Atos told incontinent woman to 'wear nappy': Firm condemned by MPs for pressuring sick and disabled into returning to work

 

Thousands of sick or disabled people have died after undergoing assessments to find out whether they were fit to work, the House of Commons was told today.

Atos, the firm contracted to conduct work capability assessment (WCA) tests for the Government, was condemned by MPs for “ruthlessly” pressurising sick and disabled people into returning to their jobs.

The debate was told of cases of people who had committed suicide after being stripped of their benefits under the process and of an incontinence sufferer who was told she could return to work wearing a nappy.

Former Labour minister Michael Meacher opened the debate saying that 1,300 people had died after being placed in the “work-related activity group”, for those currently too ill to be employed but expected to start preparing for an eventual return to work.

A further 2,200 died before the assessment process was completed and 7,100 died after being judged to be entitled to unconditional support because they are too ill or disabled to work.

Mr Meacher asked: “Is it reasonable to pressurise seriously disabled persons into work so ruthlessly when there are already 2.5 million people unemployed and, on average, eight persons chasing every vacancy, unless they are also provided with the active and extensive support they obviously need in order to get and to hold down work, which is certainly not the case at present?”

Labour’s Iain Wright, MP for Hartlepool, told MPs that one of his constituents, a woman who suffered from Crohn’s disease, had been told she could wear a nappy to work. “What sort of country have we become, what sort of ethical values does the Government have, if that’s the degrading and crass way in which decent law abiding constituents of mine are being dealt with?” he said.

“All the evidence that I have in my constituency demonstrates that the system is not working and the most vulnerable and ill constituents in Hartlepool are paying the price. The Government is treating my constituents like dirt, it needs to change.”

Shadow Employment minister Stephen Timms said there was no doubt the current arrangements were causing “immense problems and immense anxiety”. He added: “We shouldn’t be allowing this to continue, the system does need fast and fundamental reform.”

Kevan Jones, a former Labour minister, said suicides of claimants who were found fit to work by Atos had been reported. “There are...a number of well-publicised cases where people have taken their own lives because of this system,” he said. “It is not too strong to say that this Coalition Government has blood on their hands for the deaths of those individuals.”

A spokeswoman for Atos Healthcare said: “We know that this can be a difficult process for people and we do all we can to make sure the service we provide is as professional and compassionate as possible. We have been doing this work...for over a decade and our doctors, nurses and physiotherapists are fully trained and experienced, with many coming directly from the NHS.”

Victory in vain: Cancer patient’s fight

Cecilia Burns, 51, from Northern Ireland died last summer shortly after winning her campaign to get her benefits reinstated.

Ms Burns, who was being treated for breast cancer, had her benefits cut by £30 a week after an assessment by Atos. She started a campaign to have the decision overturned but died shortly after the money was reinstated.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
music
Sport
Dave Mackay lifts the FA Cup in 1967 having skippered Spurs to victory
football
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Arts and Entertainment
As depicted in Disney's Robin Hood, King John was cowardly, cruel, avaricious and incompetent
film
Life and Style
Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber, is now worth $5.3bn
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Services Executive - Enfield, North London

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Client Services Executive - Enfield, North London ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn