George Potter has a particularly interesting post here, about the horrific number of deaths among people who have either completed, or are in the process of completing the ATOS assessments. (Between January and August last year, 1,100 claimants died after they were put in the "work-related activity group", where they have reduced benefits and are given help to find work; 1,600 people died before their assessment had been completed and 5,300 who were put in the "support group" - the most unwell, also died.)
Of course, as George points out, some of them may have been hit by buses only a matter of weeks after being declared fit for work, or indeed while the tortuous process of the assessment is taking place, but surely not thousands of them.
The article is based on information sought by The Daily Mirror from the DWP by way of FoI request. Interestingly, according to the Mirror, 'We don't know how many people died after being found "fit to work", as that information was "not available" '. I wonder why, Mr Grayling? Any ideas? It surely couldn't be that it was just too embarrassing, could it?
Or could it?
Yes, of course there are people cheating on sickness benefit, and we need to find ways of dealing with this, but there are very very many more who are not cheating; who are in fact seriously and horribly ill, and ATOS clearly seems to care not a whit about this or the consequences of its cavalier attitude to what is, after all, life and death to the clients, as long as it reaches its targets.
Incredibly, when people appeal against ATOS decisions 40% of the decisions are overturned, and when appellants have legal representation at the hearings, which are conducted according to English Law by the English Department of Justice (even in the Celtic countries), the number of overturned decisions rises to 75%, and as high as 90-95% in some (geographical) areas, where clearly ATOS is employing work experience children, or possibly their pet cats, to do the assessments.
Despite this seemingly astounding level of incompetence (which would surely not be tolerated anywhere else), ATOS managed to make £42 million profit out of us in 2010, and its boss was paid £800,000. (What was it Pickles said about people not being entitled to more than the prime minister if they were working for the government? Just another pile of hypocritical crap from the government, was it?)
It seems to me that if you are monstrously incompetent, unlikely to get results and have very little regard for people or human life in general, the DWP is a good place to pitch up for contracts. After all, as well as the apparently criminally useless ATOS, we have the simply criminal A4E, which appears to believe that if it just says it got people into work (along with the magic words) and claims the fee for having done so, a good wizard will come along like the tooth fairy and make it so.
And no one at the DWP seems to give ATOS (a toss).
Don't you just wish that they would take their vile Department for Work and Pensions and bugger off, and leave Scotland to deal with its sick.