Atos debate in the House of Commons set for 17th January 2013

Michael Meacher MP
Michael Meacher MP

January 9th, 2013

I am very pleased to announce that the elected Back-Bench Business Committee in the Commons has now arranged for a full 3-hour debate on Atos work capability assessments to take place in the main chamber (not in Westminster Hall where there has already previously been a debate on Atos) on Thursday 17 January starting shortly after 11am.  
I have already spoken to a large number of Members of all parties and am assured there will be a big turnout, so that people in a large number of constituencies (perhaps as many as 30) will be directly represented in the debate.  
I hope the speeches will cover a great many cases, though tragically there are so many hundreds of horrifying accounts flooding into MPs’ that not all of them can be specifically included.  
However, I’m sure this will be a breakthrough in the fight against this appalling injustice, and we must all organise to ensure that it is.

I have myself received hundreds of heart-rending accounts from all over the country, and it’s difficult to do justice to the fear, indignity, distress and panic attacks that have been perpetrated on so many hundreds of thousands of disabled people (a total of 1.6 million recipients of Incapacity Benefit now being assessed at the rate of 10,000 a week).  

I just give a handful of examples:

*  “I went in to the assessment expecting a medical.   What followed was the most humiliating experience of my life.   The Atos ‘medic’ treated me worse than a piece of shit on his shoe.   For 40 minutes I was subjected to his disapproving and disbelieving glare every time I opened my mouth to answer on of the very personal questions.   I felt stripped of all dignity, belittled and degraded”.

 *  “I live with the constant fear that if my mental health gets worse again, I will be left with nothing.   Because of Atos’ quotas and inhuman tests, I feel that I am living without a safety net.   I’m only a few steps away from living on the streets because I know I will be denied benefits as have thousands of others because mental illness is invisible and easy to deny”.

*  “I have a genetic, debilitating, degenerative condition that has no treatment and no cure.   Even when Atos knows I can’t even attend one of their centres and has to send a doctor out to my home, why then do they start the whole procedure again and again?”

There’s a great deal to be said about reforming a patently flawed and failing system.  

As Linda Burnip, DPAC co-founder, has written:

“The original groups, i.e. the support group and WRAG, are totally wrong.   Because of this some people who have physical disabilities but who WITH THE RIGHT SUPPORT could work (if there were any jobs available) go into the support group because they can’t touch their nose, lift a pint of milk above their heads, etc., while people with mental health conditions, fluctuating impairments, or who have long-term illnesses are found fit for work simply because they can do a range of simple physical tasks, and that is more or less all the WCA tests for – purely functional abilityand the ability to do something once not repeatedly”.


Michael Meacher MP


15 thoughts on “Atos debate in the House of Commons set for 17th January 2013

  1. JJ says:

    8 Responses to “Atos debate in the House now fixed for Thursday 17 January”

    Steven Goodman Says:
    January 9th, 2013 at 5:02 pm
    This government is the worst national government since the rise of Adolf Hitler. They have introduced measures akin to themes found in the Movie “Schindlers list”…IE the fitness test by Nazi Doctors in the movie compares readily to the nature of ATOS medicals. Both forget the remit of the Hypocratic Oath and act as puppets to their political masters.

    The fact that there are some 73 suicides a week in response to governmental directives…Means we have a situation that I believe is “murder by proxy”…Cameroon and Clegg have a lot to answer for!

    Marilyn Sainsbury Says:
    January 9th, 2013 at 5:28 pm
    My young DeafBlind student does not wish to draw any attention to herself but I think it is important that her experience is known about. She was called in for a mandatory WCA before Christmas and attended with a support worker from her sheltered housing to interpret for her. After contracting meningitis when she was a year old, this young woman was left with deteriorating sight and hearing and ataxia, resulting in mobility and balance difficulties (she is able to ‘lurch’ along rather than walk, has slow, slurred and delayed speech and needs sign language support to be able to communicate using her remaining useful periphereal vision). She thought she was attending a medical with a specialist employment adviser who could help her find some meaningful employment. Instead she received a letter saying that she had been found ‘fit for work’ and advising her to apply for Job Seeker’s Allowance as her I.B was being withdrawn the following week. My student is a highly intelligent post-graduate who at the time was puzzled by the questions she was asked, such as ‘do you have any friends?’. Confused and upset that she was not being offered help towards finding work, I was also distressed to hear her talking about her situation in the language of the tabloids – she talked about how wrong she had been to be so dependent on ‘government handouts’ and that she knew she couldn’t do manual work but that she really had to find something – anything to be able to pay her way and lead an independent life.

