Channel Four Programme Tonight at 20.00: Britain on the Sick ~ ”As long as you’ve got one finger and you can press a button you don’t score anything for manual dexterity”

MONDAY 30 JULY 2012

BY REPORTER JACKIE LONG

This article relates to Britain on the Sick.

Living it up on benefits – we’ve all seen the footage. The woman who said she needed a wheelchair dancing the night away at a wedding.

The police officer off sick with a bad back, running hell for leather at five-a-side.

Successive governments have struggled with a spiralling disability benefit bill. It currently stands at £13 billion a year.

But, for the coalition, it’s about more than the cost. It’s about a culture which they believe has grown out of a system that leaves people ‘languishing on benefits’.

The Prime Minister is direct – it is a ‘sick note culture’, and he’s vowed to end it.

At the heart of his crusade stands a French multinational company, Atos. It has been given the task of assessing just who should be on Employment Support Allowance (which replaced incapacity benefit) and who should be heading back to work.

Their contract for this is worth a £100 million pounds a year.

From the beginning, the tests – known as the Work Capability Assessment – have been enormously controversial.

Claimants have been unhappy with the questions they’ve been asked, the way they’ve been handled by assessors and, crucially, the decisions which have been made by the DWP based on the assessments.

But no one has been able to give an insight into what goes on from the inside – until now.

Dispatches has gone undercover at Atos.

GP Dr Steve Bick agreed to go undercover and become an assessor at the company.

While training he’s told more than once to understand the new Employment Support Allowance process is ‘meant to take people off benefit’.

Despite repeated claims by the government and Atos that there are no targets for taking claimants off benefit, it’s made clear to Dr Bick that if he finds too many people unfit for work, his own assessments will be monitored.

The trainer explains:

You are being watched carefully for the rate of support group (people found unfit for work and therefore eligible for the highest level of ESA). If it’s more than, I think, 12 or 13 percent you will be fed back ‘your rate is too high

It’s a view repeated later in the footage by another doctor who says the targets come from the Department for Work and Pensions – a claim once again denied by the government and by Atos.

The footage also suggests just how tough it is to be found ‘unfit for work’.

The trainer talks through how people with a disability affecting their arms must be assessed:

‘If they have one problem, one frozen shoulder, one impeachment syndrome, one broken elbow, one hand problem , no limb, amputation, they may score a little but the problem has to be bilateral’.

She goes on to concede that it’s a “very, very tough benefit.”

How tough is made clear when Dr Bick asks what sort of job someone with only one hand might be able to do.

The trainer elaborates:

 

A Big Fat DWP/AtoS 'Zero' for 'Manual Dexterity'

As long as you’ve got one finger and you can press a button you don’t score anything for manual dexterity.”

The Department for Work and Pensions refused to give an interview to Dispatches.

They take issue with Dr Bick’s role in the film.

He stood as parliamentary candidate for the Labour party in 2010.

But what about what Dr Bick found in a system which, after all, was first introduced by Labour.

In a statement the DWP said when the system was assessed two years ago it was not ‘entirely fit for purpose but has since been significantly improved’.

Atos said that independent reviews confirm they are providing a high standard of work, but that it is there duty to look for ways to improve.

They also said:

Zero Points

Nearly half of all claimants appeal against the assessments and almost a third of those appeals are successful – a figure the DWP is determined to reduce.

Professor Stephen Bevan, a director at the Work Foundation, believes the principle behind the assessments is absolutely right.

But the footage, he says, gives him real cause for concern:

“The danger is you are almost treating people a bit like a car going through an MOT with a sort of tick list and I think that reduces people down to a set of physical symptoms rather than the whole person.”

His biggest fear is that the government’s avowed intention of the Work Capability Assessments – to genuinely find out what disabled or ill people are capable of doing in the workplace – is being overwhelmed by a desire to cut benefit costs.

He says:

“There is a real worry that there’s a presumption of malingering or some sort of dishonesty going on here, which I think is a real shame because all our work shows that the majority of people with often very severe and disabling conditions really want to work and have got an amazing amount to contribute to work”

Channel Four

Comments
  • Sue July 30, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    It is clear that the CONDEMS, DWP and ATOS are making the assessments almost impossible to pass. I know it adds a lot of stress to people who are already at a low ebb, but we must fight back. Do not give in. First of all INSIST on your WCA being taped, and put in an appeal if (when) you are found fit for work. They want to wear us down – make us give in and go on to JSA. Also insist that you have no-one to get you to the Assessment (impossible to walk to bus stop – can’t drive due to medication etc,) and claim for taxi fares. Make sure that you ask taxi drive for help to get in and out of taxi (they are probably filming you) Make sure you make some comment about this for the purpose of the tape. When you walk sit or stand ask the Assessor for assistance. <Most of the Assessment is done by observation – for the purpose of the tape you must verbalise your pain – say how uncomfortable you are sitting/standing/walking – describe your pain/discomfort to the assessor. The tape can be used at your appeal – the more you have verbalised your pain/depression etc the better.

  • DAVID A SHAW July 30, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    I will work as hard as i can, to get these evil condem fascists out of office for good.

  • papasmurf July 30, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Judging by the Dispatches program, ATOS are using Eastern European SonderKommando as trainers.

  • Humanity2012 July 31, 2012 at 11:48 am

    It’s those Expenses Claiming MPS with their £65,000 a Year Salaries who are
    the Real Scroungers and Thieves when One Considers the Misery Inflicted by
    the Planet Moron Con Dem Regime

    The Evil National Socialist Regime Persecuted the Disabled and the Poor and this
    Con Dem Regime seems to be Following in their Footsteps

    Question is when will the Ignorant Tabloid Readers and Readers of ” Quality ”
    Newspapers get the Blinkers Off and Wake Up ?

    Their Ignorance and Bigotry has a Lot to Answer For

    Its a Blatant Theft of Welfare Benefits by a Craven Gormless Millionaire Dictatorship
    and the Answer is to Sack the Gormless Millionaire Dictatorship and engage in a
    Programme of Redistribution of Wealth from Rich to Poor to End the Arrogance of
    the Filthy Rich

    Wake Up Britain

  • Humanity2012 July 31, 2012 at 11:58 am

    There is No ” Principle ” Behind the Vicious ” Assessments ” just Vicious Nastiness

  • You must be logged in to comment. Log in
%d bloggers like this: