Spartacus Strikes Back – The Truth About Atos and the WCA

A report has been released today by disabled campaigners highlighting the often harrowing experiences that sick and disabled people face due to the infamous Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

The WCA is a short computer based health and disability test, carried out by French IT company Atos.  This assessment is used to judge eligibility for sickness and disability benefits and has led to thousands of people, often with serious health conditions or disabilities, being declared ‘fit for work’.

Many more people have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group, which means claimants are expected to take part in jobseeking activity including the Government’s Work Programme.  This means attending training and job search sessions under threat of punishing benefit sanctions.  There have even been suggestions raised by DWP officials that this group should be forced to attend workfare.  Astonishingly it is large disability charities, such as Scope (@scope), Mencap (@mencap_charity) and MIND (@MindCharity) who refer disabled people to the DWP to face benefit sanctions if they are judged to have not complied with the demands of the Work Programme.

Today’s report is the result of extensive research carried out by We Are Spartacus, a network of disabled campaigners, activists, researchers and bloggers and features extensive testimony from those who have attended the WCA themselves as well as from advice workers who have supported people through the process.

This important document deserves to be widely read.  Please tweet, blog and share as much as possible:

“My client has had brain damage since a massive haemorrhage/coma at the age of 22. This has left him with a short term memory of 20 minutes. He doesn’t remember me, or my voice, and keeps extensive diaries of daily events so he can record what he has to do. He has been found capable of work 3 times, and on one occasion he lost his home, because he couldn’t remember what he had to do to appeal. (IS stopped, so I presume HB stopped, although we will never know as he doesn’t remember).”

“I have a brain tumour and was left disabled because I had the left side of my cerabellum amputated, because of this my balance and co’ordination to my left side is shot coupled with the fact that all the cancer could not be removed I am also terminally ill, I DID NOT MAKE IT INTO THE SUPPORT GROUP. I was told I should be working in a set period of time, funny as it was the same as my lifespan, I contacted my MP who was luckily an x GP and gave him permission to look at my medical notes he was disgusted and got my decision reversed I am now in the support group. The letter from the DWP stated that I was not terminally ill for the purposes of benefit entitlement.”

“I have just got back from my esa medical. I was made to do things that caused me severe pain, despite telling the lady that i would be if great pain if i attempted to do this she told me i had to do it otherwise she would have to say that i refused and that the decison makers class refusing to take part in the activity as “able to work” she actualy said and i quote ” its like the drink driving test if you dont do the test your automacitly classed as failing it.”

“Karen Sherlock, 44, was put in the Work Related Activity Group in 2010. Where she was required to attend interviews, work-related activity etc.

She suffered from Diabetic Autonomic Neuropathy (gastric causing unpredictable and severe diarrhoea), Gastropaerisis (causing unpredictable and severe bouts of vomiting), Diabetic Retinopathy, partially sighted (loss of peripheral vision in both eyes and some central vision in left eye), Heart condition, Chronic Kidney Disease, Vitamin B12 Deficiency, Anaemia, Hypertension, High Cholesterol, Hypothyroidism, Asthma and Chronic tiredness due to multiple illnesses.

Her husband Nigel said it was a disgrace she was refused benefits and said her battle finally took its toll on her health.

Last year she lost a long process of appeal against the decision but continued her campaign. In April 2012, as a result of the time-limiting of ESA to one year, her £96-a-week benefits were stopped, plunging her into despair as her health deteriorated.

She won her appeal a few weeks ago and she was finally put in the Support Group.

She died eight days later on 8 June.”

These same types of assessments, again carried out by Atos, are shortly to be extended to almost three million people currently receiving Disability Living Allowance.

37 responses to “Spartacus Strikes Back – The Truth About Atos and the WCA

  1. As People crushed by laws, have no hope but to evade power. If the laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to the law; and those who have much to hope for and nothing to lose will always be dangerous.” –  Edmund Burke
    “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” – George Berkeley
    Legaised murder by government diktat.
    When is something going to ACTUALLY be done about all that is happening.
    When when when? Once 6,000,000 are disposed of?

    • Alexandr Solzhenitzyn

      “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? . . .”

      – Alexandr Solzhenitzyn, The Gulag Archepalego

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  7. Too fuckin’ scared to say anything in light of recent police visits to angry online people. Gulag? – we’re well on the fuckin’ way.

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  10. This needs to be got out there. The facts speak for themselves.

  11. Just read all of the experiences; it’s plain heartbreaking. I’m living with the same daily fears myself, particularly the ‘brown envelope’ dread. I’ve had to have regular therapy for the last 3 years over this and the care cuts.

    This constant fear that you face along with the daily struggle as a chronically disabled person is bad enough, but with also experiencing severe family problems for many years due to the ongoing consequences of a horrific thing that happened to us, it makes a life that is already hard, a life already unbearable, much much worse.

