31 deaths during wait for benefits judgment

More than 30 benefits claimants have died while appealing against a judgment that they were fit to work, official figures show, leading to accusations the system is in chaos.

Tribunal centres across the UK, including in Scotland, are also being forced to hold Saturday sittings to deal with disputed cases, politicians have been told.

Last night Labour called on the Tory-LibDem Coalition at Westminster to get a grip on the situation before it spirals “completely out of control”.

Almost four in 10 cases are currently overturned on appeal, a proportion campaigners say is unacceptable.

A series of written parliamentary answers has revealed the strain on the system. They show that centres around the country, including in Dundee, Hamilton, Cardiff, Plymouth and Wrexham, have been forced to hold Saturday sittings in recent months. Other centres, including Newcastle, South Shields, Leeds and Sheffield, are due to sit at weekends from this month.

In a parliamentary written answer, Chris Grayling, the Conservative minister, said 31 people had died while awaiting their appeal in the three years to last October.

Although there was no indication how they died, The Herald revealed earlier this year that two Scots who died while waiting to challenge their decision had died of the conditions that led them to apply for Incapacity Benefit in the first place.

The company responsible for assessing if disability or sickness claimants are fit to work is also struggling to meet demands to change its operations, the answers also show.

Atos, a French firm, is being paid £100 million a year by the Government as it seeks to cut the cost of incapacity benefit. But the company has faced growing criticism over its handling of the cases.

Following a report designed to reduce the number of incorrect assessments, Atos was told to put staff in job centres, where the final decisions are made. But Mr Grayling also admitted a shortage of resources meant that recommendation had yet to be implemented.

A telephone helpline was being introduced as an “interim arrangement until Atos is in a position to reintroduce the deployment of healthcare professionals in benefit centres”, he said.

Since October 2008, all those applying for a new benefit, the Employment and Support Allowance, which is designed to replace incapacity benefit, have been assessed if they are fit to work.

In April last year Atos also began reassessing all those currently receiving incapacity benefit, following pilots in Aberdeen and Burnley.

If trends continue, there will be 240,000 appeals over this financial year – a rise of 30% on the previous year, and at a cost of £60m in administration alone.

Tom Greatrex, the MP who obtained the information, warned the system was in chaos.

Mr Greatrex, the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, has highlighted the case of one of his constituents who was deemed fit to work despite suffering from Parkinson’s and who eventually had his case overturned on appeal.

“The Tory-led Government must get a grip on this system before it spirals completely out of control,” he said.

“The rocketing cost of appeals, the huge rise in the number of Tribunal judges, and the introduction of Saturday sittings add up to one thing: the Work Capability Assessment is unfit for purpose.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said under the older incapacity benefit system a higher proportion of decisions, 50%, had been overturned on appeal.

Atos last night referred inquiries to the DWP.

Comments
  • bigleyma January 6, 2012 at 12:23 am

    “Atos last night referred inquiries to the DWP”… who in turn referred the inquiries back to Atos, no doubt (<_<')

  • After Atos January 6, 2012 at 1:18 am

    “Atos last night referred inquiries to the DWP” – as per usual. Liability avoidance. such a pimping doorstep insurance firm. I really do wish DWP and govts would see how they have all been duped and blamed and persuaded to pay through the nose for the pleasure. and I wish Labour would remember they started it first. Anyone done the calculation as to how much this has cost in public money, public resources and departments and experts and medical staff and GP time to keep putting right and having to meet its needs. No one seems to realise that GPs shd not be spending 60% of their time on Atos reports and an indepth report of say decades to wade through mean GPs can be spending 10 hrs of their spare time on trying to make one report. For some reason no one takes on the time and motion. So lawyer (not mentioning who) actually think GPs can do hundreds of hours a week on top of their work to write reports. An old fashioned time and motion man would tell them that is impossible. Will someone please teach those with brains and degrees it is not possible. Fed up of intelligent people who are so DUMB!

  • Pamela Wilkinson January 6, 2012 at 5:10 am

    “The rocketing cost of appeals, the huge rise in the number of Tribunal judges, and the introduction of Saturday sittings add up to one thing: the Work Capability Assessment is unfit for purpose.”

    which is what we have been telling them for a long time, to no evail. The purpose of Atos (along with privatising the NHS)becomes more a case of” lets increase the profits of our pals in aprivate company” rather than trying to save money and give support to those who need it.

  • Stephen West on Facebook January 6, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Why has no one tested this in the courts, the whole system should come before a judicial review as it is obviously not working. When something is working in the UK they try to fix it, when something isn’t working like the ATOS Assessment then nothing is done to fix it.!

  • Stephen West on Facebook January 6, 2012 at 6:30 am

    My friend who has been in a psychiatric unit 18 times in two years, is severely depressed, alcoholic, epileptic and HIV+ has not even had a medical assessment, was told they were increasing his benefits and placed on the support group has now been sent documents stating that his case will now go to appeal, yet no one at ATOS has even seen him, the whole system is bollocks !

  • Bob Lee on Facebook January 6, 2012 at 9:16 am

    as i’ve said before:MURDER!

  • Michael Caits on Facebook January 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    “31 people have died while awaiting decisions on Appeal” says Grayling, as if it is some ‘triumph’ , as if it is some achievement He and His excremental Government can be proud of. There should have been ZERO deaths Grayling – ZERO!! It is the manifest and compound ineptitude of an Administration, determined to make changes for their own sake and who now find the whole system breaking down. It is NOT the fact that so many Appeals are taking place that is the disgrace: nor even the cost of them. It is the reason they have become necessary in the first place!! As for those who have died, there should be a Public Inquiry into their deaths and those responsible for them should be named and shamed!

  • Paul Ferry Smithlz on Facebook January 7, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Atos murdering scum.

  • meandmydog January 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Now they can have on ther head stone. “I TOLD YOU I WAS ILL”

  • MiKi67 January 30, 2012 at 2:42 am

    This is EUGENICS! Plain & Simple. How long will it take for enough people to wake up to what’s going on in this country? The Tories and their supporters know….they welcome the stamp of the jackboot on the necks of the weakest…..the LibDems have become The ConDems,& The Labour Party is Tory Lite.
    There comes a time when civil disobedience is required & necessary.
    That time is now.

    • Ken Boyd July 2, 2012 at 10:19 am

      Better be real soon – before they get their private security firms entrenched and armed …

    • Just Another May 30, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      Indeed it is. The War On The Weak…

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