Why I’m thankful that Atos found me fit to work

When my Employment Support Allowance was stopped, I was angry and upset. But looking back, it was a turning point in my life

14 March 2015

9:00 AM

14 March 2015

9:00 AM

I was signed off work five years ago. I had lost my job and was, unsurprisingly, feeling low; I went to see my GP, as I was having difficulty sleeping. Rather than dishing out a few sleeping pills, as I had hoped, my doctor googled the letters PHQ-9 on his computer and quickly went through the multiple-choice test for depression he found. Within a few minutes, I walked out of the surgery with a diagnosis of depression and a sick note stating that I was, in his medical judgment, unfit for work.

Looking at the Patient Health Questionnaire now, one thing immediately stands out: the copyright notice. The copyright in PHQ-9 was held by Pfizer, the pharmaceutical corporation — which, since it holds patents in antidepressants such as Zoloft, has a financial incentive in patients’ being diagnosed with depression. But it would be unfair to criticise PHQ-9 merely because it was developed for a private company; not when there are so many other criticisms to make.

PHQ-9 asks the patient if they have been bothered in the last fortnight by nine separate indicators of depression. The possible answers range from ‘Not at all’ (0 points) to ‘Nearly every day’ (3 points). Your points are added up at the end: the higher the score, the more certain the diagnosis of depression and the more likely that a sick note will be issued. The problem is not just that the scoring system is utterly transparent for anyone attempting to game it — the internet has more sophisticated quizzes to find out which Disney princess you are: you can’t ensure you’ll be Rapunzel by always going for option d — but that the possible indicators of depression are so broad that it is almost impossible not to have been bothered by some of them. Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep, reads one, or do you sleep too much? Both are indicators of depression, regardless of whether you oversleep — or undersleep — by ten minutes or ten hours. Do you have poor appetite or have you been overeating? Are you moving around more than usual or less than usual? I don’t suppose many people carry out regular audits of how much they sleep, eat or move about — I certainly didn’t. So I answered as honestly as I could, both then and whenever I returned to the surgery and revisited the test; and the scores didn’t show any improvement. If anything, they got worse — one of the questions was ‘Do you feel a failure?’ After 18 months on the sick, of course I felt like a failure. I remember thinking at the time that it was a reasonable analysis of objective reality rather than a symptom of depression.

Then I was summoned to be assessed by Atos Healthcare. You may have heard the name, possibly in campaigners’ slogans such as ‘Atos kills’ or ‘Atos doesn’t give a toss’. For the past seven years, this company has been evaluating claimants for Employment Support Allowance — the benefit for those whose mental or physical disabilities make them unfit for work — but has negotiated for the contract to come to an early end this month, because of the ‘reputational issues’ arising from it. Atos has become hated: a powerful symbol of austerity, a private company which profited from people’s misery (although Atos always insisted it had no financial incentives to find claimants fit for work) and overrode the medical judgment of GPs.

But I can’t hate Atos. I had a long interview — or rather conversation — with a chatty nurse, and a few weeks later received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions saying that I had been found fit for work and my Employment Support Allowance was immediately terminated.

At the time, I was angry and upset; looking back, I realise that it was a turning point in my life. In fact, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. After nearly two years of health professionals telling me that I was unfit for work — unwanted, unvalued and unnoticed — I realised this wasn’t true; I rediscovered not just a work ethic but a purpose in life; and I began to resent the two years I had spent frowsting at home because a doctor had told me that was all I was good for.

Atos made mistakes, of course. At one point, its decisions were being reversed in four out of every ten cases taken to appeal. But most of the criticisms of Atos — that the Work Capability Assessment they undertook was ‘a crude computer test’, in the words of one MP, administered by examiners with little understanding of mental health — apply just as much to the PHQ-9 that put me, and others like me, on Employment Support Allowance in the first place. And none of the campaigners angry that it was a private company deciding who was entitled to benefit seemed to object when GPs outsourced their medical judgment to the Pfizer corporation.

Is my case representative of many claimants on Employment Support Allowance? Possibly not. I am very aware that I am privileged, and I would not have been able to move on from losing my ESA without the support of my family and a good deal of luck. (I am also now aware, following a quick glance at Wikipedia, that it is not good clinical practice to rely on PHQ-9 as a diagnostic tool, whatever Pfizer may say.)

But there is no reason to assume that the much-publicised failures of Atos — the claimants who died within weeks of being assessed fit for work; the jobseeker in a coma — are any more representative. They are the stories that are taken up by the media, of course, and touch public consciousness; the claimants or their families are, rightly, keen to publicise and rectify the mistakes Atos made. When Atos got it right, there’s no story: the claimant goes back to work and has no interest in letting anyone know that he or she was once declared unfit for work. (I am only prepared to tell my story because I no longer work in an industry where a diagnosis of depression is considered discreditable, or indeed unusual.)

And we need to tell our stories. The problem with ‘sick-note culture’ is not the financial burden of people claiming benefits to which they are not entitled — in fact, it would probably work out cheaper to accept that some claimants will game the system, rather than assess everyone who has been signed off by their GP — but the fact that the government is colluding in people wasting their lives.

Can anyone save the NHS?


Join us on 17 March to discuss whether anyone can save the NHS. Speakers include Andy Burnham, shadow secretary of health and 
Charlotte Leslie, member of the Health Select Committee. This event has been organised by The Spectator in collaboration with Pfizer. More information can be found here.

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Show comments
  • MikeMSN

    Another problem with GPs as the gateway to a life on benefits is that they are vulnerable to intimidation by criminal/violent claimants. This is hardly ever mentioned. Imagine the GP in his surgery with a heavily muscled man. Easier to sign the form than argue.

    • JSC

      Add belligerent time wasters to that list as well…

      • Ben McNevis


        • JSC

          “Another problem with GPs as the gateway to a life on benefits is that they are vulnerable to”:
          violent claimants
          belligerent time wasters

    • Ben McNevis

      Think of GP in his surgery with high pressure Pfizer sales/bribes operative?

      • Dogsnob

        Yeah, I’m thinking.
        You gonna finish off the joke?

    • Ben McNevis

      Sick people are usually much more fragile than the average GP.

      • whs1954

        The point is, they’re not sick, it’s just easier for the GP to sign the form to say they are.

        • Ben McNevis

          If nobody is sick, why not send all GPs home, close all hospitals and stop buying chemicals from Pfizer et al. The ogre comments in this thread are appalling.

          • MountainousIpswich

            Plenty of people are sick

            And yet every single week, sometimes every single day, someone is convicted for fraudulently claiming disability benefit.

            Imagine the numbers that are not getting caught.

          • Dogsnob

            You fool. No-one here has said there are no sick people.
            No-one says there are no people who are too sick to work. No-one says that those too sick to work should not receive welfare.
            The message you don’t seem to want to hear, is that for too long, too many people have falsely claimed to be unable to work and the system has let them take money from those many people who go out to work and pay the taxes that fund all of our welfare.
            We need responsible gatekeepers to our welfare system.

      • Dogsnob

        The very argument being that not all people claiming to be sick, are sick. Or are you saying that no-one fiddles the system at all?

    • GraveDave

      ‘Sign this sick note or I’ll do yer’.

      Nonsense. It’s apathy and doctors not having time to waste on lazyitis.

  • ajcb

    Terrific piece, very similar to stories of the Clinton-era welfare-to-workfare agenda that was predicted to have dire consequences but in fact gave many long-term unemployed people a new lease on life. The only problem is that the piece belongs in the Guardian (or similar) where it stands a chance of changing some minds, rather than in the Spectator, where its argument, however nicely fleshed out here, is already accepted.

    • Ben McNevis

      You hit the nail on the head. The Spectacle is the domain of closed minds.

      • ajcb

        That’s a weird misinterpretation of what I wrote!

      • William_Brown

        You’ve just illustrated yourself.

    • GraveDave

      however nicely fleshed out here, is already accepted.

      Not if you hunt down the previous article it wasn’t.

  • Ben McNevis

    Andrew Watts was diagnosed depression, by a GP using a Pfizer sales promotion tool. This article trivialises the suffering of people with serious illnesses who experienced witch hunt style persecution at the hands of Atos.

