Tag Archives: Incapacity Benefit

“Are There No Prisons, Are There No Workhouses?”



I’ve written before of the abomination that is ATOS, but the best summary of the situation I found at RatSkep, written by a member known as “chairman bill”, whose permission I have to reproduce his post here in its entirety.

Our wonderful UK government, a chimera of a beast, born of an alliance between the Nazty Party of Great Britain (aka ‘the Conservatives’), and what appears to be a pretty spineless version of the Liberal Democrats, in these times of financial crisis, have declared that ‘We’re all in it together’, and that changes & cut-backs they make are ‘Fair’. Well they’re not. The ConDems are a bunch of lying, deceitful little shysters, with a particular penchant for kicking disabled people. And in this they are proudly assisted by the Daily Mail, the Express & the Sun (aka The Hate Mail, The Vexpress & The Scum), regularly featuring made-up stories (aka ‘lies) about disabled people. The Daily Fascist/Hate Mail in particular, has published a number of stories, designed to paint a picture of disabled people as benefit scroungers, and as benefit frauds. There have even been claims of fraud running at a level of 75%, whereas the true figure from the Dept. of Work & Pensions is one of less than 0.5%, with a high in 2009 of 1.3%.

This bunch of bastards (aka ‘government), who promised to protect the vulnerable, have already cut the Independent Living Fund – it no longer exists. This was a benefit paid to the most disabled people in our society, to enable them to live as near a normal life as possible. It’s gone. Next for the ConDem axe is the Disability Living Allowance. Ministers are appalled that the numbers claiming it are rising. Well, no shit, Sherlock, we’re getting new disabled people every fucking day! Given that it has no relation to work (it’s not an unemployment benefit), people who retire still get it, and children get it, and given that most disabling conditions are for life, once they start getting, most keep getting it. God hasn’t started curing amputees yet, and Afghanistan is ensuring a steady supply of new ones. And this benefit is tested, strictly, and regularly retested unless you get a lifetime award (see amputees for example).

Well, now the government want to cut DLA & introduce something called Personal Independence Payments. These are set to exclude 20% of those receiving DLA. Not because those people don’t need those payments, but seemingly because ‘we’re all in it together’. Part of DLA includes Mobility Allowance, paid only to those who really struggle to get about. Criteria are strict, and if you can walk, with sticks or Zimmer frame, more than 50 metres, you don’t qualify. Well, the ConDems want to cut this allowance for anyone in residential care. Which will mean these people will no longer have the money to take them home to visit family, or to go shopping, or simply to get out & about. But it’s fair & we’re all in this together. Bastards! And to add to this, the ConDems are making changes to the Tax Credit system that will cost families of disabled children some £1400 a year. But that’s fair, ‘cos that nice Mr Cameron says so, and that nice Mr Clegg hasn’t demurred.

And we’re to get cuts to disabled people’s housing benefits. Young people are expected to live in ‘multi-occupancy accommodation’, and will be penalised for having a spare bedroom. Leave aside the facts that many will have a need to store equipment (ventilators, wheelchairs and the like, or be unable to share a bed with a partner, so needing that spare room, if you’re disabled, you can’t get payments if your house is too big. The National Housing Federation reckon some 108,000 disabled people could be forced out of their homes. But that’s fair, and they’re all in it together. Er …

To the shame of the Labour Party, the last government brought in a new Employment and Support Allowance to replace Incapacity Benefit. It introduced a Work Capability Assessment, and the contract went to a private company called ATOS. I know some people who’ve had the misfortune of attending an ATOS assessment. No disabled parking & the centre wasn’t wheelchair-accessible (which is illegal for public service buildings). Of the ATOS rulings that reduce benefits, 1 in 8 are overturned on appeal. The rest get moved on to Job Seekers Allowance, yet in many cases the Job Centres acknowledge that they’ll never find work for these people. The ConDems have failed to repeal or amend this awful system, and have instead made the tests harder to pass. There have been a number of suicides linked specifically to the Work Capability Assessment, it is that traumatic for people. I know of someone who had to attend one of these with her daughter. Her daughter has Down’s Syndrome. The ATOS assessors asked why she couldn’t work. Her mother indicated that she had a learning disability associated with her Down’s Syndrome, and a heart defect (a common congenital condition in people with Down’s). But, she could walk, so the assessors weren’t convinced that she couldn’t work. She won her appeal, but it was a traumatic time for all concerned. Still, it’s fair, and they’re all in it together.

