Monday, 12 November 2012

Spartacus Strikes Back – The Truth About Atos and the WCA

narking off the state since 2005


Spartacus Strikes Back – The Truth About Atos and the WCA

A report has been released today by disabled campaigners highlighting the often harrowing experiences that sick and disabled people face due to the infamous Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

The WCA is a short computer based health and disability test, carried out by French IT company Atos.  This assessment is used to judge eligibility for sickness and disability benefits and has led to thousands of people, often with serious health conditions or disabilities, being declared ‘fit for work’.

Many more people have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group, which means claimants are expected to take part in jobseeking activity including the Government’s Work Programme.  This means attending training and job search sessions under threat of punishing benefit sanctions.  There have even been suggestions raised by DWP officials that this group should be forced to attend workfare.  Astonishingly it is large disability charities, such as Scope (@scope), Mencap (@mencap_charity) and MIND (@MindCharity) who refer disabled people to the DWP to face benefit sanctions if they are judged to have not complied with the demands of the Work Programme.

Today’s report is the result of extensive research carried out by We Are Spartacus, a network of disabled campaigners, activists, researchers and bloggers and features extensive testimony from those who have attended the WCA themselves as well as from advice workers who have supported people through the process.

This important document deserves to be widely read.  Please tweet, blog and share as much as possible:

“My client has had brain damage since a massive haemorrhage/coma at the age of 22. This has left him with a short term memory of 20 minutes. He doesn’t remember me, or my voice, and keeps extensive diaries of daily events so he can record what he has to do. He has been found capable of work 3 times, and on one occasion he lost his home, because he couldn’t remember what he had to do to appeal. (IS stopped, so I presume HB stopped, although we will never know as he doesn’t remember).”

“I have a brain tumour and was left disabled because I had the left side of my cerabellum amputated, because of this my balance and co’ordination to my left side is shot coupled with the fact that all the cancer could not be removed I am also terminally ill, I DID NOT MAKE IT INTO THE SUPPORT GROUP. I was told I should be working in a set period of time, funny as it was the same as my lifespan, I contacted my MP who was luckily an x GP and gave him permission to look at my medical notes he was disgusted and got my decision reversed I am now in the support group. The letter from the DWP stated that I was not terminally ill for the purposes of benefit entitlement.”

“I have just got back from my esa medical. I was made to do things that caused me severe pain, despite telling the lady that i would be if great pain if i attempted to do this she told me i had to do it otherwise she would have to say that i refused and that the decison makers class refusing to take part in the activity as “able to work” she actualy said and i quote ” its like the drink driving test if you dont do the test your automacitly classed as failing it.”

“Karen Sherlock, 44, was put in the Work Related Activity Group in 2010. Where she was required to attend interviews, work-related activity etc.

She suffered from Diabetic Autonomic Neuropathy (gastric causing unpredictable and severe diarrhoea), Gastropaerisis (causing unpredictable and severe bouts of vomiting), Diabetic Retinopathy, partially sighted (loss of peripheral vision in both eyes and some central vision in left eye), Heart condition, Chronic Kidney Disease, Vitamin B12 Deficiency, Anaemia, Hypertension, High Cholesterol, Hypothyroidism, Asthma and Chronic tiredness due to multiple illnesses.

Her husband Nigel said it was a disgrace she was refused benefits and said her battle finally took its toll on her health.

Last year she lost a long process of appeal against the decision but continued her campaign. In April 2012, as a result of the time-limiting of ESA to one year, her £96-a-week benefits were stopped, plunging her into despair as her health deteriorated.

She won her appeal a few weeks ago and she was finally put in the Support Group.

She died eight days later on 8 June.”

These same types of assessments, again carried out by Atos, are shortly to be extended to almost three million people currently receiving Disability Living Allowance.