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. Well said Jack – it’s about time people all around the world stood up to this type of profits-first bullshit injustice – injustice isn’t even a strong enough term – it borders on evil.

    Greetings from Down Under

    • It DOES border on evil, I have thought that too, so many times as I’ve read and seen what is happening. It’s too much to list any more; and this morning I thought – we’re all just letting it happen, beyond petitioning and letter-writing, and a few protests and marches. They are just carrying on and none of it is mandated, here in the UK the Tories got 25% of the vote and none NONE of this was mentioned, just the opposite in many respects! “We are the compassionate party, the NHS is safe”. What more to do? Chain ourselves to railings, throw ourselves under horses?

  2. Agree muchly Jack. Not a political kind of gal but what I observe in and around the government is just like a bunch of kids in the playground. I am sure your 3yr old and my 12yr old could do better, even if the education system is in turmoil, but THAT”S another topic. Great work all round.

  3. I completely agree. The ATOS assessment is a farce, and it’s obviously designed to get as many people as possible out of the benefit scheme with absolutely no consideration for their welfare. I hope people take some notice of posts like this one.

  4. I had medical assessment at atos centre last year. Im profoundly deaf and using sign language for my maim communication.

    They did ask me inappropriate questions likes;

    why you can’t talk?
    Why aren’t you learn to speaking?Can you talk on any words?
    Can you say no and yes?
    She even tried make me to talk.

    She looks at me and shook her head in disappoint.

    • Naomi. That’s outrageous. I feel for you and hope you receive all the help you are entitled to.

    • Oh that is awful! 🙁
      How could they ask those questions, knowing that you communicate fully through sign language. Disgusting!
      It enrages me that the government believes they can treat anyone like this!!

  5. I think you have hit the nail on the head or should I say your right hand has pushed the button!!!

  6. Reblogged this on frazzledma and commented:
    This post left me speechless. As someone who had stage 3 cancer, I could function without 24 hour care, yet at one stage I was in hospital 6 times a week for treatment. I functioned, I couldn’t have worked too. But ATOS wouldn’t have seen it like that.
    This post highlights the stupidity, inhumanity and downright lack of common sense in assessment for dla.
    I don’t do political very often, by we need to fight this.

  7. power corrupts, seems like these folks who are assessing folks are on BIG power trips…..Guess that is how they get their jollies…SAD

    Good work Jack.

  8. Go get them girl. More power to your elbow!

    You’re saying what so many of us are thinking. Good on you.

  9. Yes, good points, and most people seem to agree.

    The only ones who don’t seem to agree are the ones who can do anything about it.
    You know, the out-of-touch privileged ones in government with their astronomical salaries, expenses and pensions.

  10. Couldn’t agree more, I was recently made disabled after an operation on my knee went horribly wrong and left me unable to walk unaided, iv been messed about twice by atos making me spend my very limited money on traveling to there office only to send me home because I can’t manage stairs (they already know this) and almost 4 months later I’m still waiting to be seen by them where I know I’m just gonna be told that I’m able to work tho I spend every day in pain.

    Thanks jack its about time people stood up to the corperate fashist!

  11. well said jack you think and speak for a lot of people.i wonder if the Atos people can tell their left from their right and can spell they are a lot of brain dead people and the questions are so stupid they make people feel silly.Again well said,xx

    • I regularly mix up left and right and have some difficulties with spelling but I’m not stupid or brain dead. I have something called dyslexia – lots of people have heard of it but very few understand how it effects people or know that it has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence. On its own, it doesn’t make me ‘unfit for work’ but it certainly makes life a lot harder, mostly because of other people’s attitudes. Despite its good intentions, this article doesn’t really help.

  12. If my doctor says I am too ill to work through prolonged pain, then how come some divvy at the DWP/ATOS have the right to over rule my fully qualified Dr?

    • My partner had the same problem. We managed to get a mental health advocate who now fights his cause with him and so far we haven’t heard anymore from them. Look into getting a health advocate … Good luck

  13. Said as it needs to be said Jack. Thank You! It seems to me that one of the tests of a civilised society is not how we care for those who need support when times are good and help is easy to give, it’s how we care for others when times are bad and help isn’t as easy to give. It’s a test we’re sadly failing.

    Again, thank you Jack for so brilliantly expressing what many of us are feeling.

  14. We pay national INSURANCE so that if we are UNABLE to work we can still have an income. It is outrageous that we are often denied this by ATOS assessments. When you are ill you need support not injustice!