    Since then her support workers contacted the welfare rights people from the local authority here in Bristol and they have been helping her to appeal, but as you know this process can take many months. A basic level of benefit has been re-instated but she is very stressed and worried about losing her home.

    I think it is disgraceful that so many sick and disabled people are being forced to go through this process. I advised my student that of course she has much to offer (with the right support in place) and to continue to look for work, but that financial support for her disabilities was a right not a ‘hand-out’. Isn’t how we support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in society a reflection of how civilised we are?

    Janet Says:
    January 9th, 2013 at 6:12 pm
    I’m waiting to go for my assessment and dreading itI’ve got nothing to hide I’m genuinly ill BUT mine is a hidden illness (stroke) I know I’m going to be made to feel small and like a fraud.but I will go because I won’t give in to these so called medics.

    Steven Says:
    January 9th, 2013 at 7:09 pm
    I have an ASD (Asperger Syndrome) and am currently in the Support Group for ESA. I have a reassessment due this summer and am dreading it as I have nothing to fall back on if I am called for an assessment and ‘fail’ the medical; in 2011 I was placed in the Support Group without being called for a medical. I presently do some supported permitted work and voluntary work under the ESA rules.

    I also receive DLA and have done since 1993 on a lifetime award. DLA is being phased out from April this year and I can’t see where I fit into the descriptors for the replacement PIP. Again an interview will form part of the application process for this benefit. Part of my condition is that I will answer “yes” to a question if I feel under pressure to do so, and the thought of these face-to-face assessments is filling me with fear and anxiety.

    While I understand the need to cut the benefit bill, those like myself who have hidden conditions such as an ASD and are genuinely entitled to the money feel under constant persecution and it isn’t helped by a lack of understanding of the conditions. From what I have heard ATOS assessors simply aren’t interested even if you have a terminal illness, and the lack of compassion being shown by David Cameron (who pledged at the last election that the genuinely disabled would be protected under a Tory government) and Iain Duncan-Smith simply defies belief. We shouldn’t have to continually prove ourselves to show that we are entitled to benefits and the assessment process being used to determine eligibility is simply wrong and immoral. I use my benefits to get out and about and to lead a good quality of life; if I lose either or both of them, I will be unable to do so and will even have to give up my part-time job as a lollipop man.

    I know this may have come too late for use in the debate next week, but if you are able to, feel free to do so.

    James Moore Says:
    January 9th, 2013 at 7:52 pm
    I can only pray that the powers that be bestow some real sense of fairness and shame on this crazy policies being run by this nasty collection of people in the coalition.

    walter boyle, Says:
    January 9th, 2013 at 7:56 pm
    Am I right in my information that when we attend assessments that if we refuse to give our consent,thus not entering into a contract with Atos then the procedure becomes void, and they can take no action against us,|I wonder,

    Anthony Hagger Says:
    January 9th, 2013 at 8:54 pm
    Something has to be done as what is happening is morally wrong that people who are sick and/or disabled are being deemed fit for work when obviously they are not, the present setup it not fit for purpose and needs to change.

    Joyce Drummond Says:
    January 9th, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    This is the truth. Atos have made no attempt to initiate legal proceedings against me, which I believe tells it’s own story.

  2. Trishwah says:

    Thank goodness there are some people in parliament who actually listen….though I think it likely that their voices will be drownd out by the stately murmers of the unknowing/uncaring Eton/Harrow/Fettes etc privilaged schooled but less intelligent hyenas who wish to line their own pockets…it saddens me greatly that people are being treated as they are…the UK has become a 3rd world country and we need to fight back against the banks and corperations that finance the tories…the alternative is back to feudal times or anarchy and revolution…time to choose people!!!!!

  3. JANET ROAKE says:

    many disabled people would love to be able to work, sadly too often they are criticised and ridiculed by the public and politicians and are left demeaned, demoralised and defeated by “assessments” which are really time wasting extension exercises to suit the crazy plans of our government of the day. Dear Lord, bless us with some people of compassion and integrity and most of all, COMMON SENSE.