    • Dogsnob

      So, was he actually depressed or was he not?
      If ‘yes’ then the Pfizer tool used, must in your eyes be a good thing.
      If ‘no’ then the system is being fiddled not only by individuals using things like the Pfizer tool, but also by the pharmaceutical industry.
      My guess is it’s both. What’s yours?

  • Brimstone52

    The only conclusion one can reach from this article is that Andrew Watts never suffered from depression. He was going through the normal “downer” after losing a job.

    An analogy to help non sufferers understand is that depression is rather like suffering from a hangover, all day, every day. The difference is that one has not has the pleasure of the booze the night before.

    • ajcb

      HIs point was that, whatever his actual problem, he WAS ISSUED WITH a doctor’s note by the bureaucratic processes that be. And his return to work was powerfully positive for him. Full stop.

      • GraveDave

        No , his point is propaganda for ATOS and the DWP (and probably the Tory party). In fact there was another article like this a few months ago by another Speccie blogger. A woman. But it was very similar to this one ( and few were fooled, I was pleased to note).
        Do you think there’s an election round the corner?

        • ajcb

          Some propaganda coincides with truth (and as Nabokov said: “Art doesn’t imitate life, if only to avoid cliches.”).

          And if you do not hear stories such as this (like it or not, they are exactly the same as true US welfare-to-workfare stories), you will be the pathetic victim of actually false leftist propaganda that says “If the Government’s Magic Money Machine didn’t give you a check, you wouldn’t survive.”

      • Ben McNevis

        Andrew Watts was diagnosed with depression by a GP in the pocket of Pfizer .

        • LastmaninEurope

          In all this busy thread I missed the name of the venal GP.

          Clearly you know him/her. Would you please provide their name and the surgery in order that I can avoid a similar mis-diagnosis should they be local to me?


  • Samuel Miller

    Several months ago, I wrote a letter to Leslie Wolfe, president of
    Maximus Health Services UK, inquiring if the ‘fit to work’ assessment
    descriptors, created by the DWP, would remain the same as under Atos
    Healthcare UK. I haven’t received a response and don’t expect one. My
    purpose in writing her was to signal that I and UN officials would be
    watching to see if the WCAs performed by Maximus would be ethical and

    Maximus is the new monkey, replacing Atos, but the DWP is still the
    organ-grinder. The plight of UK’s sick and disabled won’t be
    ameliorated—unless the Work Capability Assessments are either scrapped
    or the assessment descriptors (created by the DWP) are radically

    Full disclosure: Since January 2012, I have been reporting voluntarily to
    the UN’s human rights office, in Geneva, on the welfare crisis for Britain’s
    sick and disabled. [Fellow Canadian Leilani Farha (@leilanifarha) is the UN
    Special Rapporteur on adequate housing; see http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/LeilaniFarha.aspx. You can tweet her on UK housing issues or e-mail her at the UN’s human rights office: srhousing@ohchr.org; she does follow my Twitter account.]

    (Montreal, Canada)

    • whs1954

      You (quite rightly) will get very little sympathy, telling us that you are reporting to the ‘human rights office’ of a completely rotten organisation like the UN, on how the nasty wicked British are making people who are fit to work go back to work. Before you posted, could you not actually read the article above about how people’s lives are being wasted as they are being told, erroneously, by doctors that they are no good for anything but sitting at home mouldering?

      • Ben McNevis

        Thank you Samuel. You will get very little sympathy from the self righteous ogres who have posted below. The Spectacle appears to attract a hang ’em flog ’em clientèle who view the world through Daily Mail tinted glasses.

        • ajcb

          My own grandfather was a dole-scrounger, allowed in the UK not to work because of his “bad back.” He immigrated to the US, was told his back was fine, went to work and enjoyed a better standard of living than he’d ever had. His “bad back” was his version of class warfare (“If the toffs don’t have to work, neither shall I….”) but it was entirely self-defeating.
          You are the one denying people a full life, so who’s the “self-righteous ogre”?

          • Ben McNevis

            You have a blinkered perspective.

