Dear ATOS, my 3 year old can push a button, should I be sending him to work?


Dear Atos Healthcare,

I’m writing to you with a concern about a person known to me who is not in work.

I am a journalist for a local newspaper, and on doing some research for an article yesterday, came across a very long list of questions that are asked at Atos ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interviews up and down Britain.

Questions such as:

Can you spell the word ‘world?’

What is 97 minus six?

Can you show me your left hand?

Can you show me your right hand?

Can you touch your nose with your left hand?

Can you touch your nose with your right hand?

Do you live with people or on your own?

Can you wash yourself?

Can you dress yourself?

Can you feed yourself unaided?

As I started to read the questions, a growing sense of doom began to build as I realised that I might know someone who is committing Benefit Fraud.

You see, my son, frequently referred to throughout my blog as Small Boy, can spell the word ‘world’. I don’t want to seem like one of those show- off mothers, but he can also touch his nose with his right and left hand when asked, he can wash his face, he dresses himself in the morning, and he doesn’t live by himself.

My son is three years old, and from my understanding based on my own research, he would pass an Atos Work Capabilty Assessment with flying colours.

So I have a concern.

I currently claim £20.30 a week in Child Benefit for this small being that is, by your own definitions, more than capable of taking a full time job. I’m worried, Atos, because as the genuinely sick are denied benefits because your own assessors cannot use common sense and judgement to decide whether they are actually fit to work, not whether they can spell single syllable words and dress themselves unaided, how long is it before you come for the children?

I mean, if you assess people based on their ability to push a single button, well, he’s been able to do that for quite some time.

In short – my toddler could pass an Atos test- IT DOESN’T MEAN HE CAN GO TO WORK.

As your chief exec issues half arsed pithy apologies ‘if they have done anything wrong’ on Radio 4 last month, I ask her, with the blood of Linda Wootton on her hands, who died NINE DAYS after her benefits were stopped by your unfeeling omnipotent test of nothingness, how do you sleep at night?

With reports of just one weeks training, with terminally ill people being asked to prove they are genuinely ill, how do you sleep at night?

Aneurin Bevan, the Labour MP and founder of the NHS, once said:

“Not even the apparently enlightened principle of the greatest good for the greatest number can excuse indifference to individual suffering. There is no test for progress other than its impact on the individual.”

But that NHS is being dismantled too. In fact everything that is genuinely useful and necessary to us ‘ordinary folk’ is being ripped out from the hearts of our society by the Thatcher-inspired self-appointed elite. There are many of us that can’t AFFORD private health care, dental plans, fancy insurance policies. We depend on the things that are available for everybody.

Iain Duncan Smith said when he launched his ‘tough’ welfare reforms, that “a life on benefits is no longer an option”. But surely LIFE itself is an option?

When did the decision to live or die, depend on your birthright, your inheritance, a family business passed down or a postcode lottery? When did the right to live become a desperate wish not to die?

When the Government decided to chop up the National Health Service, while giving tax cuts to their millionaire friends.

When you took a 5 year, £400million contract to bully dying people into court and tribunals.

I may be mistaken, but I thought I happily paid my taxes so that people like Linda Wootton, who did not ask for the hand she was dealt, who returned to work after a double transplant, who spent her last few months in misery, scared that people thought she was a scrounger – I thought my taxes contributed to a SOCIETY, but no society I can think of, would treat its members this way.

So first you came for the disabled, and they spoke out, they protested, but nothing changes.

Then you came for the terminally ill, the cancer sufferers, and they spoke out, they protested, but nothing changes.

Then you came for the sick, the elderly, the wounded, the injured, the dying.

Who is left? Who is next? As you ship people from the Work Capability Assessments to the dole queue knowing full well that there aren’t enough jobs out there for the unemployed let alone add to their number, I ask you – what is your plan? When your five years are up, where will you go? How many people will have died at the hands of untrained ‘health’ ‘care’ ‘professionals’ before you accept the blood on your hands?