  15. I worked for nearly 40 years, was my mothers carer for nearly 30 of those years, had cancer 5 times and many other medical problems. I have a spinal problem which has left me disabled and I live in a disability modified bungalow. I’m also one of the people whose benefit was stopped (in July last year) and I’m still waiting for a date for my tribunal to put my case forward. Glad to see someone speaking out on our behalf!!

  16. Well that puts paid to the rumour you’re a con/dem stooge.That was a brilliant way of explaining the ridiculous rules to those who don’t know what is happening.


    • that is shocking, so, though these people need help with their addictions it is a double edged sword and they are rewarded . It is something i was aware of when i was on benefits many years ago and struggling as a single mum …….Atos needs to be gone…

  18. hi my mam has a list of chronic deseases which include fibromialgia ,arthritis ,hyper mobility, depression ,carpal tunnel and more the list is endless they stopped her money after 20 yr and put her in a work related group (capable to work ) when she asked what they could give her they replied nothing because my dad earns £98 a week and they get working tax he works part time because he cares for her but also has some pride they have a mortgage and pay full council tax my two brothers work full time we are not benifit cheats when my mam asked what she is capable of claiming they said that she is still unfit for work with 15 points but not unfit enough to go in support group where is the justice.

  19. I wish, I wish, I wish that just one person in this coalition would have the decency to say no to the wilful and deliberate destruction of lives that evidently do not matter. Great blog. Any chance we could get them to read it in Number 10?

  20. I think it is also important to say that there are people who have become disabled befotre they had an opportunity to build a history of contributions, either through tax or NI. They should be no less entitled to support at an appropriate level.

  21. I should like to point out that these medicals, in certain circumstances, are carried out by fully trained professionals unfortunately. And I think modern training techniques for medical professions fall far short of modern requirements.

    • It also helps if the so called professional actually does an examination. I had an ATOS “doctor” come to my house to give me my examination, he turned up in the morning spoke to me for less than 5minutes from the door and then left. His report said he had spent about an hour doing the tests and writing them up. It’s bad when the people who judge our lives as disabled people can’t even be honest about things affecting us. It just proves the government does not give A TOSS

  22. You know, I’ve been thinking exactly the same thing for a while, Jack!! “Great minds think alike”, eh?!! There would – quite rightly – be uproar if 3 year olds were found “fit to work”, and sent out to do work!!

    So, why is it allowed to happen/continue when it involves the sick and disabled?!!

    I blame some sections of the media, and the government, for propagandising the general public into thinking that benefit claimants are “work-shy”, “Feckless scroungers”, who are rolling in money and “skiving”. I think if people knew the real truth – and that is slowly coming out – then I believe the government would lose support for their benefit “reforms”.

  23. Jack Monroe i am glad you see that not everyone is not a scrounger. .i worked most of my life too old now. i think we all should help each if we can..what happens now do we let children the disabled or any one die from starvation that what our government wants..what a wicked world

  24. Very well said, I suffer from borderline agoraphobia, depression and anxiety, some days just getting dressed is a chore, I rarely leave the house and have to have someone with me when I do. I claim what was incapacity benefit, I am married and my husband works but I am unable to work for obvious reasons, I was recently called to the job centre for an interview and was told that because my benefit is contributions based, (I worked all my life until six years ago) I will no longer be able to claim my benefit as contributions based is only allowed for twelve months. I am trying to turn my hobby into a small business but it is hard when a lot of the time I don’t have the energy to do even everyday things. If I can’t make it work I don’t know how we will manage, since I was told I will lose my benefit I have suffered constant palpitations and am worried sick all the time. I imagine it is the same for everyone who claims contributions based benefit, and the government will surely be announcing that less people are claiming benefit come October when the twelve months for us is up. Yes there will be less people on benefit because this inconsiderate, uncaring government are robbing us of our benefit. My son who is schizophrenic is also worried about his disability allowance and my nieces who both suffer from Huntington’s disease are worried too, they don’t know yet what is going to happen about their benefits, sick and dying people put under so much pressure just for being ill it is disgraceful. This government will have more blood on their hands by the end of the year, because people just won’t be able to cope. It is so wrong. Rant over.

  25. Well said Jack! My friend also hit the nail on the head when commentating on the Atos decision that a man who was an amputee and suffering brain damage was capable of work. She said:

    “Why does this crap government need to pay Atos anything to do this evil work when a trained monkey could press a button to proclaim ‘Computer says ‘No’ to every single application? There is no need for human contact since this system is totally inhumane and compassionless, with no regard to individual pain, suffering or distress suffered by the benefit seeker”.

