I wanted to write something about this myself, but Sue Marsh from Diary of a Benefit Scrounger has said it far better than I could and so I repost her article here with her permission.
Isn’t it an awful thing when you know all about something terrible, but at the same time you know you’re at least a year or two ahead of general opinion?
Regular readers will know my endless horror at the system of “assessment” in place to now determine whether or not someone is “Fit for Work”.
Run by ATOS, a private company charged with making impersonal decisions, the system uses a computerised, tick box questionnaire of just 15 questions that take no account of variable conditions, no account of consultant or GP based evidence and no account of pain or most symptoms.
Today, the Chief Executives of the most prominent mental health charities in the country have published an open letter in the Guardian, begging the government to halt the deeply flawed scheme because it is costing lives. They are not advising or asking, they are begging.
They rightly point out that “invisible” illnesses are woefully let down in the current system and this includes not just those with mental health problems, but also those with long term variable illnesses such as MS, heart disease, cancer or bowel disease.
In a recent survey, Mind found that an enormous 95% of respondents don’t think that they will be believed at assessment. Evidence abounds of mentally ill people being found “fit for work” simply because they manage to turn up at the assessment centre dressed and washed.
But the most shocking, disgusting shameful part of the accompanying article comes at the end. In a quote from the government, we are assured that
“In consultation with charities including Mind, Professor Harrington is now looking at the way mental health is assessed in the work capability assessment and we look forward to receiving his recommendations later this year.”
How dare they carry on with this until these problems are resolved? How dare they continue to roll out a programme that is costing lives and will claim many more? Why is my blog constantly repeating these points to a society willing to turn away?
Some days I write and I think “Am I the one who’s wrong? Am I the one over-reacting?” and there’s a kind of comfort to that. When the Chief Executives of the nation’s charities are reduced to begging in even stronger terms than I have dared to use, I feel a little desperate.
It’s not just me and http://thebrokenofbritain.blogspot.com/ and the blogosphere and the Guardian shouting about this issue, it’s Scope and Rethink and Mind and even the Professor who designed the system itself.
It must be stopped now, today. These problems must be solved before 1.8 millionmore people are put through this kind of harassment and driven to these levels of despair.
There is clear evidence that Work Capability Assessments for the sick and disabled are costing lives. Please help us to stop it.
** Write to your MP about this by clicking on this link http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ . It will only take two or three minutes, but the Welfare Reform Bill is on the verge of passing through parliament and into the Lords. We simply must stop this and the time-limiting of ESA before it does. The introduction of PIPs as a replacement for DLA must also be halted until further evidence is gathered. If you don’t know what to say, feel free to use anything from my blog - Welfare reform that must not go Ahead is a good summary of the situation.
Beg them. Really plead with them to listen, before it’s too late.