    A friend of mine has just tried to drink himself to death after failing the test; he is being helped, but he will have to face this each year now. Another is still in a state of chronic depression and anxiety after facing 9 months without the means to live due to DLA mistakes, and even though it’s settled, she can’t stop crying because of all that she’s been through. I have 4 chronically disabled friends in total, and I can tell you that none of them are left free to lead their lives without the constant fear, which just isn’t right in anyone’s book.

    When I’ve commented under articles such as these, I say that we must stay alive; we must be a public record of this despicable campaign against those least able to defend themselves. You only have so much fight in you though, and our government knows this full well. Some days I honestly think that the combined stress of it all on an already sick body will kill me anyway if it carries on, well before I decided to put me out of my misery. But, at least then I will be out of it, and knowing fully what is about to hit the poor over the next few years, a lot of people will probably feel the same, that we will be the lucky ones: what an awful commentary on a supposedly civilized nation, but for people like me, the idea that we live in a truly civilized society died many many years ago when I was first subject to the ‘Department of Hell and Social Insecurity’, when I first went without heat, light, food and the very basics of a civilized and dignified life, all because of my crime: becoming too ill to work.

    I really do hope that this report has some affect, and well done to Sue and all those who contributed, but from reading the horror stories, it seems to indicate that the DWP had already largely ignored the Harrington recommendations and actually made the test much worse than the original!

    Sorry for the negativity, but when you’ve spent all morning being phoned by the police because an ill and extremely vulnerable family member was reported missing since Friday in the middle of the night, leaving all of her belongings and her phone where she was staying, you’re not exactly in a whoopie-de-do kind of mind-frame (now found, safe, again fortunately, but it will happen many times more due to the illness and circumstances, the person has also been attacked before, and it never gets any easier when you receive that sort of call from the police)!!!

    Anyway, hot milk and off up th’wooden hills for me! ‘To sleep perchance to dream’ that one day there will be a society where this can never happen again.

    c sasson hann x

  12. This IS happening…no amount of dreaming will wish it away.
    In the morning you’ll still be on someone’s list for reappraisal.
    You have been warned. Do something NOW, or it will be too late to wish you had.

    • Mnnn. I understand your sentiments, but felt I had to reply.

      Really wish I was able to ‘do something now’ about it, if you mean demonstrate or something like that, but unfortunately I can’t travel very far without being dreadfully ill, I certainly wouldn’t be able to sit in a wheelchair demonstrating for very long; even sitting in a padded chair surrounded by cushions is exhausting. I have no voice apart from accessing sites like these, but that doesn’t mean I take it all lying down.

      Sorry to be tetchy, but you’re being a little condescending: I’m 50 next year and I am also well informed having kept myself abreast of things politically from about the age of 17! I don’t need any warning whatsoever about it; I know exactly what’s coming my way because I’ve lived through it countless times before, firstly under the Thatcher government when in work, married and with a young family, and then under Labour as my illness deteriorated. And I’ve been reassessed quite a number of times, and no doubt I am surely going to have to face that every year. In fact 3 times a year: for PIP, ESA and my care plan. I’ve worked out that between the three of them, I’ll end up in the process of being reassessed for at least 10 months of the year if not continually!

      The point I’m making is that people who are severely disabled are sometimes too weak to fight their own corner, and not well educated or informed. I didn’t give up last time I was assessed; the will to live is still very strong despite the daily battle believe me. I’m not complacent, I found out my rights previously, and I was the first person in my area, perhaps in the country, to get the DWP to allow me to have a professional recording of my ESA assessment 3 years ago, which was vital. I’m certainly proactive, but on a bad day like yesterday, after all I’d been through personally and psychologically, never mind physically, I felt like giving up.

      And I’ve not just fought my own battles; whilst I was still working professionally, and even now, I help people in the community to apply for benefits, or grants from charities, heck even found out the law regarding bailiffs and contacted them for people to stop the bailiffs abusing the process, I’ve also obtained all sorts of advice for them since few have access to a computer (I live on a former council housing estate), so all in all, I’ve not exactly sat back and bemoaned my lot in life; quite the opposite!

      I appreciate that’s how I sounded in my comment above though! Unfortunately, illness also affects one’s state of mind, and you just feel like throwing the towel in some days, but I’m a bit better today, a bit more positive.

      And, if worse comes to worse, and I’m to live on peanuts, then I’ve told my carers that they’re to push me up onto the main road, and I’ll demonstrate on my street with big boards and a begging tin ha! I live in a semi rural area though, so I don’t know how much exposure I would get; still, it’s worth a try.

      That’s all I’m capable of, but I’m determined to do it!


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  14. These victims experiences should not be left to internal appeal systems that drag on forever, there should be quick judicial enquiries into the sanctioning of benefits of sick people and this government should be taken to a court of human rights to answer and be accountable for inhumane policies, but no doubt as with the Iraq war Tony Blair was never brought to justice either.

