Tag Archives: atos

Looming Staffing Crisis In The NHS As Atos And Maximus Try To Steal All The Nurses

Hippocrates1Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal and bungled welfare reforms could be set to the plunge the NHS into chaos as nurses and doctors are paid huge sums to carry out benefit-slashing assessments instead of working in our chronically understaffed hospitals.

Last year the Royal College of Nusring warned that a lack of senior nurses in the NHS is putting patient care at risk.  This followed a report a year earlier from the Department of Health funded  Centre for Workplace Intelligence which found that the NHS will face a shortfall of 47,545 nurses by 2016.  It is not just Tory cost cutting set to cause this crisis in the NHS, but a lack of suitably qualified homegrown nurses.  Last year The Guardian reported that the shortage is already so acute that one in five nurses employed between 2013/14 had to be recruited from overseas.

US firm Maximus are the company brought in to replace Atos to carry out the notorious Work Capability Assessment, the crude computer based test designed to strip benefits from out of work sick and disabled people.  Every one of these assessments must be carried out by a qualified healthcare professional with at least two years clinical experience  In an attempt to meet their target of one million benefit assessments a year., the company are currently undertaking a huge recruitment exercise promising nurses the chance to “work within the exciting and challenging area of Disability Assessment”. What they mean is bastards wanted to cut people’s benefits by declaring them fit for work on the flimsiest of evidence. 

In an attempt to bribe healthcare workers to carry out this grubby malpractice, Maximus are offering a considerably better salary than similarly qualified nurses would be paid in the NHS.  A salary, it should be remembered, that is ultimately funded by the tax payer.  This government would rather pay healthcare workers to bully people off benefits rather than deal with the staffing crisis in the NHS.

Maximus are not the only ones who are desperately trying to lure qualified healthcare professionals away from the NHS.  Whilst the notorious Atos will soon no longer carry health tests for out of work benefits, they too are recruiting nurses and other healthcare professionals to carry out disability assessments for the new Personal Indepence Payments (PIP) – the replacement for Disability Living Allowance which pays for the costs of living with a disability such as care, transport or specialist equipment.  Alongside Capita, Atos will be responsible for implementing the Tory policy to strip this benefit from a fifth of disabled people.  Both Atos and Capita have large scale recruitment operations underway.  Atos also use paramedics to carry out PIP assessments.  Last year health bosses warned they are having to recruit paramedics from Poland due to a national shortage estimated to be around 3000.

It is unclear how many nurses and other healthcare professionals are currently working on DWP contracts to stop people’s benefits instead of in hospitals where they are so badly needed, but it is likely to run to several thousand.  Minister for Murdering Disabled People Mark Harper dodged the question of how many staff Maximus are planning to recruit when he appeared before the Work and Pensions Committee this week.  Every last one of these so-called healthcare professionals, which also includes doctors, is breaching the fundamental medical principle of first do no harm.  But with nurses in the NHS facing pay squeezes and increased workloads, there will always be some happy to throw medical ethics out of the window and use their talents to harm not heal.

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The Nastiest Shambles Yet, Quarter Of A Million People Awaiting New Disability Benefit Decision

atos-professionalsPersonal Independence Payments (PIP) have lurched even further into chaos with over quarter of a million people waiting months on end for a decision on the new benefit.

PIP is Iain Duncan Smith’s replacement for Disability Living Allowance, the benefit paid to many disabled people to meet costs associated with mobility or care.  The new system launched for new claims in April last year and means sick and disabled people will be forced to attend demeaning and stressful assessments carried out by the notorious Atos and bungling Capita.  The purpose of these assessments is to strip benefits from a fifth of disabled people.

335,000 people have claimed the new benefit since it began last year, but appallingly only just over 80,000  have had a decision made on their claim.  Some people have been waiting for months.  In August last year 95,500 people had claimed Personal Independence Payments meaning that the wait for some has been around eight months and counting.

For people on low incomes this wait will be devastating.  Many PIP claimants will be newly disabled, or will have faced an existing health condition becoming significantly worse.  Some will simply not have the money to pay for care or mobility until the DWP can get their act together.  This delay will mean people trapped in their homes, or going without vital care at a time in their lives when they’ve really got better fucking things to be dealing with.

Atos recently pulled out of similar assessments for out of work sickness and disability assessments and know only too well that most medical professionals are far to ethical to involve themselves in grubby benefit tests that harm people’s health.  It is possible that much of the shambles is down to a failure to recruit enough healthcare professionals who have no desire to be part of Iain Duncan Smith’s horrifying attempt at destroying disabled people’s lives.

Whatever the cause the disaster that PIP has become shows just how much the safety net of the welfare state is being swept away by a combination of callousness and incompetence.  If you become sick or disabled, and need the help you’ve already paid for to live an independent life, then expect to strung along for months and treated like dirt by the DWP.

To download the latest statistics go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/personal-independence-payment-official-statistics-june-2014

Thanks to Richard Cole for the pic.

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Another Tragic Atos Death: RIP Jacqueline Harris

atos_kills_bannerA woman stripped of benefits after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos has taken her own life the Bristol Post have reported today.

According to the newspaper: 

“PARTIALLY-sighted and only able to walk with the aid of a stick, Jacqueline Harris suffered crippling pain due to slipped discs in her back and neck. Her mobility was reduced further when a dog savaged one of her wrists.

“Despite being in agony which strong pain relief could not ease, the 53-year-old was deemed to be fit for work following a government health assessment and told to find a job.

“Her sister claims the verdict that she was ineligible for disability benefits drove her to take her own life earlier this month.”

Predictably both the DWP, and Atos have attempted to wash their hands of the affair.  There will be no apology for this tragic loss of life and Atos claim it is nothing to do with them: “we do not make decisions on people’s benefit entitlement, nor are we involved in the appeal process.”

If this were a banker, or businessman who had been driven to suicide over a Government policy then this story would be on the front page of every newspaper.  When a yuppy jumps out of a skyscraper, or a celebrity has a breakdown, we are all invited to share in their tragedy.  The rich ‘feel’ things more than the poor the media narrative suggests.  Meanwhile reports of suicides due to welfare reform are shrugged off by right wing newspaper columnists as the “act of someone in a fevered, unstable state of mind.”  If the poor cannot cope with their poverty then that is a personal failing, not a problem with how society is structured.

Only the wealthy might be troubled by losing their income – the horny-handed working class are expected to get on with things, make do and mend, or queue outside foodbanks with a stiff upper lip.  Hunger and homelessness is just a triviality compared to a dent in the investment portfolio or having to sell the second home.

When campaigners have warned that Atos Kills this has not been hyper-bole.  The problem is that the ruthless assessments for sickness and disability benefits kill the wrong people to have any major media impact.  There is more sympathy for the squeezed middle-classes having to cut down skiing holidays than there is for people driven to desperate acts due to having nothing at all.  Atos merely culls in the eyes of this Government and those who support them, and many of them see nothing wrong with that.

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Doctors Told To Snub Desperate Benefit Claimants

atos_kills_bannerThe Bro Taf Local Medical Committee which represents doctors in and around Cardiff has written to GPs asking them not to help claimants who need medical evidence for benefit problems.

The LMC claim that providing this vital medical evidence for people facing the notorious ATOS work capability assessments is impacting on GP’s workloads.

Most people might have thought that a GP’s workload would include helping sick or disabled people stay alive by ensuring they are not wrongly assessed and thrown off benefits where they could then face workfare on a Groundwork or Conservation Volunteer chain gang.

However the Bro Taf LMC are unrepentant and even seem to be trying to make doctors feel guilty for supporting their patients. The letter states: “GPs need to have a consistent approach to this issue and colleagues who do this work make it more difficult for others to resist and it spreads the belief with patients and local authorities that GPs are happy to take on this non contracted and unfunded work.”

It is not just those facing a Work Capability Assessment who will suffer as a result of this callous move. Patients facing the bedroom tax or benefit cap may need medical evidence to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments to help them to stay in their homes. The replacement of Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments will shortly see hundreds of thousands of disabled people re-assessed for vital benefits. GPs should not help provide evidence with this process either says the committee.

Instead GPs are advised to snub desperate patients who may be facing homelessness or dire poverty by handing them a standard letter. Astonishingly this letter seems to imply that claimants who have the cheek to ask their doctor for help are abusing NHS resources: “GPs are not contracted or resourced to provide this kind of service and making such requests to GPs represents an abuse of NHS resources. “

The DWP have repeatedly attempted to blame claimants for the huge number of appeals against Atos assessments. According to the skiving Employment Minister Mark Hoban, the reason for the shambles is that claimants do not supply enough medical evidence when they are first assessed. Now it seems some doctors are refusing to provide that evidence.

Increasing numbers of people are dying because of reforms to benefits. If GPs don’t want to write letters which help keep patients alive then they should take it up with the DWP and fight for an end to the brutal cuts to social security. In the meantime if they can’t drag themselves away from the golf course to make sure it isn’t one of their patients who is the next victim then they should hang their heads in shame.

Bro Taf Local Medical Committee are on twitter at: https://twitter.com/BroTafLMC

A copy of the guidance to GPs and the accompanying standard letter to snub patients can be downloaded from (Bro Taf LMC Newsletter No.3, 2013): http://www.brotaflmc.org.uk/newsletters.html

The Black Triangle Campaign have long been lobbying GPs to support patients: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2013/06/28/gps-should-provide-information-for-every-fitness-for-work-assessment-urges-bma/

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Benefit Bullshitting Exposed By Daily Mail’s Workshy Map

daily-mail-mapYesterday’s Daily Mail Workshy map blows apart the benefit bullshitting of  the right wing press, despite their best efforts to smear hundred of thousands of sick and disabled people as criminals.

The map is based on recent figures detailing the outcomes of Incapacity Benefit re-assessments.  This is the crude computer based test carried out by IT firm Atos which has been used to strip vital benefits from hundreds of thousands of people.  This system has been justified by a relentless propaganda campaign which evoked myths of millions of scroungers, families where three generations have never had a job and whole areas of the UK ‘blighted’ by benefits culture.

In fact digging into the figures simply reveals that even in unemployment hotspots, the number of people who have been assessed as unable to work is tiny.  According to the Mail, 2,570 people in Leeds were found ‘fit for work’.  Leeds has a population of almost three quarters of a million people.  This means around one person in every three hundred was claiming a sickness or disability that they are no longer entitled to.  Even on a large housing estate this represents just a handful of people.  This number will rise as Incapacity Benefit re-assessments are not yet complete, but the figures suggest at the very most one person in 150 will eventually lose the benefit*.

And in truth most of those people are far from ‘fit for work’.  Employment Minister Mark Hoban recently revealed that 15% of ‘fit for work’ decisions are eventually judged to be incorrect – and that only includes those claimants with the tenacity, confidence, and health to successfully undertake an appeal.  Even those who do not have decisions over-turned at appeal may be anything but ‘fit for work’.  People with Multiple Sclerosis, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease and many other serious health conditions have all been judged able to work by Atos and the DWP.

The Daily Mail’s claim that all those found ‘fit for work’ are workshy is as contemptible in itself as it is dishonest. It is worth remembering that everybody who was previously claiming Incapacity Benefit had previously been signed off work by their own doctor and undergone a DWP medical.  Unless both GPs and the DWP’s own doctors have been lying on a massive scale, then none of these people could be considered to be in good health.

This is reflected in what little evidence is available (PDF) detailing what happens to those found ‘fit for work’, which shows that most people end up on the dole.  And it is this which shatters yet another myth about welfare reform – which is that this is about saving tax payers money.

Claimants thrown onto the dole lose around £30 a week and but this means a significant administration burden for already over-stretched Jobcentres.  This comes on top of the cost of the Atos assessments and the ever growing number of appeals – along with considerable hidden costs such as an increase on the burdens on GPs, hospital consultants and advice agencies.  This stress of these assessments alone has driven some claimants to suicide, whilst many more people have reported their health has deteriorated due to the system.

It is now a terrifying time in the UK to be both poor and in poor health.  It is not just those currently on benefits who will be affected, but anyone who falls ill or becomes disabled and has to leave their job.  And for what?  To make a fraction of a percentage of people lose around £30 a week because they are no longer quite as ill or disabled as this Government now insists they must be to qualify for health related benefits.  Rarely has such a nasty policy been carried out by any Government for such trivial ends.

*It is unclear how far through the assessment process different cities are.  As the assessments are just over half complete then the Daily Mail’s workshy map actually means nothing at all, except for demonstrating the revealing fact that no-one at the paper seems to know where Manchester is.

A ‘not fit for work’ map has been created by @Mylegalforum and published on DPAC’s website.

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Atos Join The Army – MOD Hand Out £25 Million Contract To Bungling IT Firm

atos_dr_nickAtos, the French IT firm behind the ruthless and bungled assessments for sickness and disability benefits have been handed a whopping £25 million contract by the MOD.

Atos will head up a team running communications and information technology strategies for the armed forces.  Taleban camp leaders in Afghanistan are believed to have relaxed the local Champagne ban on hearing the news.  Not satisfied with developing the bodged and brutal Work Capability Assessments – which has driven some sick and disabled benefit claimants to suicide – Atos now want to become involved with the war industry.  It seems like they can never have quite too much blood on their hands.

This is just one in a string of contracts the company now has with the UK Government, which also include running much of the new disability assessments for the Personal Independent Payment, countless contracts to provide Occupational Health to public sector workers and chillingly nuclear power station decommissioning.

These contracts have been awarded despite their woeful performance as providers of sickness benefit assessments which have seen over 1 in 7 (15%) of their ‘fit for work’ decisions proved wrong in the courts.  Despite this Government’s obsession with payment by results, it seems Atos are handed a never ending stream of tax payers cash no matter how much they get it wrong.

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Man Jailed After Comments Made In Atos Assessment

atos-killsUPDATE 26/04/13  Steve Topley has been bailed, has pleaded guilty and is now expected to receive a community sentence.  Seems he wasn’t such a threat to the community after all.

A Nottingham man has now been held in custody for two weeks after he was accused of “threatening behaviour”* due to comments he allegedly made during his Atos benefits assessment.

Steve Topley is a 49 year old father with multiple serious health problems who was required to attend a Work Capability Assessment with the notorious IT firm Atos – the company responsible for stripping benefits from hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people.  During the process Mr Topley made some comments about someone not present at the assessment.

These comments led to Atos staff calling the police and Mr Topley was asked to attend Queens Medical Centre (QMC) in Nottingham.  When he refused to do so he was arrested.  At QMC he was de-arrested and received a mental health assessment but no reason was found to detain him under the mental health act.  He was then re-arrested and taken in handcuffs to Nottingham police station where he was later charged.

He has now been refused bail twice in closed courts which his family say they were not permitted to attend.  His sister Gina Topley, who says the family are being kept in the dark about the legal process, has said:

“My brother has not been given any opportunity to speak and give his side of the story to a judge and he was not offered an appropriate adult to accompany him when he was arrested.”

His family have not been allowed to visit him in prison and have raised concerns that his medication may not be being administered properly.  Mr Topley will face another appearance in a closed court tomorrow (Friday 26th April) and there are major fears that he will be remanded once again pending psychiatric reports.

His family and supporters have called a demonstration outside the court tomorrow calling for his immediate release.

Meet outside Nottingham Crown Court on Friday 26th April from 9.30-11.00am – please help spread the word.  For more details and the  latest news visit: http://freestevetopley.wordpress.com/

Thanks to 3monkeys in the comments for spotting this.

*Clarification:  Mr Topley was finally charged with making a ‘threat to kill’.  This can be a very serious charge which can result in a long sentence depending on other aggravating factors, however in this case it seems this was not the view of the Judge.  According to Mr Topley’s family:

“The Judge on the day appeared to accept that Steve was not a threat to anyone, however the ludicrous charge of ‘threatening to kill’ is still hanging over him. Police have not so far informed the alleged ‘victim’ of any plot against him, and cannot seem to find them, demonstrating how seriously they actually take this.”

One point worth making is that this incident happened in the middle of an Atos assessment which are notoriously stressful and frightening for claimants.  If he hadn’t been put through that, it is unlikely he would have said whatever he said, which it seems was not a very credible threat at least as far as the Judge was concerned.  When people who are marginalised are subject to this kind of shit then it can make people react irrationally or angrily and they end up doing things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.  The context these events take place in is often ignored by ‘professionals’, because to them it is all just a job and they can’t understand why people are not being reasonable.  The stark terror felt by some people facing courts, benefit assessments, arrests, bailiffs, prisons or even more seemingly benign institutions such as social services, Jobcentres and community mental health teams can often cause people to destroy themselves.  This can happen even if ‘professionals’ concerned do their jobs properly within the constrain of the system and no-one is really personally culpable.

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Member of ‘Fit For Work Coalition’ Brought in to Scrutinise Atos

paul-litchfieldThe DWP have brought in a member of the ‘Fit For Work Coalition’ and the neo-liberal think tank the World Economic Forum, to carry out a review of the brutal assessments for sickness and disability benefits.

Dr Paul Litchfield will replace Professor Malcolm Harrington who was sidelined after being mildly critical of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), the relentless health and disability tests which have driven some claimants to suicide.

As well as his membership of the sinister sounding World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council – who promote more capitalism to deal with the problems created by capitalism – Litchfield is Chief Medical Officer at BT.  He is also a member of the aptly named Fit For Work Coalition which: “brings together healthcare professionals, policy makers, employers, and patients to improve the productivity of Britain’s workforce, by empowering and supporting people, including those with long-term conditions, to remain in or return to work and be economically active.”

Litchfield has long been working behind the scenes with both the current and the last government in a bid to dismantle the welfare state.  Way back in 2006 he was a member of the Mental Health Technical Group who were involved in proposals to ‘transform’ the old Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) – the previous assessment regime for Incapacity Benefit.

He then went on to sit on the Technical and Consultative Working Group involved in the creation of the Work Capability Assessment, along with Angela Graham of Atos Origin and Sue Godby of Unum.

He will now prepare a review on the shambolic Work Capability Assessment which is seeing more seriously unwell or disabled people than ever successfully appealing Fit for Work decisions.

Litchfield has already given an early indication of his true role at the DWP , which appears to be that of a glorified spin doctor.  He claims in a statement on the DWP website that “Any assessment not only has to be fair but must be perceived as being fair.”

He’s not there to change the assessments, but to change people’s minds about the assessments.

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Iain Duncan Smith’s Licence To Kill

IDS-I-dont-care-whos-diedSick or disabled people could be worked to death under legislation tabled this week simply because the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions takes a dislike to them.

The new workfare rules, rushed out in a panic after this weeks damning court verdict,  set out the details of the various forced labour schemes currently in operation.  This follows the High Court ruling that Iain Duncan Smith had been illegally sending people on workfare due to never fully explaining the schemes before Parliament as required by law.

Under the regulations it appears that almost anyone Iain Duncan Smith sees fit will be at risk of referral to the Work Programme, which is now vaguely aimed at any claimant “at risk of becoming long term unemployed”.

The DWP admit they don’t know how many people on the Work Programme are being sent on workfare as the private companies running the scheme are given free reign to behave as they like – something which flies in the face of this week’s court decision and may yet lead to another legal challenge on similar grounds.

Under the regulations, welfare to work companies, or the DWP, can mandate someone to up to two year’s full time unpaid work.  As was announced last December, on International Disabled People’s Day, even claimants on sickness or disability benefits can now be mandated to forced labour.

These are all claimants who have been signed off as unfit for work by their own GP.  Many more claimants, who have also been signed off work as sick by doctors, have had that decision over-ruled by the DWP and are now on mainstream unemployment benefits.  With such a rushed and no doubt bodged set of regulations, there doesn’t even appear to be anything stopping the Secretary of State singling out claimants he doesn’t like and condemning them to hard labour.

With jobs in desperately short supply, especially for those with a health condition or disability, the choice facing unwell claimants sentenced to unpaid work will be whether to be worked to death or starved to death.

Of course someone with a life threatening condition may appeal against a decision which forces them to carry out unpaid physical work at a Sue Ryder charity shop or The Conservation Volunteer’s latest chain gang.

But sadly many people don’t appeal – and legal support for appealing benefit decisions is being slashed.  And it is a truly chilling thought that the only thing protecting sick or disabled claimants from being sent to do work which may kill them is the whims of a DWP tribunal.

Iain Duncan Smith may not have introduced these laws as a way of working to death disabled activists, or anyone else on health related benefits who opposes his vicious and inept schemes.  But the power is now there to do so.

None of this has ever been adequately discussed by Parliament.  Even the Courts seem to be beneath the Secretary of State – today Iain Duncan Smith  dismissed the judgement of three High Court judges on a very technical point of law as ‘rubbish’.  Not even David Cameron seems to be able to control the power-drunk fool, whilst the Treasury willingly hands over billions of pounds to fund his whatever crazy old bollocks he cooks up next.  It is clear that Iain Duncan Smith regards himself as above the Prime Minister, above Parliament and above the very law itself.

Iain Duncan Smith is out of control and has the power to destroy millions of lives.  And that is exactly what the Secretary of State is doing.  If Parliament or the courts can’t put an end to the carnage, then it is down to everyone else with a shred of humanity to stop this vile monster.

Join the Week of Action Against Workfare

For the latest on this week’s workfare ruling visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=2035

Above pic from: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/

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Philip Hensher’s Crass Hypocrisy and Benefit Lies Exposed

hensher2hensher1The above two tweets are what happens when someone writes a less than flattering review of one of Philip Hensher’s shit books.

This is the same Philip Hensher who whinged in The Independent yesterday that: “I have a belief that nobody should be forced to endure being called a “cunt” or subjected to threats of physical violence as a condition of their work.”

Hensher has been widely condemned after writing a sub-Daily Mail rant about people on sickness or disability benefits – which got very close to libeling people who had taken part in a survey by campaign group After Atos by implying some of them were fraudulent claimants.

This led some people to challenge Hensher on twitter, sometimes using strong language, to which he replied in kind.  Guardian journalist Zoe Williams also questioned Hensher’s piece.  He responded by describing her as ‘an awful person’ to her colleague Deborah Orr.

As the obscure novelist began to lose his temper he resorted to lying about the ‘abuse’ he was receiving, furiously re-tweeting anything critical of him to his media chums.  Hensher claimed that people were calling him a cunt and accusing him of inciting the murder of ‘handicapped’ (his word) people.

In fact at this point no-one had called him a cunt, and the tweet he was referring to said the exact opposite:

Predictably after Hensher lied that people were calling him a cunt, some people then ended up calling him a cunt.

This led to Hensher stropping off twitter journalist-style and then spewing up the garbage that polluted the usually deserted comment section of The Independent website yesterday.

Using the genuinely unpleasant shit that was recently directed at Mary Beard and Suzanne Moore as cover, Hensher launched into a breath-takingly dishonest diatribe.

Hensher claims that no-one challenged his ‘facts’ when in fact several people calmly and without insults took his bullshit apart piece by piece.  In case there is any doubt about his wild claims, in yesterday’s piece Hensher said:  “The number of people asking the Government to support their ill-health, in addition, has risen in a way difficult to believe in recent years.”

So let’s dispute that particular piece of crap with a graph from a report published by the DWP themselves:


The number of people on out of work benefits due to sickness or disability has been falling steadily, since long before the brutal and notorious Atos assessments were introduced.  The huge leap in people claiming sickness benefits actually happened in the late 80s when claims jumped by almost a million people as Thatcher destroyed the UK’s industrial heartland.  This was almost 30 years ago and many of those people were approaching retirement age even back then.

Hensher then goes on to say that he expected “an explanation of why such claims have risen so sharply, and out of line with almost every comparable economy.”

Since claims have not risen sharply then it would be somewhat difficult to explain why they have.  But Hensher’s nonsense about claims being out of line with almost every comparable economy are easily demolished, with yet another graph (a fuller analysis of which was also tweeted to Hensher, which he ignored).


This graph comes from the OECD report that Hensher seems to be referencing.  As can be seen quite clearly, the UK’s rate of people on out of work sickness or disability benefits is only marginally higher than the OECD average and significantly less than Hungary,Sweden, Norway and Finland.  This graph also shows how claims have been more or less static in the UK, although they have risen sharply in France and the US, two of the countries Hensher mentioned as having no such rise in his first piece.

So Hensher is bull shitting and his opinions seem to be based on little more than tabloid scare stories and his own nasty little prejudices.  At a time when disability hate crime is soaring, and an increasing number of tragic suicides have been linked to the Atos assessments Hensher was discussing, it is fucking irresponsible and downright unpleasant of The Independent to publish this kind of garbage.

But free speech is free speech and they can say what they like.  Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to apply to the rest of us normals who don’t have a newspaper column.  All of the comments on the piece originally written by Hensher have been removed by the newspaper who could have simply moderated out anything over the top – as anyone else who runs a site which accepts comments sometimes has to do.

And this is the thing.  The internet is a fucking bear pit and always has been.  Some of the misogyny is horrible, though more a reflection of society at large than anything to do with twitter and the internet.  Sometimes people say stupid and aggressive things when they are angry.  Some other people just say shit to wind people up.  This is the territory that anyone who writes on the web needs to navigate and is something that most bloggers have come to terms with.

This doesn’t mean  misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, disablist abuse and racism shouldn’t be challenged on the web, they absolutely should.  Strong language and debate however is a different matter.

The nasty background chatter of parts of the internet should not be used to drown out or fend off genuine criticism.  And if a writer swears at people, like Hensher does, then he should fucking expect people to swear back at him.  Whilst it’s impossible to know what Hensher and The Independent received in their inbox, there were no direct threats of violence aimed at Hensher on twitter – just a couple of vaguely menacing tweets, one from a disabled person saying ‘I bite’, and another quoting Rudyard Kipling.  Not very pleasant, but hardly a campaign of violence, abuse and intimidation.

Hensher on the other hand slandered thousands of people with his uninformed rant about benefit claimants.  It seems that Hensher can dish it out, but can’t take it himself, something he condemned in others when he was part of a twitter hate mob himself.


UPDATE: The writer of the comment that Henshaw claimed proved people “wanted him dead” and that someone hoped that he “fall over and be permanently crippled” has responded to his piece in the comments on The Independent:

“Oh, So I’m nameless? I was the one who wrote the “slip over and find out what it’s like” comment. What I actually wrote was: “get out in that snow you love, slip over and break your spine, you’ll soon change your tune. “It only takes a minute … to fall in love”, the song says, it only takes a millisecond to end up paralysed for the rest of your life!” My comment was NOT a wish that you would end up disabled, but that you and your readers would realise how simple it is to become disabled.”

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