          • ajcb

            I have an open-eyed, historically-informed perspective. You seem to have a fingers-in-the-ears, na-na-na-na-na perspective.

          • Ben McNevis

            You may be able to fool yourself, but………………

          • MountainousIpswich

            Oh wake up. Just because you have an opinion does not make it correct.

          • Dogsnob

            It would help your case perhaps if you were to engage with other people and their point of view, rather than dishing out school ma’am reprimand from your obviously lofty height.

          • Andrew Smith

            I haven’t seen your counter-argument yet.

      • Samuel Miller

        The UK government appears to have become the first country to face a high-level inquiry by a United Nations committee, as a result of “grave or systemic violations” of the rights of disabled people.

        The committee has the power to launch an inquiry if it receives “reliable information” that such violations have been committed by a country signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and its optional protocol.

        These investigations are conducted “confidentially”, so the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – which is carrying out the inquiry – has refused to confirm or deny that the UK is being investigated.

        But a recording has emerged of a former CRPD member revealing that the inquiry has been launched.

        Professor Gabor Gombos, co-founder of Voice of Soul, Hungary’s first organisation for ex-users and survivors of mental health institutions, and co-chair of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, tells the audience on the recording that CRPD has “started its first inquiry procedure against the
        United Kingdom”.

        He tells the Sixth International Disability Law Summer School at the National University of Ireland in Galway in June that inquiries are only used where there are suspicions of “grave” violations of human rights in a country.

        He says: “Where the issue has been raised and the government did not really make effective actions to fix the situation… it is a very high threshold thing; the violations should really be grave and very systemic.”

        Only last month, a new report, Dignity and Opportunity for All: Securing the Rights of Disabled People in the Austerity Era,
        laid bare the coalition’s failure to meet its international human
        rights obligations under both UNCRPD and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

        That report – published by the Just Fair coalition,
        which includes Disabled People Against Cuts and Inclusion London – suggested that the UK had gone from being an international leader in disability rights to risking becoming a “systematic violator of these same rights”.

        Last week, Disability News Service (DNS) reported that CRPD appeared to have postponed its public examination of how the UK has been implementing the disability convention until after next year’s general election.

        Some activists were unhappy that the committee’s decision to postpone the examination would allow the UK government to avoid having to justify a clear regression in disability rights since the 2010 election.

        But it now appears that the committee may have taken this decision because it had launched the much more serious – and so far unprecedented – inquiry into the UK’s violation of disabled people’s rights.

        A DPAC spokeswoman said: “DPAC is not in a position to comment on the UN inquiry on the UK’s breaches of the UNCRPD, but we would share the view that there have been grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights especially, but not exclusively, articles 19 [on living independently and being included in the community]and 28 [on providing an adequate standard of living and social protection].”

        Jorge Araya, CRPD’s secretary, told DNS in a statement: “Inquiry proceedings regulated in article six and seven [which relate to the inquiry procedure]of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, are confidential.

        “So, for this very reason, stated in this treaty, I apologise but I cannot respond to your queries.”

        So far, the Conservative minister for disabled people, Mark Harper, has failed to comment on the CRPD inquiry.

        —From Disability News Service 14 August 2014

    • MountainousIpswich

      What goddamn right do you have to inaccurately spy on us with the purpose of discrediting this country?

      I am both sick (diabetes) and disabled (ASD) and I have spent time on the dole. I most certainly have not asked for your involvement and do not welcome it.

      • Samuel Miller

        You’re furious because I’ve struck a nerve and exposed Britain as a human rights violator. Most sick and disabled Britons have welcomed my involvement in their welfare crisis.

        • Dogsnob

          Nice work Sam. Any chance you could donate some of your hard-earned cash to help pay for the army of system-milkers who – thanks to crusaders like you – help themselves to getting paid for not doing anything?

        • MountainousIpswich

          I’m furious because you have zero right to interfere in the goings on of another country of which you have zero first hand experience, knowledge or understanding.

          If you want to report us to the UN, you have a right to do so if and when you move here as a resident, take up citizenship and do so first hand.

