Atos and the Paralympics ~ Ekklesia

 

 

Atos, the company that conducts Work Capability Assessments (WCA) for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), is sponsoring the Paralympics. The irony of this is almost beyond words. A company causing fear and distress to countless disabled people is attempting to improve its image by associating itself with the achievements of other disabled people.

The devastating impact Atos is having on the lives of many individuals cannot be overstated. Take my friend Yvonne, for instance.

Yvonne is a person who has always put more into life than she expected to get out of it. She has enhanced the lives of countless people, whilst enduring more than her fair share of pain and illness.

Born with a heart and lung condition, Yvonne had a double lung transplant twenty years ago. She is now experiencing all the problems of organ rejection. Her condition is deteriorating and she knows she probably won’t live for more than two or three years. The anti-rejection medication has caused various problems, including breast cancer, for which she had surgery and radiotherapy. Her condition is such that on her frequent visits to the transplant clinic at Harefield in Middlesex she gets hospital transport from North Wales.

Yvonne was recently summoned to a Work Capability Assessment. She approached it, as she approaches everything, with a positive attitude and faith in the person who would be carrying out the assessment. What actually happened shocked her. She found the whole experience humiliating and distressing. The physical tests exacerbated the pain of a collapsed lung which she had sustained a short time before.

Yvonne has just been informed that she has been placed in the Work Related Activity Group, which means that she is required to attend interviews at Jobcentre Plus, to prepare her for a return to work. This is patently ridiculous, but she doesn’t know if she has the energy to appeal. She is now worried about paying her rent, and it seems the final years of her life may be blighted with anxiety and hardship. All she wants is the minimum support to enable her to live her last few years without fear of penury. It seems that UK plc, or Team GB, or whatever we’re calling ourselves this week, can’t afford that.

Thanks to a report by the National Audit Office, we now know that Atos is not only damaging to the wellbeing of disabled people: it is also poor value for the taxpayer.

According to Tom Greatrex MP, “The taxpayer is effectively paying for this service twice – once through the £112 million a year Atos receives from the DWP, and then again through the £60 millon a year spent on appeals and clearing up the mess that results from Atos assessments.”

For months disabled people, their friends and families have been desperately trying to get this issue the attention it deserves, with very little help from politicians. Recently though, two TV documentaries exposed the cruel nature of the system. Panorama highlighted several individual cases, including a man with a serious heart condition declared fit for work only to die shortly afterwards.

Channel 4’s Dispatches went undercover in Atos and found that, although the official line is that there are no targets, assessors are under pressure not to put more than 12 per cent of claimants into the ‘support’ group. This means that the vast majority of people assessed will either be declared fit for work immediately, putting them on Jobseekers Allowance, or like Yvonne, placed in the Work Related Activity Group. No matter what anybody says, this is all about the government’s austerity programme, taking money from those who can least afford to lose it.

Disabled people are organising a week of protests against Atos to coincide with the Paralympics, and let’s hope they have the desired effect.

But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that whilst Atos is implementing this inhumane system, it is doing so at the behest of the DWP. Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling could, if they chose, call a halt to this debacle and create a system with some humanity and compassion.

There is to be a debate on the WCA and Atos in Westminster Hall on 4th September, so one can only hope that enough politicians have enough interest, and enough compassion, to speak out loud and clear, and demand urgent change.

——

© Bernadette Meaden has written about religious, political and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is a regular contributor to Ekklesia.

Ekklesia

Comments
  • hedleylamarr August 23, 2012 at 8:53 am

    this government is scum

    many so called disability groups/ charities are too

    is disability rights any fucking good?

  • Humanity2012 August 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Bloody Cloud Cuckoo Land UK Wake Up People of UK and come out of the
    Media Induced ” Popular Culture ” Trance

    No More Suffering

  • jeffery davies August 23, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    but how many of the athletes will be called in for their dla and will they they then shout as it seems they toeing the line helping these who strip our benefits off us only to be rewarded back after atos says no ,but if they want to save money stop paying this waste of lying time atos with which they could treat us to some hols jeff3

  • DAVID A SHAW August 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Do not kid yourself into believing that the good and holy IDS ( a good christian man said former archbishop carey ) or any other vile tory minister cares a damn about the disabled. They are pursuing these policies because they want disabled people to suffer and to die, that i accept as a fact. The voices of the established churches are a little silent on this matter, more concerned with homophobia and keeping their city portfolios earning for them. It has taken the action of individuals to bring the full horror of the current situation for the disabled and vulnerable to light. And for that the church in the UK should be ashamed of itself, preferring to preserve the status quo and get what it can out of this evil government than to do anything about it.

  • Scorpio53 September 2, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Well its official. The government do not give a damn except for themselves.Stitching up the very people they said they would help, they have been systematically attacking the Disabled ,Families,the OAPs, since a few short months after they came into power.
    Strange that all the good they are doing is directed at the well off or the business man.
    Stuff the disabled person, after all, they are a blight on the surface of the earth and a blight to the economy, less than second rate citizens,lower than the lower, since these waste of space MPs came on the scene, they have done nothing but screw all those they can and as usual with any Government with a Tory Twat at its helm its always us.And isnt it always strange as soon as people show them up for what they are , they get either shut down or threatened with legal action.
    Isnt it also strange that the only recourse to appeal is use Legal Aid, and amazingly. . . . .this lot are doing away with it so you can’t, HAH, he ain’t stupid easy.
    This country is going down the drain and this lot are doing a good job at pointing the finger at the old and disabled, after all, we deliberately went out and injured ourselves and now face the rest of our lives on medication that alone can cause other complications through taking them.
    For Gods Sake Cameron you Moron ,Wake up!!!!!!!!!!
    Your crusade on the Disabled is literally killing people, and you and your lot just do not care.
    Stupid thing is we send money to other countries to stop that sort of thing.
    You are are major factor in influencing the decisions on alot of people who end up committing suicide, any one else would be arrested for being just that.
    But hey ho Stuff the Disabled you have your health you lucky man. . .. . . . . . . .maybe you should be put in to the position of just one disabled person that you have chucked off of the system simply because they are disabled, you have have no idea of the reality of life as a disabled person, but you and your lot will enjoy yours even after they are long gone.
    A government for the people, what an utter joke.

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