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Atos: We are not ‘all in it together’

Atos_Logo_RGBLast year, ten thousand six hundred sick and disabled people died within weeks of losing their benefits, after Atos assessed them as ‘fit to work’.  Thierry Breton, boss of the French IT firm Atos, has just been awarded a £280k pay rise, bringing his total remuneration to £2.3m a year. While disabled people were hounded to death for a maximum of £131.50 Disability Living Allowance a week, the head of the business chasing them earned £44,000 a week.  It really brings home the hypocrisy of the ConDem line that “we’re all in it together”.

The government has mandated that every single person claiming social security payments for sickness or disability undergo a work capability test with Atos, to determine whether they could really be working.  It’s part of the propaganda campaign to make people believe that most people on benefit are fraudsters and that they not the Bankers and their political representatives are responsible for the economic mess Britain is in. It’s also aimed at squeezing the most vulnerable in our society and making them pay for the crisis brought about by the politicians and greedy bankers.

The facts are quite different and it is important that we challenge the myths promoted by the ConDem government and the controlled media. The DWP’s own estimates put the cost of benefit fraud at £1.2bn (or only 0.7% of claimants).  That seems like a huge amount but be aware that the DWP loses almost double tha t(£2.3bn) each year through administrative error!  Their campaign to stigmatise those in need of help as scroungers is not about saving money as much as it is to shift blame.

ESA appeals rose 70% last year, with benefit appeals now constituting 58% of all tribunal cases.  Last year 76% of those who appealed, won their cases and were found eligible to receive benefits. That in itself should have indicated that Atos procedures were deeply flawed.

Despite this poor performance, the DWP had made no attempt to create competition for the contract, meaning Atos had been allowed to continue providing the service for 14 years, without a single challenge from another supplier. So much for competition in a free market!

The government’s own statistics also show that between 2010 and 2011 10,600 sick and disabled people died within six weeks of losing their benefits after being assessed as ‘fit to work’ by Atos and the DWP.  This is 204 people a week, or 29 people a day, dying of the illnesses and conditions that the government claimed they were fit to work with! These people spent their final weeks alive being harassed. Realising that this is bad press the DWP is trying to avoid giving the latest figures to the public and campaigners.

It would be difficult to argue with Jeremy Seabrook (writing in the Guardian) that:-

“The charge is not one of parsimony, nor even of the elevation of efficiency over humanity. It is that the richest societies in the world are still ready to impose punitive sanctions upon the least defended. If anthropologists wish to examine life and labour in a savage society, they no longer need seek out rare, uncontacted peoples in the Amazon or Polynesia; all they require is an airline ticket to contemporary Britain.

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