          France has a goddamn awful record on their banlieues, I don’t have the temerity to report them to the UN about it. French problems are French problems. Our problems are for us to deal with in our democratic choices. We chose this democratic government, we will choose the next democratic government. You have no say on this but are attempting to take control of this process by reporting on us from abroad. That is a direct attack on our democratic rights.

          P*ss off.

        • artemis in france

          Some job you’ve got. Do you do anything except read the comments columns in British papiers? You’ve been commenting on her for two days. Get a life and stop interfering in other countries’ business.

        • Phil Begley

          Can you tell me as to how many Aboriginal Canadians are in your government? Or own multi million dollar companies, live in affluent areas. As a English gent, who happens to be disabled, I’m not afraid to be assessed, in fact I have been by Atos. Found the experience was done in professional manner by a GP who looked at my list of ailments, then decided I was best served as possibly returning to work in the future. What I don’t need is someone outside my country deciding what is right for me, the UN is one of the most corrupt entities out there, look at Africa, still no better than when UN was formed.

    • zoid

      over-inflated sense of your own worth much?

      the u.n. is a busted flush. a joke of an organisation which makes the eu look democratic…..since its inception it’s achieved virtually nothing, at a high cost to taxpayers around the world.

  • GraveDave

    Research by entitledto.co.uk found that people across the UK are collectively missing out on benefits and tax credits worth more than £8 billion a year. Visit the entitledto.co.uk website too and work out how much you could claim.

    • ajcb

      Whose money is who missing out on? Go to North Korea where the government dependency model is in full swing — it’s great.

      • Ben McNevis

        Or the US where criminality is the alternative to welfare. Ferguson is not erupting in isolation.

        • ajcb

          Ask the Indian convenience store owners if “criminality is the alternative to welfare.”

          And you are incorrect (again: not observant?) in thinking that criminality and welfare are mutually exclusive.

    • Darnell Jackson

      Or look at the sits vacant page and see how much you could earn

      • Ben McNevis

        I managed to get a job with an “equal opportunities” employer. After a few months their head of HR told, while requesting my resignation, that if they had realised I was so disabled they wouldn’t have employed me. Welfare to work is a smokescreen to fool ogres.

        • Darnell Jackson

          I simply don’t believe you

        • Dogsnob

          If this is true, you need to shout name of said head of HR.
          You won’t though will you, for a very good reason.

        • William_Brown

          This story is about as credible as your name.

  • Damaris Tighe

    Depression is over-diagnosed by professionals who haven’t a clue what depression really is. I’ve worked with genuinely depressed people. It’s far more than just feeling down or sad. Their minds don’t function – they’re blank. They can barely put one foot in front of another. One depressed client described the feeling as ‘falling into a black hole’. Yet someone like White Dee is supposed to have been depressed whilst participating in a reality show, trolling off to Ibiza & drawing benefits. What’s more, doctors dole out antidepressants for sleeping disorders. It’s an insult to genuinely depressed people who really aren’t able to work.

    • Varoufake

      We must support the vulnerable in our society by cutting benefits. Sheer terror will stick it up them for the tidy streets of North and Middle England will be bright and prosperous once again.

  • Samuel Miller

    Are your readers unaware that the British government’s
    draconian welfare policies are driving sick and disabled Britons to the brink of
    suicide—and beyond?

    Please see http://twishort.com/0x9gc, which is a harrowing
    and partial list of welfare-related deaths that have been publicized in the
    British media. Also of interest are some of my blog pieces: http://mydisabilitystudiesblackboard.blogspot.ca/2015/03/benefit-sanctions-are-jeopardizing.html;
    My Disability Studies Blackboard: Pushed Over The edge By Benefits Fear http://mydisabilitystudiesblackboard.blogspot.ca/2013/03/pushed-over-edge-by-benefits-fear.html;
    and, My Disability Studies Blackboard: Sam, things are dire http://mydisabilitystudiesblackboard.

    In addition to the above, I would like to bring
    to your attention the latest welfare deaths in the U.K. newspapers last week: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/father-killed-himself-after-benefits-5288462
    and http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/northampton-woman-39-took-her-own-life-after-constant-battle-to-receive-disability-benefit-1-6615017.

