The ruthless Tory drive to remove thousands of seriously ill and disabled people from benefits was exposed this week as a nurse employed to assess them spoke out to Socialist Worker.
Jean, a former employee of Atos Healthcare in Scotland, exposed a process she described as a “sham”. Atos is a multinational firm contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions to screen patients.
“I worked for Atos as a ‘disability analyst’ thinking I would be helping vulnerable people to access their benefits,” she said.
“I soon discovered that nothing could be further from the truth. The rules laid down by the bosses are designed to catch people out.”
Jean says that anyone deemed capable of looking after themselves or a child, however difficult they find it, is judged to be capable of work and taken off benefits.
“If you turn up to your claimant interview in nice clothes, you’ve failed,” she says.
“If you turn up washed and with your hair neat, you’ve failed.
“And, if you turn up with your kids, you’ve failed.”
She described the way that claimants with serious lung diseases were regularly assessed as capable of work because they could sit in front of a computer and type.
“We’re not supposed to ask about how they would get to a workplace, or whether they have special medical equipment that would make daily travel difficult.”
Bosses are so keen to process claimants quickly that staff are given just 45 minutes to assess people and write up a report about them, says Jean.
“While training, we worked with actors who pretended to have just one serious illness. We then had to assess and report on them.
“But in real life, people often have multiple health problems.
“How are you supposed to assess all of them, and the impact they have on a person, and then write up a full report in just 45 minutes? You can’t.
“And, because it is not done properly, thousands of people are losing the benefits they are entitled to.”
After more than 20 years in the NHS caring for patients, Jean says she could not carry on working for Atos and left shortly after she started.
“The job was making me sick,” she said. “It’s against my principles to treat people with long term illnesses in such a disgusting way, so I had to give it up.
“People go into those interviews and talk openly to you because you are a nurse and they trust you.
“Then your skills are used against them, to take away their benefits and destroy their lives.
“I can’t be a part of that.”