Thousands of sick or disabled people have died after undergoing assessments to find out whether they were fit to work, the House of Commons was told today.


Ms Burns, who was being treated for breast cancer, had her benefits cut by £30 a week after an assessment by Atos. She started a campaign to have the decision overturned but died shortly after the money was reinstated.

Atos told incontinent woman to ‘wear nappy’ by SARAH CASSIDY 


Michael Meacher MP
Michael Meacher MP

Thousands of sick or disabled people have died after undergoing assessments to find out whether they were fit to work, the House of Commons was told today.

Atos, the firm contracted to conduct work capability assessment (WCA) tests for the Government, was condemned by MPs for “ruthlessly” pressurising sick and disabled people into returning to their jobs.

The debate was told of cases of people who had committed suicide after being stripped of their benefits under the process and of an incontinence sufferer who was told she could return to work wearing a nappy.

Former Labour minister Michael Meacher opened the debate saying that 1,300 people had died after being placed in the “work-related activity group”, for those currently too ill to be employed but expected to start preparing for an eventual return to work.

A further 2,200 died before the assessment process was completed and 7,100 died after being judged to be entitled to unconditional support because they are too ill or disabled to work.

Mr Meacher asked: “Is it reasonable to pressurise seriously disabled persons into work so ruthlessly when there are already 2.5 million people unemployed and, on average, eight persons chasing every vacancy, unless they are also provided with the active and extensive support they obviously need in order to get and to hold down work, which is certainly not the case at present?”

Labour’s Iain Wright, MP for Hartlepool, told MPs that one of his constituents, a woman who suffered from Crohn’s disease, had been told she could wear a nappy to work.

“What sort of country have we become, what sort of ethical values does the Government have, if that’s the degrading and crass way in which decent law abiding constituents of mine are being dealt with?”

“All the evidence that I have in my constituency demonstrates that the system is not working and the most vulnerable and ill constituents in Hartlepool are paying the price. The Government is treating my constituents like dirt, it needs to change.”

Shadow Employment minister Stephen Timms said there was no doubt the current arrangements were causing “immense problems and immense anxiety”. He added: “We shouldn’t be allowing this to continue, the system does need fast and fundamental reform.”

Kevan Jones, a former Labour minister, said suicides of claimants who were found fit to work by Atos had been reported. “There are…a number of well-publicised cases where people have taken their own lives because of this system,” he said. “It is not too strong to say that this Coalition Government has blood on their hands for the deaths of those individuals.”

A spokeswoman for Atos Healthcare said: “We know that this can be a difficult process for people and we do all we can to make sure the service we provide is as professional and compassionate as possible. We have been doing this work…for over a decade and our doctors, nurses and physiotherapists are fully trained and experienced, with many coming directly from the NHS.”

Victory in vain: Cancer patient’s fight

Cecilia Burns, 51, from Northern Ireland died last summer shortly after winning her campaign to get her benefits reinstated.







10 thoughts on “Thousands of sick or disabled people have died after undergoing assessments to find out whether they were fit to work, the House of Commons was told today.

  1. Jo Yelland says:

    Actually, Atos have been operating for “over a decade” only if you include their trial period (which was an unmitigated disaster at the time) and if you include their failed IT systems in France and the “disability denial” system that they ran in the US until they were named, shamed and banned from working in most US states (where they were under the protective umbrella of Unum). The catalogue of failure has been ongoing for 10 years – not something they should be proud of.

    And if anyone believes there is no government bias regarding providers after the recent contract and boundary changes included Capita (also a company with an appalling track record) think again. The Government provided an Atos research scheme with £300 000 of taxpayers money last year to prove that Fibromyalgia is not a ‘proper’ disability. Needless to say, it failed, but took the money anyway and continues to shaft the disabled, particularly those with a non-visible disability.

  2. Marion says:

    Jo, thanks for posting that as I wasn’t aware of that particular Government funding to ATOS to do research into Fibromyalgia “not being a proper disability”, but hardly surprise and obviously they try to keep these things as quiet as possible. I do have Fibromyalgia(diagnosed in 2004, but probably had it longer)but as far as I’m aware there has been much more “concrete medical evidence” from the U.S I think, where they have done research and scanning of brains of patients with Fibromyalgia, that they said proved certain things(don’t quote me on this)?

    Perhaps I’m “fortunate”(if that’s the right word!)in that I also have Osteoarthritis diagnosed about 4 years ago and at age 48 had to have one hip replaced(never got full use back though)the other hip is in poor shape and it’s spread to my back, top of spine, elbows, hands, etc., etc. I also had a more recent diagnosis of Scoliosis, also have thyroid problems, high blood pressure, asthma and can’t remember what else! But I’m sure they could find ways to hassle me, in fact the last time my hard won DLA was renewed(August 2011)I had a horrible Atos patronising foreign doctor come to my home, lied in what he put on the form and had the damn arrogance and cheek to put down that, “when she has her other hip replaced, she’ll be ok”, kind of thing(can’t recall exact wording, but you could imagine?) I got the middle rate of care removed, which gave me less Jobseekers Allowance premiums, they tried to stop the mobility but appealled that and won, but they wouldn’t budge on the care and I got frightened before it came to tribunal stage as I was warned they could also look at the mobility again and try to take that away and I left it, don’t know now if I was right or wrong?

    1. Christopher says:

      ((I got frightened before it came to tribunal stage as I was warned they could also look at the mobility again and try to take that away and I left it))

      Can fully understand why you did Marion, but unfortunately that’s exactly what the were hoping for.. 🙁

  3. Humanity2012 says:

    Suffering of Many Under the Evil National Socialist Regime and Suffering under
    the Dismal Con Dem Regime Enough is Enough Better Government Now

  4. jeffery davies says:

    well they trying to take mine away gone to appeal with esa papers but thought that dwp minister had said in the house they wernt ussing esa for dla wrong they do whot they like but with so many lies from the d/m and atossers had it adjourned for further medical notes but hay they use anything to stop our benefits even to the grave and that is whot they do best jeffs




    Link to this

  6. K Peake says:

    73 of us dying each week of Atos (DWP)

    No record of the 43% of us found fit for work who aren’t working or receiving benefits the following year which will mean nothing to the gangster squad but be of terrible concern to anyone with a beating heart

    494 of us dying each week of cold

    1 in 500 of us currently being kept alive by responsible taxpayers at foodbanks leaping impressively to 1 in 250 of us by April

    The blame for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched this vicious and cowardly attack.

    Sign this petition to show the gangster squad what happens when they defame, illegitimise and abandon disabled people:

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