Action in Islington
Lyla Adwan-Kamara Merton Centre for Independent Living
Shaun O'Regan Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign
Barry McDonald Chair, Bromley Experts by Experience
Ian Hodson National president, Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union
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|Tory assassins ATOS sent woman in a coma a letter urging her to find work
How the tory scum and filth are murdering the mentally ill , sick and disabled using psychological torture
from their assassins Atos and the DWP, as an alternative to the gas chambers
FULL ARTICLE HERE
Woman in a coma was sent a letter urging her to find work
Sheila Holt was sectioned after being taken off Income Support, days later she had a heart attack and fell into the coma - and is still being sent letters by assessors
A mentally ill woman forced on to the Coalition’s Work Programme is in a coma – but is still being sent letters by benefits assessors.
Bipolar patient Sheila Holt, 47, was sectioned in December after being taken off Income Support. Days later she had a heart attack and fell into the coma.
This weekend, Miss Holt, of Rochdale, Gtr Manchester, was sent a letter by Atos to ask why she was not working.
Local Labour MP Simon Danczuk said: "I am in favour of welfare reform but trying to bulldoze through changes in a reckless and insensitive way is not the right way to go about it.
“This Government is causing a huge amount of damage and I have no doubt that Sheila’s story is being repeated in towns and cities up and down the country.
“She has a complex disability caused by severe trauma in her childhood and you cannot aggressively push vulnerable people, like Sheila, back into work because it can have, as we’ve seen, very serious health consequences.”
Her dad Kenneth said: “It’s just not right what they have done. It sent my daughter hypermanic.
“She said to me, ‘they are going to knock my money off me dad’. I said they wouldn’t do that. She wasn’t looking for a job - she couldn’t - until they forced her to.
“She hadn’t had a job for 26 years. Anyone who knew her would tell you she couldn’t do a job.”
|Atos victims call for immediate halt to degrading fitness-to-work tests after ATOS quits
The tory assassins ATOS, who have been murdering the sick and disabled, now want out of their murderous contract
since so many have exposed their agenda.
FULL ARTICLE HERE
SCOTS wrongly denied sickness benefits welcome the news that the company running the work capability assessments are ending their £500m deal with the Government but now they want entire scheme to be scrapped.
ATOS victims last night called for an immediate halt to degrading fitness-to-work tests after the firm announced they were quitting their contract to run them.
The French company revealed in a surprise announcement they had been in discussions for “several months” about ending the £500million deal with Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Thousands of seriously ill and vulnerable people have been deemed fit to work by the tests.
They welcomed the news but called for the entire programme to end.
Cancer sufferer George Kerr was left in poverty after he was kept waiting six months for an appointment for a WCA - work capability assessment.
Grandfather George, 52, who works with children with learning difficulties, said: “It’s high time Atos had to go so that’s good news. That’s a move in the right direction.
“But they need to stop these tests altogether. They are degrading and demeaning.”
George – who suffers from a rare form of blood cancer – has still not been assessed by Atos despite applying for extra support last August.
He travels more than 100 miles from his home in Fort William to Glasgow’s Beatson centre for lifesaving treatment each week. The trips cost him £45 in petrol alone.
But he has still not received a penny in Personal Independence Payments.
Mum-of-three Elenore Tatton, 39, died of a brain tumour just weeks after Atos told her she should be looking for a job.
Her grieving partner Raymond Kerr was then told his Employment Support Allowance would be stopped and he would have to find work.
Dad-of-three Raymond, 43, suffers from gangrene of the appendix, diabetes and has had part of his bowel removed.
He said: “There is light at the end of the tunnel if Atos are going to be out of the picture.
“But they shouldn’t have been involved in the first place and these tests should never have been imposed.
“What sort of country is it where the sick and ill are hounded and passed as fit to work when everyone can see they are not?”
Elenore, from Dedridge in Livingston, never worked after being plagued by the tumour since she was 15.
Despite telling Atos about her serious health problems, she was told to start looking for employment last year.
A scan then showed Elenore’s tumour had returned and this time was terminal. She died in a hospice within weeks.
Raymond added: “It has been an uphill struggle since Elenore passed away. The sooner the whole thing is ditched and people get treated fairly the better.
“I’m trying to cope but I’m not managing. It’s so difficult without Elenore. We did everything together.”
