Atos Healthcare wrongly declared severely disabled woman ‘fit to work’ | BBC News London | 5 October 2012

From BBC News (London), 5th October 2012

The mother of a severely disabled woman who was wrongly told she was fit to work is calling for changes to the way people with disabilities are treated when claiming benefits.

A medical report described Ruth Anim as a man and said she could find a job within a year.

Her family successfully appealed, but her mother Cecilia Anim is angry they were put through the ordeal.

Atos Healthcare, which carried out the assessment, has apologised.

The private firm carried out nearly three quarters of a million face-to-face assessments last year on people claiming the new sickness benefit, Employment and Support Allowance.

Ruth Anim, 27, from Kilburn, who has epilepsy, heart problems, severe autism and curvature of the spine, has the mental age of a 10-year-old.

Her mother, who is deputy president of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “I work, that is challenging enough, looking after Ruth is equally challenging because you have to meet her basic needs, support her when you take her out and everywhere.

“To have these unnecessary stand-out pressures is what we don’t need.

“We should be left alone to look after her.”

Miss Anim will have to be reassessed again in two years’ time.

Learning disability charity Mencap supported the family in their appeal.

Emma Harrison, its campaigns director, said the case was “not a surprise” to the charity.

She said: “We get many cases of people who have failed – or passed depending on your perspective – their work capability assessment who are not actually capable of working.

“The appeals at the moment are rocketing – 40% of people who are failed, or passed depending again on your perspective, are then told their appeal is upheld and are not classified fit for work.

“It’s a flawed system and it really does need to change.”

She said it was shocking that just 7% of people with a learning disability were employed.

“They actually really want to work,” she said.

“But unfortunately employers are just not giving people with learning disabilities a chance.

“But those people who aren’t capable of working need to be given benefits so that they can still lead a full life.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said it was constantly reviewing the system to ensure it was fair.

The spokesman said everyone had the right to ask the department for a reconsideration of a decision, or appeal to an independent tribunal.

He added: “We are committed to help thousands of people move from benefits and back into work while giving unconditional support to those who are most in need.”

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