  4. pamela fegan says:

    I’m so glad there is a debate to hopefully correct the injustice going on, sadly it will not help me as I have been refused ESA (despite a damning health report from my specialist hospital consultant which was disregarded during the medical and appeal) so I will not be able to reclaim the benefit again even if the ATOS medical is found to be needing a overhaul. I worked for 42 years and had to leave a teaching carrer on grounds of the ‘invisible’ condition Myalgic Encephalomylitis. I am mostly at home, I do not leave my bed without pain and discomfort, I am incontinent and have extreme periods of brain fog yet deemed fit for work. I wonder if MP’s would regard such a person fit to educate their children???? No I think not!!

  5. Notwelliam says:

    FAO: Joyce Drummond:

    Would you be so kind as to register and join us on

    FAO: Walter Boyle:

    Apparently that is true, there is a Scotish Gentleman who did just that. There is a link on the above disability forum to the video or you can simply search youtube for the video.

    And a huge Thank You for having the debate on this. It is a relief to know that there is still some out there with a backbone and face upto these rich poshboys.

  6. Notwelliam says:


    I am so sorry to read of your injustice at the hands of these “Grrr, I will refrain from saying it”.

    Did you have represenation and was you able to appear in person, or at least have a representitive show in person, on your behalf, at your appeal?

    I have been reliably informed (though they have had their budget cut, suprise suprise, that Welfare Rights, are the first choice, followed by CAB.

    Has an error in law been made at your appeal? If so, you can take it to the next tier stage.

    Also, once 6 months has elapsed (from the actual decision was made by the DWP Decision maker) not to award you ESA, if your condition has worsened or you have a new condition (or both), then you are entitled to reapply for ESA.

    If certain criteria are met for ‘Incontience’ I then that alone is a Support Group factor.

    Claim what you are entitled to, you paid more than enough in Taxes and National Insurance payment throughout your career.

    Don’t let the ConDems get away with with taking what is rightfully yours.

    I wish you the very best. Please keep us informormed of your progress, should you go ahead.

    May I ask how long it was since your appeal?

    Best regards,

  7. Humanity2012 says:

    Scrap the Bloody Work Capability Assessment and All Nazi Style Persecution of
    the Poor and Vulnerable

    Let there be Some Real Analysis Instead of Just Parliamentary Sheep Rubberstamp

  8. louise heritage says:

    I think people should make a list of mps who support us and who dont..its useful to know who and what were up against. There should be some sort of tribunal where liars who work for atos and all the ministers who support it are tried like the nazi war criminals some of us equate them with.

  9. Christopher says:

    I live in hope but I won’t hold my breath over this debate. Anyway, here’s a quick question to those of you with a bit of a ”legal eye” out there.

    If you have already had assessments and been deemed as being ”unfit to work due to illness or disability” and therefore been rightly awarded your benefit ((be that at the start of proceedings or at an appeal)) and then, as I’ve read quite often on this site, you get recalled for yet another assessment after a few weeks/months, isn’t that tantamount to harassment? And isn’t harassment a criminal offence?

  10. jools says:

    THE TRUTH WILL OUT and all significant individuals and organisations that supported ATOS or failed to speak out about their practises will also be FOUND OUT

  11. Mr Kurt Alleyne says:

    I would very much apreciate being supplied with an email address where I can send a copy of my own quite lengthy email originally passed to Justin Tomlinson M.P.

    As an individual that has suffered ill health due to an extended and wholly unacceptable time period of Non-Payment this would be greatly appreciated. I would also very much like others matters to be dislosed but at this present time not publically as this may impair my wishes to further assist in this cause. As a basic piece of InformationI have some reasonable knowledge of The Human Rights Decleration and it’s Protocols and as such am aware of the surrounding possible issues of Refusal of Financial Support.

    Having received a wholly inadequate response from Mr Tomlinson from my own direct mail I would greatly appreciate your assisting myself and in turn my hopefully assisting you with your cause.

    Yours Sincerely;

    Mr K.A. Alleyne.

  12. james durkan says:

    I live in hope but I won’t hold my breath over this debate. Anyway, here’s a quick question to those of you with a bit of a ”legal eye” out there.
    If you have already had assessments and been deemed as being ”unfit to work due to illness or disability” and therefore been rightly awarded your benefit ((be that at the start of proceedings or at an appeal)) and then, as I’ve read quite often on this site, you get recalled for yet another assessment after a few weeks/months, isn’t that tantamount to harassment? And isn’t harassment a criminal offence?

    It’s whats know as absolute pure evilness

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