Gran Patrice Brown has been waiting to have her claim dealt with since November last year. She suffers pulmonary fibrosis which leaves her struggling to breathe even just walking up the stairs.
Patrice, 63, from Stirling, said: “I struggle each day to breathe but Atos have dragged their feet. It is great that they are going as they are a waste of space. What about all the chaos they will leave in their wake though?
“I have worked since I was 15 and now at 63 years of age I feel I am due some help but I have hit a brick wall.
“Atos may be going but now they need to stop it altogether.”
We revealed how nurse Joyce Drummond exposed how thousands of genuinely ill people were set up for a fall before they had even been assessed.
Joyce said she was warned by Atos that she was being “too nice” to claimants.
She told how candidates were marked down if they arrived for their interview with brushed hair, had a toddler with them, were wearing make-up or could sign their name.
A former nurse at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital, Joyce said bosses ignored her 20 years of medical experience. She said: “It’s good to see the back of Atos at long last.”
Atos’s contract was not due to expire until August 2015.
The tests could go to another private contractor such as G4S, Serco or Capita – if any of them are prepared to take them on.
Serco and G4S were stripped of their contract to tag criminals last year following allegations of overcharging.
Only this week it emerged 158,300 people across Britain they had classified as “fit to work” by Atos between August 2010 and July 2013 had their decision reversed by the DWP.
The figures are on top of the estimated 100,000 claimants who have had their Atos assessment overturned on appeal. In July, the DWP had ordered Atos to improve the quality of their work.
Atos blamed the tests for being “outdated”. They said of the contract: “It is not working for claimants, for DWP or for Atos Healthcare. Our total focus remains on delivering the services we are contracted to provide in a professional and compassionate way until a new service begins.”
The company said many of its staff had received death threats and that there were 163 incidents a month of the public abusing or assaulting them.
The DWP said: “The invitation to tender will set out that the quality of assessments and service delivery is central to how work capability assessments are delivered.”
Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that people who have been stripped of benefits could be charged for making a legal appeal against judgments.
The DWP’s proposal to deter claimants from appealing the decision of social security tribunals would hit people who are already penniless.
The charges would not apply to fitness to work appeals.
In a leaked document, DWP officials suggest a £250 charge could raise money.
Other suggestions include selling off child support debt to “the private sector to collect.”
Eilidh Whiteford MP, the SNP work and pensions spokeswoman said: “It is ludicrous to suggest someone receiving benefits would be able to pay to appeal.”
|Tory assassins ATOS want out of their MURDER contract
Atos seeks early exit from fit-to-work tests contract
FULL ARTICLE HERE
IT company Atos has confirmed it is seeking to end its government contract to assess whether benefits claimants are fit to work.
Staff carrying out work capability assessments for Atos have received death threats online and in person, according to the Financial Times.
In a statement, Atos pledged to carry on undertaking the tests until a new company was in a position to take over.
But the government said that standards at Atos had declined unacceptably.
Disability campaigners have described the work tests as "ridiculously harsh and extremely unfair".
The Financial Times reported that Atos recorded about 163 incidents of abuse or assault on staff each month last year.
It said it had found comments on social media accusing staff of being "murdering scumbags" who "won't be smiling when we come to hang you".
Atos said: "For several months now, we have been endeavouring to agree an early exit from the work capability assessment contract, which is due to expire in August 2015.
"Despite these ongoing discussions, we will not walk away from a front-line service. Our total focus remains on delivering the services we are contracted to provide in a professional and compassionate way until a new service begins."
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: "Atos were appointed the sole provider for delivering work capability assessments by the previous government.
"In July we announced Atos had been instructed to enact a quality improvement plan to remedy the unacceptable reduction in quality identified in the written reports provided to the department.
"We also announced in the summer we will be bringing in additional provision to deliver work capability assessments with the aim of increasing delivery capacity and reducing waiting times.
'Failed to penalise'
"The invitation to tender will set out that the quality of assessments and service delivery is central to how work capability assessments are delivered."
Work capability assessments were introduced in 2008 to determine who should receive employment and support allowance although Atos' involvement in government benefit contracts dates back to 1998.
Decisions are taken by officials at the DWP using evidence from the assessments, carried out by the French company's Atos Healthcare subsidiary.
