On the same day that Atos has announced that only 7% of claimants are not able to do any kind of work, the government has accepted that its drive to retest benefit claimants was a flawed process.
MPs accept that Atos’s Work Capacity Assessment causes anxiety among the disabled people who undergo the tests, and that large numbers of people believe their test results to be wrong. Of course disabled people already knew that, but it’s good to have this officially recognised.
There was also criticism that the positive aspects of helping people back to work has not been emphasised, leading to those who are able to do some work being stigmatised as “workshy” or a “benefit scrounger”.
Atos says that only 7% of claimants were unable to work at all, but the figures show that 36% of people dropped out of the process (perhaps they had a short-term illness that got better, or even were so scared by the application process that they decided to withdraw – I know of people who were so angry by the injustice of the test and the way they were treated that they decided they would find a way to manage without benefits without going through it again). And 1% of applications were still in progress.
So in fact, of the 63% of applications where a disabled person was assessed and we know the result, 11% were deemed unable to work. That’s another way of looking at it, but Atos always seek to give the lower figure, the one which makes them look as though they are purging as many disabled people as possible from the benefits system.
There are many things wrong with the system, as we know. For example, Atos overbooked appointment slots, then marked some people as failing to attend and their benefits were stopped.
Most shocking is the story of Larry Newman. He had a degenerative lung condition when he was assessed by Atos, with problems walking and breathing. He was awarded no points in the assessment, meaning he was fit to work. “His widow, Sylvia Newman, recalls that one of the last things he said to her, as doctors put him on a ventilator, was: "It's a good job I'm fit for work." He was trying to make her laugh, she says, but it was also a reflection of how upset he had been by the conclusion of the medical test.”
His widow has highlighted 12 inconsistencies in Atos’s report, some of which were simply not true – claiming he was unaccompanied, and had no scars on his chest (they didn’t look!)
You can read more of Larry’s sad story here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jul/24/atos-case-study-larry-newman
It seems that almost every day another story is released demonstrating why Atos is itself unfit to work.