Disabled woman took on welfare system – and won

A housebound disabled woman has scored a victory over welfare assessor Atos – using the power of the internet to force it to change its practices.

Anyone wanting to claim Employment Support Allowance (ESA) must have a disability assessment carried out by Atos, a private firm, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Jayne Linney, 50, wanted her assessments with the firm to be recorded after what she called "basic errors" were made by Atos staff in previous meetings, which could have affected her entitlement to benefits. Other disability claimants have also complained their payments were cut after Atos assessors misreported their answers to show they were capable of work.

After repeatedly being told all Atos' tape recorders were broken, Miss Linney, from Leicester, set up a petition on campaign website Change.org. The former community development worker also wrote a blog documenting her "saga" with Atos, and used Facebook and Twitter to gather support.

After she amassed 1,000 signatures on her petition, Atos finally backed down and agreed to record her assessment. Ms Linney, who suffers from fibromyalgia and Sjögren's syndrome, began to claim ESA after she was forced to leave her job in January 2010.

"I'm amazed at the response," she said. "It's the comments [on the blog] that keep you going. To know that people agree with me, it's amazing. Because I'm housebound an online campaign was the only option for me. "

Atos has apologised on its website for not providing the equipment to record the meetings quickly enough.

A spokesman said: "Atos Healthcare are happy for work capability assessments to be recorded where requested... However, under the terms of our contract with the department, we cannot postpone an assessment on the basis of audio-recording."

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