ATOS Disability Toll
by Clive Menzies
At Friday’s General Assembly, Occupy was asked to support action to protest the disability assessment process administered by Atos which has led to more than 10,000 deaths. I suspect you, like everyone at the meeting, are shocked by these numbers which appear to be valid. Michael Meacher, in a House of Commons debate on 18th January, described the situation as follows:
The fundamental issue is this: how can pursuing with such insensitive rigour 1.6 million claimants on incapacity benefit, at a rate of 11,000 assessments every week, be justified when it has led, according to the Government’s own figures, to 1,300 persons dying after being put into the work-related activity group, 2,200 people dying before their assessment is complete, and 7,100 people dying after being put into the support group? Is it reasonable to pressurise seriously disabled persons into work so ruthlessly when there are 2.5 million unemployed, and when on average eight persons chase every vacancy, unless they are provided with the active and extensive support they obviously need to get and hold down work, which is certainly not the case currently?
To put this number into context, the Atos assessment death rate dwarfs that of soldiers in Afghanistan.
According to the BBC, by October 30 this year, the total number of British soldiers who had died in Afghanistan since military operations began there in 2002 was 437.
That’s equivalent to the number of sick or disabled people who die – while going through the Atos/DWP work capability assessment system (or as a result of going through it) – every six weeks.
The demonisation of the most vulnerable people in society as scroungers and shirkers has led to a dramatic increase in hate crime against disabled people. Members of Disabled people against cuts (DPAC) related harrowing personal stories of how attiudes have hardened towards them.
The progressive privatisation of the welfare state began years ago and outsourcing these assessments for profit is another step towards the US model of healthcare and welfare where 47 million people live on food stamps – a chilling prospect. To attack this specific policy is not enough. We need to overturn the economic system which lies at the root of this and other problems.
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