In 2012, the National Audit Office said the DWP had failed to penalise Atos for "underperformance", and had not set "sufficiently challenging" targets.
But the lying tory scum said that nearly a million people who applied for sickness benefit have been found fit for work.
(or so say their executioners ATOS)
|Evil tory welfare state presides over 'culture of fear'
New figures presented to benefits inquiry expected to show record numbers of claimants have had cash withheld
FULL ARTICLE HERE
Bastard Cameron and his murderous tory henchmen criticised over draconian welfare cuts by 26 Church of England bishops who say 'national crisis' is causing poverty and malnutrition
Eton scumbag Cameron tries to justify starving the poor to death (32 a week and counting
Iain Duncan Smith's Department for Work and Pensions is presiding over "a culture of fear" in which jobseekers are set unrealistic targets to find work – or risk their benefits being taken away, leading charities have told an official inquiry.
Hostel residents with limited IT facilities are being directed to apply for 50 jobs per week, while single parents are being told they must apply for full-time jobs to continue receiving jobseeker's allowance, the charities say in evidence to an official inquiry. On Wednesday, new figures are expected to show a record number of claimants have had cash withheld.
The weight of evidence also supports controversial claims by Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, in the week he is due to be made a cardinal by the pope. "Something is going seriously wrong when, in a country as affluent as ours, people are left in that destitute situation and depend solely on the handouts of the charity of food banks," Nichols said on Tuesday.
The Department for Work and Pensions acknowledged mounting concerns about the increasing use of benefits removal – a process known as sanctioning – by appointing a former Treasury official, Matthew Oakley, to look at how the DWP is operating its tougher regime. His review, due to be published next month, has been criticised for its limited terms of reference, but nevertheless it has been swamped by criticism of how the unemployed and the disabled are being driven off benefits, often due to poor communication, bad administration or unexpected expectations being placed on the vulnerable.
In evidence to the Oakley inquiry, the charities Drugscope and Homeless Link warn that "the current sanctions regime creates a culture of fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. That may in fact lead to further benefit dependency and harming engagement with employment services, as vulnerable clients fear having benefits removed and never being reinstated."Crisis, the homeless charity asserts: "People who have been sanctioned are already on very limited incomes and face a significant further reduction, meaning they are left facing decisions between buying food, paying for heating and electricity and paying their rent. Debt is common and many face arrears, eviction and in the worst instances homelessness".
In its evidence, Gingerbread, which lobbies for the rights of single parents, also warns: "While sanctions may be necessary for a small minority of claimants who deliberately evade their jobseeking responsibilities, the current high levels of sanctions across all [jobseeker's allowance] claimants reveal a system in crisis and one that is systematically failing single parent jobseekers." It says single parents are being told they must work full-time.
The National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers says "claimants are being sent on schemes with no discussion about whether they are appropriate to their needs and no opportunity for them to make representations about it". Adequate notification is also not routinely being given". It says some claimants have been told: "You need to spend 35 hours per week doing job searches and show evidence of 50 to 100 job searches or job applications per week."
The evidence acts as a counterpoint to those who suggest welfare claimants are seeking a life on benefits. The government has been sufficiently embarrassed by the allegations that it has conceded it will look at a further inquiry into sanctions once the Oakley review has completed.
The number of sanctions in the year to 30 June 2013 was 860,000, the highest for any 12-month period since statistics began to be published in their present form. The figures due to be published on Wednesday cover the year to September 2013, and are likely to show a further increase in the number of claimants debarred from receiving benefits for as long as three years.
Disabled people are losing access to jobseeker's allowance at the rate of 14,000 a month, the charities say. In total, the number of them having their benefits sanctioned each month has doubled since the regime was toughened in October 2012.
A spokesman for the DWP said: "It is only right that people claiming benefits should do everything they can to find work if they are able to.
"Sanctions are used as a last resort and the rules are made very clear at the start of their claim.
"We will provide jobseekers with the help and support they need but it is only fair they live up to their part of the contract."
Since 2012, benefit payments can be suspended for a minimum of four weeks and for up to three years where a claimant fails to take sufficient steps to search for work, to prepare themselves for the labour market or where they turn down an offer of employment or leave a job voluntarily.
A survey by Manchester CAB found 40% said had not received a letter from the jobcentre informing them of the benefit sanction, and almost a quarter did not know why they had been sanctioned.