But I have a son. He is three years old. He could pass your Work Capability Assessment, and THAT SAYS IT ALL.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe


  1. Oh Jack, very powerful words. I am disabled, and saw the writing on the wall and left to go live in the land of my birth- Australia. As a disabled pensioner. I left behind my adult children in Britain. I am no longer well enough to travel. I see them rarely. I cant return to the UK, and may probably see my beloved offspring perhaps no more than the fingers on one hand.My heart breaks everyday. It also breaks for Britain and what its become.keep it up girl…your doing champion work

    artist/maker of processional imagery Australian Cairnes Family History BlogLL: 02 90436405 mobile:

    Date: Sun, 24 Nov 2013 09:11:29 +0000 To:

  2. I am disabled and I live in constant fear that this will happen to me as I would not be able to survive without my benefit and the help of my careers.

  3. The problem with this is that you’re targeting the provider and not the decision maker. It’s the DWP that set the conditions for the WCA, and it’s the DWP that decides which benefits go to which claimants. While ATOS do make mistakes, singling them out makes them the pantomime villain of this piece, and allows deflection of blame from those who are actually responsible. The constant criticism of ATOS will cause the already strained relationship between them and the DWP to collapse (not helping anyone) and then IDS will announce that ATOS weren’t good enough as provider. Then, he’ll put a replacement in who do exactly the same thing.

  4. my eldest son could easily pass this test too. he is of course twenty so i should hope so..but last year he also had three heart attacks and major hear surgery. he could probably do the job he is studying so hard for at the moment (criminal psychologist) but would struggle to work in a supermarket, which is probably all he’s currently qualified for, unless they offered him work on the tills only. of course this doesnt exist. any employer wants a person who can work in ALL areas of the offered job. this is proven by the fact that my bright, attractive, eloquent healthy `looking’ son had applied for 300 part time jobs in a year and not secured a single one. i would love to meet Dave and his cronies and shake each one firmly by the neck!

  5. When my son committed suicide he was due to attend an ATOS appointment later that week. Trying to be a good citizen, the day after his death I phoned DWP to cancel the appointment, I was told I had to answer some “security ” questions which were his rate of benefit and telephone number. At the time I don’t think I could have got my own phone number right anyhow I got the questions “wrong” and I was told they could send me a form – I told them I wouldn’t fill in any forms and they could either act on the information or not. I phoned other organisations – Luton Council, Sainsburys Bank and a car insurance company who were all really nice – nearly a year on I am still upset with how I was treated.

  6. You are awesome yet again. Please keep up the good work. I know it can be hard especially when you get negative feed back but I am among your fans and you can only do good.

  7. My dog can’t manage the spelling or maths but she probably passes 80% of the requirements on that list.

    I don’t understand, I cannot and never will be able to understand why caring for society’s vulnerable is deemed too expensive by people who are seemingly unembarrassed to be simultaneously taking the average family salary in expenses.

    Do they have no imagination?

    Perhaps we need a week on benefits experience for all of them, once a year, as part of the job requirements.

    But even that won’t allow them to feel the despair of a future stretching out in front of them, with little hope of things improving.
    Unless they’ve felt that, then a period of poverty tourism won’t necessarily open their eyes. That’s why JK Rowling writes so powerfully on the subject – success now hasn’t erased the memories of being skint, scared and cold.

    BTW I read this great post on alternet today and thought of you Jack. It’s powerful but this girl needs some encouragement to cook.

  8. I don’t believe that the DWP make the decisions it is clearly an ATOS decision to award the benefit. I have heard many times HCP’s say to people they shouldn’t have been called for assessment and the paperwork will be sent to the DWP

  9. JOOLS get your son to check the supermarkets i work for tesco i am only on checkouts and never get asked to do anything else

  10. Wildthing- I would say that the DWP will be satisfied to hear you say that because it shifts the blame away from them.

    Both ATOS and the DWP have questions to answer here, but it’s the DWP who should be answering the most important ones. Look at the infighting between the ministers and the senior civil servants within the department. It is utter chaos. IDS is on a religious crusade to change the benefits system and he is using these companies to make the changes that he wants to see. Piling the pressure on ATOS or Capita or any other provider is the wrong move. The majority of the pressure has to go on the source. And that’s the DWP

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