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