Commons attempt to get MPs to debate ATOS and “the deaths of 1,100 Employment and Support Act claimants”

July 2, 2012

A Labour MP has launched an attempt to get the House of Commons to debate the £100m-a-year contract awarded to Atos to carry out work capability assessments of people applying for Employment and Support Allowance – which he claims has led to the deaths of 1,100 claimants put in the category for compulsory work-related activity.

In an Early Day Motion tabled last Thursday, John McDonnell (Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington) also praised the British Medical Association whose Annual Representative Conference last week called for the work capability assessment to be scrapped immediately and to be replaced with a system that does not harm the most vulnerable people in society.

His motion also includes condemnation of the decision to allow Atos to sponsor the Paralympics which follow the London Olympic Games and, for good measure, Dow Chemical's sponsorship of the Games themselves.

Dow took over the Union Carbide company whose plant at Bhopal, India, leaked methyl isocyanate gas in 1984 – leading to the deaths and injury of thousands of people in the vicinity. The event was one of the world's worst industrial disasters.

On July 3, the Early Day Motion – EDM 295 – started to gather support from non-Coalition MPs.

Early Day Motion 295

Session 2012-13
Date tabled: 28.06.2012
Primary sponsor: McDonnell, John

That this House deplores that thousands of sick and disabled constituents are experiencing immense hardship after being deprived of benefits following a work capability assessment carried out by Atos Healthcare under a 100 million a year contract; notes that 40 per cent of appeals are successful but people wait up to six months for them to be heard; deplores that last year 1,100 claimants died while under compulsory work-related activity for benefit and that a number of those found fit for work and left without income have committed or attempted suicide; condemns the International Paralympic Committee's promotion of Atos as its top sponsor and the sponsorship of the Olympics by Dow Chemical and other corporations responsible for causing death and disability; welcomes the actions taken by disabled people, carers, bereaved relatives and organisations to end this brutality and uphold entitlement to benefits; and applauds the British Medical Association call for the work capability assessment to end immediately and to be replaced with a system that does not cause harm to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

11 thoughts on “Commons attempt to get MPs to debate ATOS and “the deaths of 1,100 Employment and Support Act claimants””

  1. 3rd July 2012

    As of this morning, 11 MPs have signed up to this EDM: nine members of the Labour Party, one Plaid Cymru and one SDLP (Northern Ireland).

  2. I mention the following not in the hope of an answer, but in case it is of interest to others –

    I have been placed in the ESA work-related activity group. After 10+ years of ill health with M.E. and being too ill to leave the house on most days, I have appealed to be placed in the Support group.

    Yet, although the DWP have acknowledged receipt of my Appeal I have still received a letter from a personal advisor at the local JobCentre ‘inviting’ me for my first Work focused interview.

    Thinking this was an oversight on their part as I was in mid Appeal I telephone the DWP to clarify. On my first call to the DWP they agreed and suggested I tell the JobCentre that I was in the Appeal process and could not attend a work focused interview.

    This seemed initially to be confirmed by the JobCentre receptionist who told me that the letters were ‘automatically generated’, but when I was put through to an advisor it was explained that I would have to attend the first Personal Advisor interview regardless, (although not the subsequent work related activity ones yet), even though I was in mid appeal process – but they did agree to conduct the interview over the phone as I am too ill to guarantee attendance in the city.

    A second phone call to the DWP to clarify the legal position on this resulted in the DWP advisor admitting that there was ‘no guidance’ on this kind of situation and that I should seek further advice from the JobCentre.

    What is the value in the Government/DWP establishing an Appeal process in law if it can be brushed aside in this way and ill claimants have to undergo an interview under duress regardless of whether they have appealed?

    Accordingly, this afternoon I will have to undergo an ?hour of telephone interview about past work experience etc and (presumably) what steps I am going to agree to take to get back to work/get well, regardless of the fact that I have already been ill for 10 years, have shown no signs of improving health in this time and that there are currently no effective treatments which will enable me to work. I do not feel well enough to be engaging with this kind of activity under duress and even the 3 phone calls I had to make yesterday to try to undertand this new process have not helped my health.

    If I am not magically well enough by this afternoon and cannot give a good account of myself, my benefits could be cut apparently.

    This interview is not in my interest. It is in someone else’s interest (and profit as I understand advisors are paid per Incapacity benefit claimant they convert to JSA/work). It will not improve my health if my benefits are reduced and I would suggest that the ‘work focused interviews’ can wait until the Appeal result is known.

  3. Does anyone know if the DWP etc roled out the ‘lie detection’ software they were piloting for for interviews?

    Jackie – I hope you ahve sent the above account to your MP.

  4. Jackie – I really sympathise. I want to reply but I can’t type any more because my arms have packed up. My partner is taking dictation. I am embarking on this process and every day in fear and dread my condition has got much worse knowing I have to face this desperately unfair flawed process. I have had ME over 20 years and am struggling with the ESA form to migrate from IB. Yet despite in the past having seen DWP’s own doctors in the days before ATOS I know this will count for nothing and I will either be found fit for work, or like you be forced to attend things I can’t actually get to on pain of losing my benefits. So few people get into the support group I think you have to be dead ( not dying ) in order to qualify. Good luck with your appeal.

  5. 4th July 2012

    A total of 28 MPs – 27 from Opposition parties – have now signed this EDM. John Leech, Lib Dem, is the only Coalition-side MP to sign up so far,

  6. i have had M.E. for approximately 14 years now.i received the highest rate of DLA until dec 2007 then it stopped.since then i have been to appeal after appeal.i wish i could go to work but there is no chance,i cant even get myself dressed!!!! but ATOS seem to think i am not disabled and in his latest report he put i am obese, hence why i cant do things!!!! this illness is bad enough without ppl like him! i cant find any help.i have sold everything and anything to keep a roof over my childrens head and food in their bellies.i am so low-we need help x

  7. 13th July 2012

    70 MPs have now signed – including two Liberal Democrat members of the Coalition parties, Mark Williams (Ceredigion) and John Leech (Manchester Withington). As expected, probably because of the criticism contained in the EDM of the Olympics and Paralympics, no Conservative MP has signed.

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