As a result of the bankers’ crisis, over a million people lost their jobs. Now, to pay off the bankers’ gambling debts, the millionaire Coalition government – following New Labour’s lead – is making cuts to public spending that will throw another 1.3m people onto the dole queue.
While the number dependent on welfare increases, the government implements major cuts to welfare benefits for the sick and disabled, the unemployed, single parents and those on low wages. Employment minister Chris Grayling – infamous for expenses fiddling and homophobic remarks – has boasted of how disabled people ‘sat at home’ will be reassessed to force them off benefits.
As part of the Third National Day of Action Brighton Benefits Campaign is calling a protest against Atos, the cowboy firm hired to run the ‘medical’ tests. This will be followed by a performance of Dick Whittington and his Work Capability Assessment or The Computer Says No! outside the Atos offices in Upper North Street.
What’s wrong with Atos?
In 2005 this medical IT company, then called Atos Origin, introduced a computer system to assess claimants’ incapacity to work. Atos’ system, the ‘Logical Integrated Medical Assessment’ (LiMA) is now known to make assessments impersonal and mechanistic and to create illogical and often surreal ‘medical’ reports.
More than one Social Security judge has noted with alarm that Atos’ computer-based reports did not reflect what the claimants had actually said and contained ‘nonsensical statements’. Examples of unfair or surreal sentences used by LiMA against real claimants are: ‘the customer usually can do light gardening for 1 minutes’, ‘the customer can take adequate care of his goldfish’, ‘customer does pottery all day’ (the claimant actually said she was pottering about), and ‘the client’s amputation of upper limb is mild’
Despite complaints and damning reports from benefit agencies such as the Citizen Advice Bureau, in November 2010 Atos had a £300m contract renewed for three more years. Only part of this money will pay the company’s medical and non medical staff: a significant part of it will cover the cost of creating and managing LiMA (as reported by the DWP, this is the cost for ‘new technology and other service improvements’). As if this is not enough, Atos will receive more millions to develop a computer-based test for a new disability benefit (the Personal Independence Payment), which will replace Disability Living Allowance.
While benefits are cut, Atos continues profiting from them. It’s time to demand the dismissal of Atos and a return to a professional medical service, publicly run, and not for profit.
Brighton Benefits Campaign has created a pantomime – a computer-led medical examination by Atos, which makes use of elements from real medical reports! Feel free to take part and shout at the Computer.