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DAILY MIRROR’S KEVIN MAGUIRE COLUMN ~ ‘And the gold medal for hypocrisy goes to… David Cameron’!

Atos ­sponsoring the Paralympics when its benefit tests are a sick joke is an insult to disabled people

By Kevin Maguire

28 Aug 2012 00:00 7 Comments

Heroes: Tommie Smith and John Carlos with raised fist salutes

Is it too much to hope that a British medal winner emulates American heroes Tommie Smith and John Carlos with a raised fist salute at the London 2012 Paralympic Games? Probably.

The black power salute of the US athletes in Mexico 44 years ago was a magnificent stand against human rights abuses, a protest against poverty and the abuse of black Americans as second-class citizens.

Here in Britain the David Cameron who will quite rightly hail Paralympian champions is also the David Cameron who makes disabled people the fall guys for his failed agenda of austerity ­recession economics.

If hypocrisy was a London 2012 sport, the Prime Minister would win gold.

People are dying after being passed fit to work in a benefit crackdown that stigmatises the ill and disabled.

Alice Maynard, chair of the charity Scope, tells of people shouting “scrounger” at disabled people in the street.

The abuse is getting worse, with two-thirds telling the group they’ve endured taunts, hostility or outright aggression.

Only about 0.5% of ­disability living allowance claims are found to be fraudulent when checked.

More in benefits is unclaimed than cheated.

The rich avoid paying far more in tax than is wrongly paid in welfare, yet the “scrounger” rhetoric against claimants creates a poisonous ­atmosphere.

Maynard revealed that one man who could hardly stand was shopped by one of his neighbours to a fraud hotline.

Something has gone badly wrong when people see somebody disabled and, instead of asking if they can help, wonder if they’re on the fiddle.

The Government’s war on the ­disability living allowance will deprive 90,000 citizens of their freedom to get to work and out and about.

French welfare attack dog Atos ­sponsoring the Paralympics when its benefit tests are a sick joke is an insult to disabled people.

If he has any shame, Cameron will reflect on what he’s doing then offer a fair deal.

Most athletes would think it ­inappropriate to protest on a podium.

Some, including gold medal-winning swimmer Tara Flood, joined ­demonstrations over the past few days.

Yet even the remotest possibility of a protest will have ministers biting their lips. Good.

Because what the Government is doing to the disabled is cruel, and deserving of the widest condemnation.

An excellent article by Kevin McGuire and he makes a series of very good points. I wonder why it only seems to be the left leaning press that are outraged about this gross injustice. Surely this has more to do with common decency and not simply an issue for left or right.

The contract to use ATOS for assessing claimants for Incapacity Benefits was in fact signed in 2008.

So the principle of reassessing people in the first place, the principle of using a private (profit making) company for these assessments, and the choice of ATOS in particular, are all decisions attributable to Labour, something which the “left leaning” press seems to ignore.

One therefore has to ask why the Labour Government felt it necessary to reassess people in the first pla

However the fact that a significant proportion of appeals are successful indicates that changes need to be made.

Does anyone know who is conducting the appeals, what criteria they are using in these appeals, and are they significantly different from the criteria used by ATOS?

Both ATOS and the people conducting the appeals should use the same criteria, so that the system would be fairer, cheaper and quicker for everyone.

Also I think that the criteria used for assessing claims needs to be published so that people can see in advance how their claim is going to be assessed. How much of the assessments are down to objective measurements of someone abilities, and how much is down to the subjective opinion of a doctor? If more of the assessment can be objective, then it will become fairer, although that is easier said than done as everyone is different.

Referring to the article above, I would like to know what happened to the man who could hardly stand who was reported by his neighbour to the fraud hotline. Presumably there is a procedure for these cases, but being reported to the hotline does not mean your benefits are withdrawn automatically. The person making such an allegation needs to be interviewed and asked to justify and substantiate their allegations. (this should be done WITHOUT the claimant being informed of the allegation, so as to avoid unecessary anxiety)

A lot of this is spite and prejudice in society. The tragic case of Fiona Pilkington, who committed suicide after suffering years of abuse, dates from 2007, so this hasn’t just arisen since the present government has come to power.

Hopefully the Paralympics will present disabled people in a positive light. The momentum this creates should then be used to change people’s attitudes. (ie. get to know your neighbour rather than reporting him/her to the DWP)

Hi DuncanP

To answer a few of your points and clarify them a bit.

  • Does anyone know who is conducting the appeals

It is an independant panel of a judge and a doctor who look at what you are able to do in relation to work activities.

Over 60% of decisions are correctly made. ATOS see more people each day than the Tribunal panel.

  • I think that the criteria used for assessing claims needs to be published

The criteria is published on amongst other places the Direct.gov.uk website

  • Fraud claims - The person making such an allegation needs to be interviewed

They do not need to be interviewed. Anonymous allegations can be made. The dwp undertake many checks including speaking to the claimant and passing the case to a decision maker before any benefit can be stopped.

I hope that this clears a few points up.

Secret4areason

Appeals are judged on the same descriptors, I believe - the panel can simply award you more points for any given descriptor. As we all know, the descriptors are helplessly inadequate so probably even more appeals would be successful if they were fit for purpose.

Going back to the hypocrisy of David Cameron, there’s also this…

Ross Marc Campbell

10:39 AM on 28/8/2012

Here’s a question for you all. Who said this?

“After the recession of 1989 to 1992 we had to raise taxes because the budget deficit reached dangerous proportions. The alternative of slashing spending and cutting benefits would have been inhuman.”