And the ConDems plan to make things even worse. Some people stand to lose all benefits, if they have resources of a certain level. Well, as a point of fact, if anyone in their household has such resources, such as a pension fund they could dip into. And the level of resources that could lead to benefit cuts, is below the level of the minimum wage. Which is no doubt fair. The government’s own figures indicated some 700,000 people who are too disabled to work, will be affected by these changes, and 400,000 will have to rely entirely on savings, pensions, or the incomes of partners.

And now, the piece de resistance, the Welfare Reform Bill. The ConDems have sent this bill through Grand Committee, where a single vote can scupper an amendment – read more about this disgraceful move here

So, the purpose of this thread -

Pat Onion’s petition to stop & review the cuts to benefits here,

Anthony Dean’s petition to make it a criminal offence to maliciously report someone for benefit fraud (DWP figures show that 96% of referrals the National Benefit Fraud Hotline are malicious or time-wasting) here,

and Calum Wiley’s petition to save the Independent Living Fund here - please, if you’re not a heartless Tory bastard, follow the links & sign the petitions.

The only thing I can think of to add to that is in connection with appeals. Even when successful, disabled people are having to go through the ordeal time and again, as ATOS seem very reluctant to accept judgements against them. They obviously regard vulnerable people as easy targets, and have no scruples about picking on them, knowing some of them will give up hope or, even better from ATOS’s point of view, die.

Atos Scandal 3 – “Atos Macht Frei”


 

When I made this picture, I naively thought I was being original. My use of it was merely a comment on Atos’s behaviour in shutting down a forum, and their record of making atrocious decisions many of which are overturned on appeal to a tribunal.

In fact, the phrase “Atos Macht Frei” has been in use for some time, and even my alteration to the picture had already been done.

The website that was linked to in a post at the Carer’s Watch forum, which led to the forum being taken down, was certainly using the phrase in February. This was in response to the news that Atos had teamed up with Siemens, the company that made gas chambers for the Nazis.

Highlighting that company’s history in that way may have been a little unfair, but it was true, so where was the libel? For a statement to be libellous it has to be untrue. Satirical comment is, by its very nature, a caricature, and the only sensible response, from a PR point of view, is to say that the company isn’t like that any more, or to point out the exaggeration.

Acting in a way that is reminiscent of the Nazis is not a good move.

The image at the “offending” website comes from another satirical site.  Atos don’t seem to have bothered with that site either.

Atos Scandal 2 – Excuses, excuses…


The latest news from Carer Watch, whose forum was taken down following threats of litigation by Atos, is that the allegedly libellous content wasn’t even posted by a member of that forum, but was a five month old link to another website….which hasn’t itself been removed, nor threatened with legal action (as far as we know).

A private forum was attacked, while a public website was ignored.

What? I know that some IT companies have made some horrendously stupid and embarrassing blunders over the years, but are we to believe that any IT company is that incompetent?

Or maybe it was all just an excuse to shut down the forum.

Those are the only two reasons I can think of for the ham-fisted actions of Atos.

Which do you think is more likely?

Meanwhile, Atos seem to be dragging their heels and, at the time of writing this, the forum is still down…….

Just before 10.30pm this evening (26th August) Carer Watch announced that their forum had been restored. Good news, but it shouldn’t have been taken down in the first place. Atos have made a lot of new enemies, many of whom hadn’t even heard of them before this fiasco.

Atos Scandal? Which one?


Amidst all the complaints about how Atos, the IT company paid with taxpayer’s money to assess claimants of disability benefits, are doing their job, one criticism is possibly the most worrying, censorship, as without the freedom to raise those other concerns, they will be ignored. The company appears to be on a crusade to shut down any website that raises concerns. A private forum has been taken down, leaving many disabled people and their carers feeling vulnerable and alone. Atos claims to be keen on helping to sort the problem out, but appear loathe to tell the victims of their heavy-handedness what the actual problem is, asserting only that something posted there was libellous, preferring instead to threaten the company hosting the forum with legal action.

Atos claim they are merely protecting their reputation.

What reputation? They are adding fuel to a fire that is already ablaze with anger. Companies (and indeed countries) that engage in this kind of censorship, using bullying to get their way, inevitably lose any goodwill they may have, and gain a reputation for being untrustworthy at best, and downright vicious at worst.

They also leave themselves wide open to parody and satire.