December 5th, 2012
I am very pleased that the Back-Bench Business Committee of the Commons, from whom this week I sought an early debate on the appalling injustices of the Atos work capability assessments, has told me that “it is keen to see a debate on this issue, and so hopes to allocate time in January 2013″.
I hope therefore in the next month to be able to collect the fullest dossier I can not only of examples where the system has patently failed, but also of statements of how the system should be reformed, not only in technical application but radically.
It is perfectly clear that though the first two Harrington reviews may have produced some minor improvements in procedure, the fundamentals of the system remain intact, indefensible though they are.
There is still an urgent need for a much more profound, and whollly independent, inquiry into the principle of forcing people off benefit or drastically cutting benefit at a time of near-record unemployment on the grounds that despite intense disabilities they can still find work.
The latest DWP figures show that 145,000 out of 431,100 Incapacity Benefit claimants – a third – whose assessments were completed between October 2010 and February 2012 were found fit to work.
Since the total number of persons on Incapacity Benefit was 1.5 million, this suggests that if the same pattern of results continues, the total found fit to work will be about 500,000, including 140,000 who have been claiming Incapacity Benefit for more than 10 years.
It means that their benefit will be cut, in the case of a single person, from £100 a week to £71, and they will be continually pressured to get work as happens to all persons on job seeker’s allowance, even though there are now on average 8 persons chasing every vacancy and as many as 20 in some areas of the country.
I have been sent an excellent critique of the failings and harshness of the present system by a resistance group appropriately named on their website as www.wearespartacus.or.uk , and it ends with the following quotation which is so fitting I repeat it again:
“When my constituent, who has lost his job because he has motor neurone disease, scores zero on his WCA and is found fully fit to work, there is something wrong with the system.
“When that same constituent appears in front of a tribunal and in less than 5 minutes is awarded 15 points, there is something wrong with the system….
“When someone with a severe illness has to fight for a year through an appeal to get the correct benefit, only to be called in almost immediately for another assessment, there is something wrong with the system.”
I think this coming debate will show that these experiences are widespread and that the call for reform is irresistible.
See also on Black Triangle: