The Personal Independence Payment (PIP), the new benefit regime set to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), has descended into farce before it even gets started. Atos ‘Healthcare’, the company who have been contracted to manage the new disability assessments, are to sub-contract the work in Scotland back to an NHS based social enterprise.
Salus, who provide occupational health services and plough all profits back into the NHS, will now run the new assessment system on behalf of Atos says the Daily Record today. This follows a determined campaign by disabled people, benefit claimants and supporters in Scotland to end the involvement of IT firm Atos in benefit assessments.
Atos carry out the notorious Work Capability Assessment (WCA), a crude computer based system which has been used to strip vital benefits from hundreds of thousands of sick or disabled claimants. An increasing number of suicides have been directly linked to the humiliating and traumatic assessment regime. A recent investigation found 23 people a week die after being declared able to work by the company and forced into endless ‘Work Related Activity’ with charities and welfare to work companies. According to plans floated by the DWP these people may soon face unlimited workfare should they have the cheek to live long enough.
The Government is planning to use the same model to re-assess all working age claimants on Disability Living Allowance when it becomes Personal Independence Payment (PIP) next year. The stated aim is to strip disability benefits from 20% of disabled people. Atos were given the UK wide contract to carry out the assessments earlier in the year.
Today’s announcement means that Atos will take the huge cash payments available under PIP, pocket a cut and then sub-contract the work to an NHS based organisation. This humiliating announcement for the Government will mean Atos are basically being paid to do nothing in Scotland.
Atos have seen protests outside their Scotland HQ in Livingston due to their involvement in benefit assessments, as well as regular protests at their premises in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and elsewhere. Similar protests have taken place throughout England and Wales.
The Black Triangle Disability Campaign have been at the forefront of the struggle against Atos and successfully lobbied Scottish GPs to denounce the testing regime, a move soon followed by the UK wide BMA.
Predictably the Daily Record, a Scottish tabloid owned by Mirror Group Newspapers (who in fairness have been carrying extensive coverage of the brutal Atos farce) are taking the credit for Atos’ decision. Campaigners from Black Triangle and elsewhere will know the truth. It was disabled people and benefit claimants what won it.
Unfortunately it remains to be seen if anything will change in practice. Whilst Atos will no longer carry out the assessments, the model of assessments will be the same flawed model as the one currently use to harass, torment and impoverish Employment Support Allowance claimants.
Of perhaps most concern is that Salus, who will now carry out the assessments, boast on their website that they: “are one of the very few organisations in the UK which utilise the bio psychosocial model as recommended by Dame Carol Black in her report ‘Working for a Healthier Tomorrow’ (2008). “
This report was commissioned by the DWP and used as justification for the Work Capability Assessment. The bio-psychosocial model is a piece of pseudo-scientific bullshit constructed by the private health and income/disability insurance companies in an effort to minimise paying insurance claims. Dame Carol Black is known to have met several times with Income Protection scum Unum, the company many have suspected of driving welfare reforms in the UK behind the scenes.
So whilst this announcement by Atos is a victory for campaigners and a bloody nose for the Government, disabled people may yet find themselves facing just another bunch of bastards, this time acting under a cloak of NHS respectability.