    How on earth do we make this government (IDS in particular) see some sense?

  26. I received help to fill my forms in by the local job centre, covering all my ailments, disability status due to fybromyalgia, endometriosis, and conflicting health issues such as ibs and piles, skin cancer and sad, the fibromyalgia triggers other mental health problems such anxiety and short term memory loss and clinical depression, i am in pain constantly which disrupts my sleep pattern in turn creates more stiffness and more pain, i can act and appear normal but be screaming in pain on the inside, but have lived with it so long i have learnt to hide the pain well as to not lose friends, your 3 year old and my 4 year old son can do more

    • Sorry tried to change son to grandson and it posted in stead, continued; than i on a good day, once forms where filled in with most questions with it varies, the lady at the job centre said i was unemployable with all my health issues, but i want to work im bored, i still feel like a scrounger, relying on benefits to live a independent life, i still haven’t heard about my assessment and te stress of the whole thing has now given me bells palsy,

      • Although i suppose that wouldn’t matter as i kind of managed the task of writing this ok with my thumb, although the tip of my thumb has gone numb and shoulder has stiffened, and hurts now felt like i needed to reply

  27. Just wanted to say thank you Jack, I’m someone who is very much affected by this in my daily life, I really do appreciate you standing up and speaking for myself and thousands like me. Thank you

  28. Sounds exceptionally like the CSA another government run body responsible for 100+ suicides… I have dealt with the CSA who are liars and incompetent. They do everything from a book and have no compassion or common sense….. Deemed unfit for purpose by the government and yet still up and running … This says so much about the politicians of today !!!!!

  29. i had to go to a test centre when i was 2 weeks away from my due date of having my child. i got so stressed out for the week running up to this assesment (isuffer with my nerves and depression) my bp shot up and i ended up having my baby via c section the day i went for the appointment. Afterwards i learned that i shouldnt have gone to the appointment, they were supposed to give me an appointment either 6 weeks before my due date or 6 weeks after.

  30. This is brilliant and has an undercurrent of something sinister about our current ‘government’: given their attitude towards people who don’t work, how long will it be until they start looking at children as potential workers? You can get child allowance for kids in ‘full time education’ but what about cases where children feel the need to leave school at 16 to contribute to the household? Somehow they (the government) feel that they have a right to distinguish between ‘useful’ ‘children’ (getting qualifications) and those who are instantly tagged as ‘adults’ purely because they now work for the piddly sum of £3.68 and hour. They’ve already targeted the kids (OK not 3 year olds) and the fact they have a list of ‘approved’ activities that they can change at will can feasibly leave them with so many different ways of hurting more families in the future.

  31. ATOS is a UK public company, presumably trading for the purpose of profit for owner(s)/shareholder(s)?

    So that’s the first question- why is it advantageous for the public purse to employ a profit-making company to do what was once a government or internal-company task?

    Second question from the posts here- is this a reliable path of returning people who have had difficulties to employment and independence when so many experiences seem to be negative which they try to follow to get there?

    It’s one of the worst experiences in life to recover from debt/illness/unemployment/disability…any agency working to recover people to independence and autonomy needs to acknowledge human lives.

    It’s not a corporate script. It’s not a one-size fits-all solution.

    For people to have confidence in themselves they need confidence in the support systems around them.

    • “So that’s the first question- why is it advantageous for the public purse to employ a profit-making company to do what was once a government or internal-company task?”

      Good question, ingoodfaith. In a recent local radio interview I raised a similar point, that the DWP already have/had (before Atos) the power to ask sickness benefits claimants to attend a medical assessment with a GP. So why employ a private, profit making company, when they could have just expanded the previous government scheme?

  32. The whole Atos Assessment Process is aimed at getting as many people off benefits as possible,, it has nothing to do with helping people back into work who according to the government have potential.

    The political elite who run our country are trying to redefine disability and to deny those who need the states support, we are seeing a new era of Modern day Eugenics..

    I have seen first hand the torture that disabled people have to endure under the past and present governments attempts to reduce the benefits bill, it will continue until enough of the wider public see the truth and see what’s really going on in their name…

  33. Sorry I’m late to the debate. I just want to point out that there is evidence coming to light, that suggests that some of the ‘health care professionals’ doing the assessments are NOT registered with the GMC or NMC. My partners a nurse, a real one that actually works very hard to help people. In contrast to the apparent fake ones that cause misery at ATOS. She assures me, as I’m sure we all are aware. That if someone was practising medicine, whether they be a nurse or doctor, if they weren’t registered with the NMC or GMC they would face criminal proceedings & a possible jail sentence.

  34. I have been disabled for 17 years, I have chronic Urticaria and Perths disease in my hips which means I am in constant pain.. they stopped my incapacity benefit and told me to go back to work.. when we moved 2 years ago Barclays took my benefit as income, my husband works full time and commutes 2 hours a day and cannot work anymore hours… I phoned Barclays for help and was told (by a really rude abrupt woman) they would have to check we were putting out mortgage payments first and that we would be put in arrears which isn’t helping just putting more strain and worry to save my house I have done the only thing I can and I have found a job..(not told them I am disabled) I have been in tears all night form the pain in my hips and my Urticaria is flaring up my hands are swelling and my fingers are twisting.. and no matter what I have to try to look normal and carry on. who hands will my blood be on when the only way to keep a roof over my teen daughter and husband is if I kill myself.. thank you atos?

    • Elaine, this is heart breaking and makes me really angry at the state of everything! There’s not even a bloody social fund or crisis loan any more but could you apply for discretionary housing payment? X

      • now they are going to take my disability living as well because I have had to get a job to try and keep a roof over our head.. and there is no help and no one cares.

  35. Dear Jack – I liked your letter. ATOS are a menace and they could have killed me.

    In 2009 my ATOS ‘medical’ was cancelled because my health was considered too bad when they read my medical notes.

    In 2010 my conditioned worsened when I had an aneurysm burst in my chest with major complications. It meant that I was sent from Addenbrookes ICU to Papworth ICU and back to Addenbrookes ICU again.

    It caused a larger aneurysm (inoperable) which could burst if my BP goes over 140 – and I told ATOS to verify this before asking me in.

    Despite this they recently called me in for another ‘medical’. The nurse stopped it because my BP was 165.

  36. “I thought my taxes contributed to a SOCIETY, but no society I can think of, would treat its members this way.” – There’s no such thing as society, said someone once. Can’t remember her name…. 🙂 I don’t know how much longer it’s going to take for people to get their faces out of facebook and finally wake up to what is actually happening around us. Our taxes are used to prop up a dysfunctional financial system that has taken over democracy and installed its poodles into our government, who created policies to make borrowing easier and give people the feeling that they’re rich so that we stupidly vote in the poodles again. Our taxes bail out the banks who have gambled away our savings. Our taxes are used to pay for surveillance of the population in order to thwart any rebellion against the dysfunctional financial system, undemocratic corporate crony government and social injustices we face. Information = Knowledge = Power = Money = Control. And the irony of it all? That those of us unfortunate enough to land in the benefits quagmire as a result of the financial crisis are only too happy to praise and support the “value” brands of our corporate overlords at Tesco et al who are part of the problem to begin with! As if THEY are doing US a favour?!
    Keep up the good work Jack, your blog is an inspiration on how to survive in the system. I hope one day you or someone else, maybe even me, can write one on how to beat it!

  37. Dear Jack,
    I Hope this answers your question..

    However, It is unfair that people with genuine problems are being put through this system. Unfortunately, the scrounging wasters of our society need a shake up. For too many generations have some families been scrounging from the Government and therefore us taxpaying individuals. The more we allow them to take our money the less money there will be for the NHS, education etc.

    I am in favour of a system where an individual who is able to work should work and not automatically claim my tax just because that’s the way it is.

    If you know of a better system then why not use some constructive criticism?

    Anyone can say “the system is sh!t”. If you think it is this way then why not contribute in a positive way?

    Again. If it wasn’t for the fact that society (and previous Governments) have allowed this to go on for so long then it would not have come to this sorry state of affairs.

  38. My husband had a bad accident at work injuring his main arm, he no longer can use the arm and if he does it can make his vomit due to the pain. He applied for Industrial injuries benefit and was sent to atos to see a SO CALLED doctor! Ha what an insult to Doctors… he wrote rubbish, lied and altered his report after he signed it. We complained to atos and i had everything he said reversed by the CRM. Now because we beat Atos the Dwp are still refusing to put his claim into payment. This has been going on for nearly a 11 months. Does anyone have any advice. I have been to the CAB (no to helpful) i had my MP write to DWP and ive written a letter to the manager of the IIDB. When we call there just giving us the run around. They really do not want to pay him something he is clearly entitled to. Now ithink they are just delaying or preventing because we beat Atos.

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