I recently came across this news story, which just serves to highlight how heartless and incompetent is the health organisation Atos. This corporation provides public services such as healthcare assessments for businesses, and it is the subject of much controversy due to the implementation of its Work Capability Assessments for the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK. There are numerous reports of bad practice over the years in the treatment of disabled people, such as the following story demonstrates.
One of the most recent fiascos centres on Atos declaring a former foundry worker fit for work despite having severe spinal injuries and not working for 21 years. Charles Foreman, 52, injured his back in an industrial accident and besides being in constant pain he has to use a wheelchair, a walking frame or a stick to get around. He has been assessed by a doctor at Atos, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, and told he does not qualify for the benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). It seems that the doctor felt Mr Foreman did not meet the minimum eligibility standard, and as a result his Incapacity Benefit of £97 per week is due to be stopped on 28 October. Mr Foreman and his wife are appealing this decision, as they say the assessment does not accurately reflect the nature of his disability. He said: '' I would love to go back to work. I hate my life and have considered suicide before because of the pain. I don't think the doctor who assessed me gave a true picture of what I have to go through and the pain I suffer in my back, neck, arms and legs." (Quoted in the Leicester Mercury newspaper, 19 October.)
Mr Foreman is a former club athlete, but injured his back whilst shovelling sand in a foundry at the age of 21. He went back to work but his condition deteriorated and he was eventually granted disability benefits in the 1990s. He now suffers from a degenerative spinal condition and has to take a mix of around 21 tablets each day to cope with the pain and depression. He also takes liquid morphine, which makes him drowsy and prevents him from driving or using machinery. He had an MRI scan earlier in the year which showed the damage to his spine and and his GP has confirmed that he is unable to work due to ''chronic pain ''.
In an absurd irony, Mr Foreman qualified to be assessed at home as he could not attend the Atos examination centre – because he was in a wheelchair! When called for an assessment he turned up at the assessment centre in Leicester , and told to leave because his wheelchair was a fire hazard. He was informed the centre was not equipped for wheelchairs, but he could not climb the stairs, so could not attend and had to go home. The doctor subsequently visited him at home for the assessment. Atos later apologised for turning him away from the office (rightly so!) How extraordinarily ridiculous is it, that a centre whose very purpose is to assess people for disability benefits, does not allow wheelchairs?
In order to qualify for the new benefit, ESA (which is replacing disability benefits) a claimant has to score at least 15 points in the work capability assessment, and the doctor who examined Mr Foreman gave him no points at all in 16 of the 17 categories, and only 6 points in the remaining category. Maybe Charles Foreman should make an issue out of being turned away from the assessment centre in his appeal against this decision – that he can’t go back to work because he is a fire hazard!
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Picture courtesy of www.birminghamagainsthecuts.com