  15. Why the fuck do Jobseekers not receive £99.15 a week (same as those on ESA). Even £99.15 isn’t enough to live on but JSA is a fucking joke at £71 a week!

    • or £56.25 a week if you are under 25 which isn’t enough to feed a cat!

    • They’re trying to make ESA-WRAG and JSA the same by tougher sanctioning. But instead of raising JSA to ESA-WRAG they’ll cut to the lowest common denominator ie JSA. It’s all criminally low and they want to take away even that if they can.

    • It was Thatcher that broke the link with unemployment benefits and the cost of living, if JSA (unemployment benefits) had kept up with the cost of living they would be in excess of £300 in today’s devalued money. This clearly demonstrates how far behind the UK has fallen in terms of standard of living and we have a lot further to fall.

    • Depends where you live and if you will actually eat. JSA at £71 rapidly diminishes when landlord seeks none hb covered service charges, after 1st April 2013 – bedroom tax at 14% of rent as underoccupying (because they had deliberate policy of encouraging underoccupation just so dreadful places were let at all,) and water rates are deducted, plus council tax changes coming. In reality JSA claimant could see £13 rent, £10 water, £7.23 service charges and £3.10 council tax deducted from that £71 which leaves folk way below the ‘protected income’ level. Just how can anyone be expected to survive on £40 a week for food, heat, light, communications, clothes and travel?

  16. Yes, and I well remember being a divorced parent in 80’s when there was no help of any kind not even tax relief on childcare. On visiting Conservative MP i was told i had a choice; let my home be repossessed then i could get a council place rent paid. On protesting “what message does that give my young son” I was told he would be aware of our “station” in life!!. We didnt live in a mansion… it was a run down terrace with leaking roof.
    Instead I ran a network of crudy low paid jobs including cleaning the library when i got my 10mth old son out of bed at 5am 5 days per week to take him with me. A lifetime of sacrifice and 15 hour days has seen my own health crumble, 16 serious operations later I am now caring for a non-white husband who has received racist abuse despite being born in UK all his life and is now bedridden. All with no support again. The only comfort I take is ive no life insurance so at least they will have to foot the bill for the gas when i am cremated, and if i pre-decease my husband then as he needs a team of 3 carers 24/7 (i currently do it alone with no carers allowance which i cannot claim as i am on incapacity benefit so free labour here again) given his situation. By my reckoning at £7 per hr each for staff thats knocking up for £500 a day it will cost them.

    IDS, Cameron all current government all of you should be ashamed.

  17. Don’t hear much from the opposition parties on benefit issues especially sanctioning of benefits. I wrote to my mp regarding inhumane policy making regarding these issues.

  18. I agree, this is imhumane and immoral. I have written to the newspapers (not that it’ll do much I know) and am trying to raise awareness. It’s national bullying of the vulnerable. I am currently being assessed again by Atos. No genuinely disabled person should have to be treated like this.

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  27. Here is one solution: ask a family member to cook up a few tales of indecent assault by you on them, as children, and to take those stories to the police. You will be arrested. You should stand trial, and plead not guilty. You will be treated in law as guilty until proven innocent. You won’t be allowed proper defence. You will go to a purpose built prison and get first class healthcare. You might get a room to yourself. You won’t have any bills. You will be well fed. And warm too, in the winter. There may not even be any publicity. You will be safe. You can wear your own clothes. You will be costing the government a packet. They will even pay you to do nothing all day, and you get a tv in your room (not cells anymore).. And when you are released, repeat the process with another family member.. Or refuse to abide by the terms of the register. It might sound drastic, but it works and is better than suicide.

    • That’s just belittling the devastation that people who have suffered indecent assault go through and those who are wrongly accused.

  28. Wow! It’s just History repeating itself! Having damaged my right had to the point useless I am limited to a left only. As a results of the drugs I have been taking since the accident I have developed a condition that cat causes similar symptoms to gout. I am awaiting an operation to restore my hand to some form of functionality. Following an Atos visit I was deemed to score zero points and taken off esa. I am now on jsa laughingly as I i cannot write and end up bed ridden for at least two weeks of each month. This means I don’t fit jsa criteria so have to go the job centre each fortnight to be told I have not fulfilled the criteria so will be sanctioned. If there is anyone who has employment for a one handed person who will be bed ridden fifty percent of the time and will be off for three to six months shortly following an operation please drop me line. They have letters from my GP and specialists to confirm my conditions but they don’t count. How on earth can you be a job seeker when the GP has signed you off and advised you definitely should not be. Hey, I am only human and surely a French money making organisation and our trusted dictators at DWP along with what we so laughingly call a Government say they is nothing wrong with me why should I argue. The illness must all be in my head and having no money is not an issue as I have a list of food banks. Trouble is when bed ridden although I have tried they don’t do a home delivery service. I am obviously just a statistic they woul rather not have on the books. Saying that! I don’t get anything?

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