In the last few weeks, the issue of disability and the government’s attitudes to disabled people and their carers have been put in the spotlight, with the DWP informing carers that they should not spend their childrens’ disability benefits on beer and fags, while Ian Duncan Smith is apparently going to write to the bereaved son of a man who died after his disability benefits were stopped to explain how much better he was for the short period of his life that he had no benefits because he had such a greater motivation to find a fulfilling career, now that ATOS had performed the christ-like miracle of curing the sick – it was just a pity it killed the patient. (edit) As it later turned out however he didn’t even have the mettle to do that personally. In a letter sent to the bereaved child he told him to contact the job centre where someone else could do it on his behalf.
All this is having a terrible toll on the people who work for the company. I got the below through a facebook message – passed on from a soon to be ex-worker for the company to a friend who was asked to share it. Such is the intimidation of workers at the company that the worker themselves didn’t feel able to post it, and it was prefaced with apologies over the lack of specifics because the person who did post it feared legal retribution for them self and their friend.
“I have a friend who is a civil servant and is currently working within the department of work and pensions, (DWP) they have been transferred into the department that processes Atos claims. This is their assessment of the situation.
The staff are broken beyond usefulness. They are too few, with the wrong training, cobbled together from various departments after cut backs and reshuffles, with no direct chain for the administration. Each claim can pass through more hands than a gift at a children’s pass the parcel game. No two members of staff can do each others job and no one person knows how to process the claim from start to finish. The senior management are completely ineffectual. Meaning that when a member of the public phones to enquire about their claim they can’t effectively be dealt with. Every call will get a different result to the same enquiry.
They are under that much pressure to input the data that it doesn’t matter if it’s wrong, who cares if someone gets too much or too little, or lost in the system, they are only a stat. Their life may be ruined, but the staff can’t care, they just have to type, type, type, and hope that someday they’ll get on top of it.
My friend found a member of staff crying today, they had just processed a claim for somebody who was just about to discover they had been denied their ESA (ESA: employment support allowance for the disabled or infirm who through these conditions can’t currently work). The client had just survived a heart transplant, an actual full heart transplant. Atos disagree with the surgeons and doctors, and have deemed this person, “fit to work”.
The staff liken themselves to secretaries for the Gestapo, every day typing up countless death warrants. The staff try to numb themselves to the data they collate… Double amputee, denied. Crippling arthritis, denied. Battling cancer, denied.
“Oh they died? But they were denied?”
I asked my friend, “but surely you must weed out some people who were at it, and screwing the system?”
My friend just shook their head and started sobbing. No, they said, not yet.
My friend has written their resignation, and soon will hand it in, even in this job market, where each job vacancy can have tens of dozens of applicants, they would rather go hungry than be a part of a state sponsored eugenics programme.
This is murder.”
ATOS is not clearly not only exacerbating the conditions of people who cannot work through disability, but as can be seen from the reactions of the friend and their co-worker, both reduced to tears by the tasks that they were being required to do, are creating new issues of ill health. The extract above notes that the person cannot in all conscience continue to do what they are being asked and as as result are resigning, despite the awareness of the poor job market. The stress that has led to such a resignation is not something that will be simply overcome the instant that their employment ends. ATOS “healthcare” are killing people who are already ill and making those who are healthy become ill.
An exaggeration you think?
An isolated case that a distraught worker has over-reacted to?
Only the previous day – also on facebook – I received another message. This time from a voluntary benefit rights officer who had been accompanying a man in his 60s with a range of health complaints, including cancer who was required to turn up for assessment. While she was there other people begged her to help them because they were too ill to get the support that the needed to find their way through the system, turning up for hours at a time, then being dismissed and given another appointment to turn up and wait again, not knowing whether the benefits on which they are reliant will continue.
Unbeknown to her at the time, also in the building was a relative’s friend who had to come to be assessed, while he was waiting on a hospital appointment because of an ongoing heart condition. Immediately after leaving the appointment, he collapsed with a heart attack, was taken to hospital and stayed in a coma for three days until his life support machine was turned off.
Another death at the hands of ATOS
The physical, mental and emotional demands being put on seriously ill people – requiring people with mobility issues to repeatedly turn up for appointments which are cancelled, to complete complex forms which do not reflect their circumstances but are merely an exercise in bureaucratic justification for unjustifiable decisions, all the while creating or raising emotional trauma for people who have no means of survival apart from the meager benefits on which they rely are literally killing people.
The emotional demands being placed on workers within ATOS and the DWP – requiring people to pretend that they don’t notice that another of their clients has died shortly after they rejected them, the man that collapsed on the pavement outside and the anxiety that their clients show while being assessed, and above all requiring that their workers do not care is creating a whole new generation of people unfit work work because they are too traumatised and ill to continue.
And so the cycle begins again.
Black Triangle, a campaign group which adopted the symbol the nazis gave to those it deemed “workshy”, was set up in the wake of the death of Paul Reekie, one of the first to die through the introduction of this inhumane system. He killed himself after laying out two letters on his table, one informing him that his housing benefit had stopped, the other that his incapacity benefits had stopped.
ATOS is healthcare, freedom is slavery, and work sets you free.