ATOS recently managed to assess 32 people who were terminally ill as being fit for work. That is a genuine scandal.
WHEN it comes to moving people off sickness benefits, nobody would argue against the notion that those who are fit to work should work.
It is a simple principle – but it needs to be applied with compassion and common sense and a respect for the dignity of the sick which has been all too often missing.
It is clear that private company Atos – involved in pushing the long-term ill and disabled back into the nonexistent job market – and the Department of Work and Pensions possess none of those qualities.
Atos, the multi-billion-pound French IT firm contracted to carry out Work Capacity Assessment, recently managed to assess 32 people who were terminally ill as being fit for work.
That is a genuine scandal.
But the macabre turns to the ridiculous when it is revealed that 40 per cent of all assessments carried out by the company are overturned on appeal.
In other words, four out of 10 people classed as fit to work by the firm are not fit to work at all.
Atos make £112million a year for running the tests and £60million for running the appeals process.
Yet there is no process to ensure the company are penalised if they don’t do their work properly, as we report today.
Meanwhile, the sick and disabled can have their benefits withdrawn if they do not comply with the crazy system.
The test that determines who is eligible for sickness benefits harms some of the weakest and most vulnerable in society.
The vast majority of claimants are not shirkers and would welcome a return to work that suits their needs. But this one-size-fits-all approach to assessing fitness to work is clearly not working itself.
There has to be some consideration of individual history and some leeway for common sense – not incentives to push people through the system regardless.
If claimants can have their assessment overturned twice and then receive a third summons for another test, the system is not just maddening – it is mad.
And if four out of 10 people are deemed to be not fit for work on appeal, then the WCA themselves need some serious re-assessment.