    (Montreal, Canada)

    • Ivan Ewan

      We know it, we’re just wondering how the hell the writer forgot it.

    • notme3

      People die all the time. People who are perfectly healthy can die on the way to the shops, on the way to the dentists, at the end of a marathon. Just because someone died on the way to an assessment or during a placement is not evidence that it is wrong.

    • For God’s sake, Samuel, this is the Spectator, a fairly typical example of the Brits’ right-wing press. Brit right-wingers are some of the stupidest in the known world. They are flesh bags filled with hatred for anyone less well-off with them, and slavish subservience to anyone better off than them, like the serfs that they are.

      • William_Brown

        What a ridiculous, stereotypical picture you paint. Grow up.

  • James

    I agree with this but, it’s not the case for many who are not fit for work and balance needs to be found in the system.

    • MountainousIpswich

      There is no perfect system. Some people unfit for work will always be asked to work, some people will always manage to get hold of a sick note.

      Within these facts, the best option therefore is to fall on the side of work rather than idleness.

      • James

        You clearly don’t know how it works. I work with vulnerable adults who will never be able to work signed by numerous psychiatrists yet it can still take 12-18 months to get a benefit and then ATOS can ignore the advice of the medical professionals, which they’ve done far too often resulting in many deaths.

        • Remind us of the percentage of vulnerable adults unfit for work who suddenly discovered that after all, they COULD do a proper job when taking a fitness test became mandatory?
          Remind us of the affordability of our welfare system?
          Remind us of the size of the Deficit.
          THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH – and the resources required for compassion are not provided by the Tooth Fairy, they are provided by taxpayers. Like me.

          • James

            Remind me how many politicians are on the fiddle.
            Remind me how many scroungers evade tax.
            Remind me why we are wasting money on EU to profit the rich taking money from the vulnerable.


            The percentage of vulnerable adults who ARE fit for work but pretend not to be is approx. 0.1% – usually those who got diagnosed for depression. If you think someone with Schizophrenia or OCD is fit to work, I suggest you are more psychotic than the patients.

          • No.
            Nothing is free.
            What you mean is that someone else pays.
            Those of us with supposed “broad shoulders” are well past being fed up with being treated as milch cows.

          • James

            What you mean is that it’s not free for all.
            Let me know when you have a miracle cure for severe mental health.
            Remind me again, what planet has jobs for everyone?

          • The problems are many and varied.
            No simple answers, no free lunches.
            Breeding control would be a good start, followed by an end to Left Wing pork barrel politics, and the institutional waste of someone else’s money.

          • James

            When I lived in Germany under a conservative government, society worked because, social programs supported the most vulnerable with systems that worked not persecuting people. I agree with your point on breeding – an immigrant comes here, doesn’t want to work and has five kids. Adam Chaudry, terrorist preacher gets £25k benefits – someone with mental health who will never be able to work will get approx. £5k, which is not right.

          • Hmmm.
            I actually meant the sheer numbers issue of the planet, and ourselves in microcosm as an exemplar.
            However, you make a good point.

          • westerby1

            Fitness tests have always been mandatory to receive Incapacity Benefit. Many people were found fit for work by way of an Atos assessment, followed by a DWP decision maker’s (NOT medically qualified) endorsement of the Atos opinion, BUT, many of these decisions were overturned, in the claimants favour, at Tribunal. As regards your question as to how many decided they could work after all rather than have an assessment, I have no idea! Have you?

            You are probably not aware that approx 76% of the total welfare bill is spent on pensioners, with 50% being spent on the state pension alone. (I do not begrudge pensioners!) Because people are living longer, it is benefits to pensioners that are pushing the welfare bill higher and higher, year after year. I am glad you pointed out that the tooth fairy does not provide the money, after all these years, I am finally “put straight” about that! I bet the Easter bunny never puts his hand in his pocket either, does he? Sarcasm aside, many people on benefits will have paid tax when they were working (yes, staggering, I know!!) Perhaps some, who are now sick/disabled, will have paid more, and for longer, than you! Just imagine!

