How many hundreds has Atos Healthcare killed so far?

Last Thursday I used an Adjournment debate I had won in the Common ballot to raise the tragedy of one of my constituents, Colin Traynor. He was diagnosed with grand mal epilepsy at the age of 14 months. At the age of 25 in 2008, striving to be independent, he was interviewed at Oldham Jobcentre to try to find an employer who would be willing to give him a job.

Remploy was contacted, but assessed his condition as so severe that he was deemed unemployable. In August 2011 he got a letter from DWP, again summoning him for a medical assessment. On the Atos Healthcare work capability assessment scale he was awarded 6 points, but told he needed 18. He was judged fit for work, and for that reason was told by letter on 19 December that his Incapacity Benefit was being cut by £70 a week. Colin worried he would lose his home, not be able to pay his bills or even afford food to eat. His health deteriorated, his seizures increased due to stress, and he lost a lot of weight. On 3 April this year he had a massive seizure that killed him.

This is far from an isolated case. After my speech in the House I received several other similar heart-rending accounts by email. I quote from two:

“I was sent to an Atos fit-for-work assessment medical. I was unwell at the medical and pointed out I have had 7 heart attacks, 2 of which were within the prior 18 months. At the medical the doctor took my blood pressure with a machine and it read 174 over 145. She said That’s high, so took it on the othjer arm, and it read 172 over 142. Then the doctor said The machine must be broken, you look fine to me. That is the first time I have known a doctor to see visually that a person’s blood pressure is fine. As I walked out, I asked for my taxi fares, and was told I am not entitled any. As I walked to get a taxi, I got about 50 feet from the medical centre door and had a heart attack…..10 days after the medical I was allowed home (from Hospital), only to find that I was found fit for work in a letter and all my benefits were stopped”.

“I have been fighting for 18 months now for DWP to accept that my clinical depression rules out my capacity to work for the foreseeable future………How many people who have been mentally ill for 15 years or more have found lasting jobs after being forced onto JSA? The real purpose of this process is to force mentally ill people to live on less money and ‘look for work’. In my opinion every Conservative and Liberal /democrat minister is guilty of murder. I am 52, and have never been so terrified (literally terrified) of what this government will do next”.

  1. It would be nice to have some confidence (or even hope) that this appalling state of affairs has come to the serious and morally informed attention of the Labour leadership (even though the policy concerned was laid down under the previous leadership and, presumably, many of its supporters remain within the shadow cabinet even today, after all the evidence of the past two-and-a-half years regarding its truly horrifying consequences – or truly horrifying for any *civilized* society at least). However in the words of Thomas Hardy ‘such completeness is not to be prophesied, nor even conceived as possible’. Or is it yet possible to get the message through? Problem is, the term ‘claimant’ has itself become part of the very lexicon of stigma and marginalization, thanks to years of scandalously irresponsible media propagandizing and the resulting rise to prominence of *welfare* as perhaps the pre-eminent issue likely to determine electability (as perceived by politicians of all party hues), more so even than the economy? A commentary on the nature of the times we live in I guess, with the moral ground now appearing to count for nothing. But as the cuts begin to bite more and more? Even the successfully marginalized have votes, and just as everyone knows someone who suffers or has suffered with cancer, so a tipping point may soon be reached where the majority of people will have first-hand experience of someone (themselves, family member, valued friends) who has had their life utterly derailed and even destroyed by current welfare policy (with the government, DWP and Atos having equal responsibility for what is effectively a process of social cleansing). Their number will inevitably continue to grow and votes may no longer be determined by the right-wing vox pop but by people’s actual experience and their innate respect for basic human rights (he said hopefully)… Are you listening Ed, and Ed?

  2. Michael…… I was reading on DPAC Facebook page that someone has put in a Freedom of Information request to the DWP as to how many people have died in 2011 within 6 weeks of having their benefit cut. The shocking answer is 10,600 people. That is a huge amount and I can only assume that 2012 will contain at least the same figure or even more. This is criminal. This is not the UK I grew up in and believed in

  3. @Alix Further to your post and with caution, I am more than a little worried about what is happening here. As you likely know, there is a convention around reporting of suicides (which I would say was based on sound reasons), owing to the phenomenon of ‘suicide contagion’. The DWP will be aware of this but of course will simply not ‘give ATOS’ (or may even see it as grist to their mill). All I can say to anyone who’s worried is – WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER AND WE CAN SURVIVE IT (and I’m obviously not referring to Osborne’s obscenely disingenuous use of the phrase).