The news that private contractors (Atos IT Services UK Ltd and Capita Business Services Ltd) will operate another multi-million pound government contract to assess people for disability benefits could be seen as another bitter blow for sick and disabled people.
Having already been the subject of intense controversy earlier this week over the way it operates "fitness to work" tests, it is hugely concerning to see that Atos has been given the green light for the Personal Independence Payment contract.
Assessments carried out by Atos have led to many people being forced to appeal against decisions that are plainly wrong. How can someone with Parkinson's – a progressive neurological condition – have an assessment report that implies they will be ready for work again in six, 12 or 18 months? This is nothing short of insulting and a waste of taxpayer's money.
Personal Independence Payment (the benefit that will replace Disability Living Allowance from April 2013) will be subject to a similar exercise, which the Government estimates will make half a million fewer disabled people eligible for help.
Now they have the contract we strongly urge Atos and Capita to commit to the Disability Benefits Consortium's pledge to operate these tests fairly, openly, accountably and with respect for disabled people. Without this, people with Parkinson's will face an even more uncertain future.
Chief Executive, Parkinson's UK, London SW1
Jo Rust (Letters, 1 August) is correct in suggesting that it is hypocrisy to put people out of jobs and then pillory them for being lazy, feckless scroungers. In the case of the Remploy workers, as I discovered when going to support them on 26 July, it is much, much worse.
Not only have they been generating significant profits, working for large companies on items such as medical devices, which require absolute accuracy, but many have been doing so for decades. If there are subsidies, it would appear these all go home in the pockets of senior executives. But again, this isn't the worst of it. Such is the level of mutual support among the most diverse workforce possible, that many regard their colleagues as an extended family; for some, their only family. They don't live next door to each other, but scattered over many many miles. So for those living alone, when their job goes, they will have absolutely no one to support them and nothing to do or look forward to.
As a disabled person myself, I have listened to government cant about projects to help disabled people into jobs since – forever – and it has never been more than words, which hapless and barely trained DWP staff have failed to turn into reality. Add to that the utter cruelty of the Work Capability Assessments exposed by Dispatches and Panorama this week and the inhumanity underlying the Government's obsession with pleasing wealthy corporations is laid bare for all to see.
Library closures impoverish our communities
So libraries are once again the soft targets in the name of public spending cuts (front page, 31 July).
While Worcestershire County Council has been proudly promoting its new £60m facility "The Hive", opened by the Queen in July and offering expanded services for users, several grassroots local libraries are under threat of closure. These are not just local collections, but gateways to the catalogue of the entire county.
To assess viability, the usage of these libraries has been monitored in terms of loans and PC/internet sessions, but at the same time opening hours have been cut. My library first reduced, then removed completely, its midweek evening opening, before reducing its daily hours further. One can only guess what effect this may have had on usage, particularly by those of us who are at work during the week. Any reduction will no doubt justify the inevitable closures.
Although we live in an increasingly online age, the loss of knowledge, assistance and direction from our trained librarians for study or leisure cannot be replaced and communities will be poorer until these cuts are reversed.
Your front-page article fails to mention the London borough of Lewisham. Lewisham has so far spent in the region of £300k closing one single library in Blackheath Village. To date, some £200k has been donated to a local charity to help it convert a cramped, windowless basement into a so-called community library. A further grant of £30k was awarded through the Lewisham Mayor's Fund and around £50k of ratepayers' money was spent maintaining the original library building until it was eventually sublet. That Blackheath's new library is not even in Lewisham borough – it's actually located in Greenwich – makes the spending situation even more bizarre.
The result of all this? Book issues are down by over 90 per cent and could dwindle away altogether. How then will Lewisham justify this scandalous waste of public money?
Boris has all the right qualities
Andrew Preston (Letters, 2 August) agrees with Steve Richards that Boris Johnson will never lead the Conservative Party. For reasons, he accuses Boris of being "crass, ignorant, and at root unconcerned about the lives of others". But surely these are the very attributes one needs for this job?
A gold medal to Christina Patterson for her piece "Sometimes the price of success is just too high" (31 July) for hitting the nail right on the head. But only if she wants it.
Claire Soares (Opinion, 31 July), mentions an infant boy miscounting. Some time ago I challenged the seven-year-old daughter of a friend to show me how well she could count. She started: "One, two, three" and so on correctly until she arrived at "nine, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace."