Monday 16 April 2012


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.


  1. I'm always reminded, when discussing DWP and welfare reform, etc., that the simplest benefit system is either to pay everybody or pay nobody. The minute you start introducing rules that say, in these circumstances you can get benefit, in those ones you' can't, with all the caveats those rules would need for clarification, you quickly end up with a beast like the DWP.

    We should keep in mind that the majority of staff working for DWP are ordinary public servants, receiving one of the lowest wages of any public body in the UK. They have no say on how ATOS (or A4E) operate, or whether they should have been awarded the contracts they have. In the nineties, there used to be an organisation who thought it was acceptable to demonise the DSS (the forerunner to DWP). Using much the same language seen in relation to DWP these days, that demonisation quickly became personal, with members of this group actually following DSS staff home and then broadcasting their personal details via leaflets (the net not being that widely used back then). More than one DSS staff ended up assaulted (in their home) as a result and the group voluntarily disbanded.

    Yes, the system is broken. Yes, there is things (many things) that could be done to improve it. Just be careful who (and whom) you demonise because we've been here before and the results weren't pretty.

  2. Firstly welcome to Munguin’s Republic, ForteanjoI, and thanks for your contribution.
    I take your points, as I have worked for JC+ and other organisations which have delivered their programmes (fortunately not ATOS or A4E). At JC+, I did the most miserable job of my life on, you are correct, an incredibly low wage, with the burden of management that couldn’t have found their backsides using both hands, and managed by a rule book which, to these non civil servant eyes, was largely indecipherable, and when it was explained, it became clear why the place was in the mess it was.

    I know that there are good staff members there, and indeed that some are promoted, only to be broken by the system.

    You are correct to upbraid me, though. I should have made it clear that I meant that it is management, and indeed, management at the highest level who don’t give a toss. The people who make these rules; the people who award the contracts and the people from the London government who impose the political strategy; these are the people who seem not to have a care about the effects that their work has on people who are ill, including their deaths.

    As George said in his original post and as I reiterated; there is no evidence to suggest that it was the work of the DWP or their agents which killed the claimants or ex-claimants (that we are not allowed to know about, because the figures are not available). They may well have met their ends by bus, train, plane, hurricane, pestilence or flood. But it would not be unreasonable to suggest that in some cases, their conditions, found not to be that serious that it would stop an employer from employing them, or them from working, have brought them to their death. Nothing too serious then, ATOS, huh?

    Of course the average JC+ employee writes a hundred or so letters to inform people of their ATOS test every day. They can hardly be expected to keep tabs on, or worry about the fact that some retired medic, nurse that cannot get a job, or first aider, has decided that the rules say that this person or that should be fit to go to work according to a questionnaire worked out by another person who later admitted that the scheme was not fit for purpose.

    We need to save money on the benefit bill. There are far too many people idle. But then, there aren’t many jobs and most of the ones there are not marched by the qualifications, aptitudes or intellectual capacities of the job seekers. So, because the welfare bill rises as government policies put more and more people on the dole, it seems that IDS and his sidekick must attack the sick to keep their budget in line.

    It must be sad for the people who have lost family members and friends to this, but of course that will go right over the heads of the ministers and senior management who will never personally have known anyone who depended upon benefits. To them claimants are another species; one that wasn’t born with a silver spoon, didn’t go to Oxbridge and land themselves a safe seat due to connections at the palace.

  3. Mr Potter still seems proud to emblazon his blog with the dead duck of the Lib Dems. Who, let us remember, are quite happy to go along with this vile Tory attack on the sick to such an extent their elected members in the English Assembly are voting for it. If the SNP were to do that, there would be no ifs and no buts, I would no longer be a member, they would forfeit my support and I would never vote for them again!

  4. I can't understand why George sticks with them Munguin. But he probably hopes that the REAL Liberal party will re-emerge after this load of opportunists are history, as it appears they will be after the next election.

    I agree if the SNP did this they'd be toast as far as I'm concerned., on the basis that I couldn't stand to be in the same room as people who did this kind of thing.

  5. The unemployed are very much the new paedophiles:

  6. Hello Your Reverence. Welcome to Munguin's Republic. :)

    Yes, indeed they are, and sadly sick people are edging that way too.

    Most people in my experience are not unemployed because they want to be. A small proportion are, or are happily working on the side and claiming benefits. The first is sad; the second an offence.

    Most unemployed people just can't find a job that pays enough to keep them... or just can't find a job at all.

    I doubt there's many that choose to be sick either. Of course there are bound to be a few who fiddled it, and a few who should have come off it long ago, but, knowing they have no chance of a job haven't let on that they are better, IB being slightly less stingy than JSA.

    Very few people really enjoy having to feed, clothe, and provide heat and light, insurance, tv licence and transport money out of about £70 a week.

    Of course if work wasn't so incredibly badly paid at the bottom of the pile, there would be even more incentive for people to find it.

    Bottom line at the moment is that despite what slap head says... there's not a lot of work about.