Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The inhuman crimes of Atos Origin and the Department of Work and Pensions

It has been disclosed that over 11,000 disabled and chronically sick people in Britain have died after being declared 'fit to work' by the Department of Work and Pensions and Atos Origin, the company contracted to undertake "Work Capability Assessments" of their abilities. To put this into perspective, this is over 26 times the amount of UK military deaths in the war in Afghanistan.  

These schemes are justified by the idea that disabled people should be forced into work by whatever means possible. In a twisted irony, Remploy, an organization providing means for disabled people willing and able to work in certain capacities, has had large amounts of its funding cut by the same government abusing the disabled community as workshy welfare dependents. Of course, most disabled and severely sick people are unable to work, and would not be given a job by any responsible employer. 55% of them, after having their vital welfare withdrawn by the government, are jobless and without any income. A breast cancer survivor, with clinical depression and muscle pain caused by her chemotherapy, considers that her life "isn't worth living" after the withdrawal of her Disability Living Allowance has left her impoverished and unable to provide for her children.

These Atos "assessments" are claimed to be a reasonable basis on whether to deny or allow claimants of Disability Living Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and Employment Support Allowance welfare payments. They have been roundly condemned by the British Medical Association, who view them as medically harmful to those subjected to them, and without any scientific medical basis. Atos are known to systematically drive their pseudoscientific "points" system on the ability of those subjected to their tests with extremely contrived and unaccountable flexibility. According to former Atos 'nurse' Joyce Drummond, she was demanded by the company to take advantage of as many methods as possible for claimants to fail the points test, and resigned in her refusal to do so. She was also discouraged for being "too nice" to the disabled and sick people supposedly in her care. Atos appear to prefer to subject the assessed to intimidation, humiliation and abuse. A person disabled by severe sciatica was forced to "crawl on the floor in tears" in agony, by a "doctor" who refused them any aid, and any points in their assessment, so therefore any disability welfare payments. Another with multiple sclerosis expressed concern over "becoming just another boring statistic in the mounting death toll.”

It is subjective to consider how the 11,000 who died after having their benefit payments withdrawn may have joined this 'mounting death toll'. Some may have been effected enough by the consequences of deprivation and distress, and others will have killed themselves. Colin Traynor (aged 29), with severe epilepsy, died after a seizure assumed by his family to have been the result of his welfare payment being cut by £70 a week. Karen Sherlock (aged 44), with many illnesses caused by inherited diabetes and resulting in her needing to undergo regular dialysis, died of a cardiac arrest after being forced into a "Work Related Activity" under the threat of losing her entire Incapacity Benefit, the stress of which presumably overwhelmed and distracted her from recovery. In the 10,998 other cases, there will be a multitude of untold stories even sadder and more sickening than these.

The routine excuse given by Atos on such cases is that they "do not make decisions on people's benefit entitlement or on welfare policy". Though this seems to have contrived in the spirit of Adolf Eichmann's statements as the Nuremberg Trials, it is nevertheless true that the Department of Work and Pensions under Ian Duncan Smith is the main source of responsibility for them. Atos are in their conduct, afterall, only following orders.

I believe that the institutionally-driven violence against disabled people, and the sentiments justifying it in the tabloid newspapers that are just as racist and chauvinistic as they are disablist, can be described as fascist without reservation. This is beyond hyperbole or Godwin's Law. It is an accurate way of defining the scapegoating and cold cruelty inflicted against vulnerable people, whose existences are viewed as futile and warranting of ritual derision. This is evident in the explosion of disability hate crimes which appear to be relative to government policy and enthusiastic mass media agitation against the "benefit scrounging" disabled community.  

Article 25.1 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the foundation of international standards for basic civil and human rights which any supposedly morally decent society is obliged to adhere, reads the following: 

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his [or her] family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his [or her] control."

There is no doubt in my mind that the way in which the United Kingdom government's welfare policies treat disabled and incapacitated people violates international United Nations standards of basic human rights.

PCS union leader Mark Serwotka argues that "A society that refuses to support its most vulnerable has lost the right to be called civilised". I would agree, and say that a Britain complacent to the systematic manslaughter of those vulnerable people has ceded that right completely. Though this will hopefully be regarded infamously in history, and eventually atoned for as it should be, it makes no difference to the hardest hit, suffering and dying at this very moment. Their situation warrants any feasible action by those they need to defend them.

No comments:

Post a Comment