The Huffington Post UK | Posted: 31/08/2012 15:16 Updated: 31/08/2012 15:21
A woman who had her benefits cut after it was it was judged she was fit to work has died.
Cecilia Burns, who was suffering from cancer, began an appeal against the assessment by government contractor Atos in February.
Her benefits were returned just a few weeks go. She died on Monday, reported the BBC.
The death of Ms Burns came on the last day of a week long protest by disability and anti-cuts campaigners outside Atos’ offices and the Department of Work and Pensions, both in London.
The protesters blockaded the doors of the DWP, demonstrating over the IT giant’s sponsorship of the Paralympic Games while accusing the government of hypocrisy. Many campaigners are claiming the DWP and Atos now have “blood on their hands.”
Disability activists claim their clampdown on disability benefits is simply a money-saving exercise by the Department of Work and Pensions, who have contracted Atos to conduct “work capability assessments”.
According to The Independent, more than 40 medical practitioners working for the company have been reported to regulators the General Medical Council.
Disability activists delivered a coffin to Atos’ London headquarters on Wednesday. They claim docking the benefits of those who need them most has driven many disability sufferers into poverty, depression and even suicide.
Ms Burns from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland told the BBC in March that she had her benefits cut to £30 a week despite still receiving treatment for cancer. Her course of treatment was set to end in December.
She described the medical test as a “joke” and said she was disgusted by her experiences. She told the BBC she felt “that I don’t count, I don’t matter”.
In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph Atos said: “We do not make decisions on people’s benefit entitlement or on welfare policy but we will continue to make sure that the service that we provide is as highly professional and compassionate as it can be.
“We do this through a constant programme of training and education for our staff, a rigorous recruitment process for healthcare professionals and through continual work with the government, disability rights groups, healthcare professionals and those going through the process on the ground.”