            The defecit is made up of much, much more than welfare payments! Thought a clever person such as yourself would have already known that!? Also, perhaps if certain individuals, and companies, paid their due tax we would not be running a defecit, ever thought of that? Or are you OK with tax dodging?

            Finally, somewhere in the dark corridors of my mind, I can hear “what about bailing out the banks?” I wonder what that’s all about? Any idea?

          • Yep.
            You’re right.
            I did know all that.
            I do have more than an idea of the number of the thousands of incapacity claimants who suddenly became fit for work once the benefit faucet was slightly restricted. Amazing!
            The outstanding tax to which you refer would not even come close to meeting the vast Labour deficit, let alone the resultantly increasing debt. If you wished to know more about the ‘uncollected’ tax, I suggest you write to HMRC, they are the people who took a view on the supposed offenders, not any politicians. This differs from the regulatory incompetence of the Labour Government who managed to bankrupt us again.
            I’d also refer you to the bailout of the banks, I bet Victor Blank has a view on who encouraged his stupidity – probably the same person who en-nobled Fred Goodwin for ‘Services to Banking’.
            Finally, delighted to see that you don’t begrudge pensioners. Actually, I suppose there is very little fraud in pensions payment, not least because it’s tricky ‘proving’ that you qualify if you are not old enough. Shame the principle doesn’t apply as easily to incapacity claimants.
            (But we’re getting there!)
            However, given where we are in the Labour economic mess, personally I think we’re all in this together, and I would think it entirely reasonable that better off taxpayers should, thanks entirely to Labour, have to surrender part of their pension.
            (And child benefit / winter fuel allowance, bus passes etc)
            If, for example, you paid the 45p rate in retirement, then perhaps you should accept that you probably do not need a state pension, and have to forego that benefit.
            There will not, however, be many ‘well off’ pensioners, due again (bit of a theme here) to the last Labour Government and their wilful destruction of the private pensions industry. Unfortunately, it is also one of those things that will be very difficult to push through, due to lack of voter apathy.
            Make no mistake, free spending benevolent ‘money tree’ philanthropic statism is a thing of the past – you don’t even hear Labour suggesting they would repeal a single Coalition initiative (possible exception of the Spare Room Subsidy).
            Deal with it.

  • Emily Barley

    That’s always the trouble. Work capability assessments are frequently inadequate and cause harm to genuinely ill people. But ‘trust the doctors’ isn’t an answer, either. There are great GPs, but there are also really crap ones – either through disinterest or actual incompetence (or both).

    On balance, I think work capability assessment are a better tool, but they need serious work. There are some black and white areas with ill health and ESA that mean the system should rely on doctors for some things. For example, a family member was called in for assessment following a radical hysterectomy: the recovery times for this are well-established, and the assessment was useless (finding her fit to work 3 weeks post-op).

    There are also challenges for chronic & complex illnesses that have good days and bad days. I have Crohn’s disease and do work. But some people with a condition like mine could not, and the assessment may not understand that if it catches them on their 1 good day in 14, or doesn’t ask the right questions.

    My dearest wish is that all of these disability advocates would accept the principles of fitness to work assessments and work on improving the processes and assessment to improve how they deal with harder cases.

  • John 8:37 – John 8:44

    A brief introduction to the types of tactics that the Obama regime is using in its war against the 2nd Amendment: http://youtu.be/pBhCXnZy_wQ

  • JohnCrichton89

    I must admit the ATOS 30 minute medical assessments are somewhat of a medical breakthrough, the number of people I have seen go in to one with severe mental illnesses and walk out with a clean bill of health is truly amazing………… there is no back to work effort needed apparently, or social integration process for people who have been housebound 5 days a week for decades.

    One 30 minute ATOS medical and and quick pat on the back and these people are ready for the working world.

    Any good this system has done is unquantifiable (and minimal I would think), the harm is quite measurable though. And it cannot be excused.

  • At least you are honest enough to state: “I am very aware that I am privileged”.

  • remitable1

    In my 62 years on this planet I have never heard such rubbish, apart from 2 years when I was made redundant I have worked all my life and still am. Never mind the media , I have witnessed friends at their wits end because of this private company. Not a clue, not a bloody clue.