Panorama’s ‘great disability scam’ – companies get fat while the disabled are punished

Panorama tonight (BBC1, 8.30pm) looks into 'The Great Disability Scam' - the fortune being made by private companies, paid by the government to get disabled people off the benefit books - and failing.

Panorama tonight (BBC1, 8.30pm) looks into ‘The Great Disability Scam’ – the fortune being made by private companies, paid by the government to get disabled people off the benefit books – and failing.

The BBC appears to have woken up and realised what people on the ground have been saying for more than a year: Government welfare policy is to starve the disabled while the companies they pay to judge them get fat on undeserved profits.

Tonight’s Panorama (BBC1, 8.30pm) “reveals the private companies who are getting rich from the new reforms despite only being able to get a small fraction of disabled people back to work”. Great! About time. I hope it does a good job.

The wording of the promotional page on the BBC website worries me, though. It starts: “Only half of all people with a disability are in work.” To me, that suggests a judgement – that the rest of the disabled are somehow shirking a responsibility to get into work.

The next sentence compounds my fear: “Panorama investigates if one of the government’s most ambitious welfare reforms, costing billions of pounds, can solve the problem of disability unemployment.” Is there a problem? How many disabled people can be, usefully, employed? Not as many as the government’s assessors, Atos, seem to be saying – look at the thousands of people who have died from the strain of having been found fit for work (with the accompanying lack of funds, stress of the appeals process, and increased burden on their physical condition that these cause).

But Atos is making money hand over fist. So are the ‘work placement provider’ companies that are supposed to “help” disabled people back into work. But we know from figures released last year that their success rate is worse than if the government had done nothing. The cynic in me wants to ask, is this because their clients keep dying from the conditions they’ve been told they don’t have and that these companies are therefore ignoring?

There’s a ray of hope that the programme is on the right track, because reporter Sam Poling “speaks to the charities who feel the most vulnerable in our society are being failed”. It will be very interesting to hear what they have to say.

I suspect the message will be very similar to that of the WOW petition, currently online at the government’s e-petitions website.

WOW (it stands for the resistance to the War On Welfare) calls for:

  • A Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.
  • An immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association.
  • Consultation between the Departments of Health and Education to improve support into work for sick and disabled people, and an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.
  • An Independent, Committee-Based Inquiry into Welfare Reform, covering but not limited to: (1) Care home admission rises, daycare centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, universal mental health treatments, Remploy closures; (2) DWP media links, the ATOS contract, IT implementation of Universal Credit; (3) Human rights abuses against disabled people, excess claimant deaths & the disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS, DWP & the Tribunal Service.

You can sign it on

As you can see, WOW isn’t asking for the earth; it just wants the current situation to be reconsidered. When 73 people per week are dying because of the current system (at last count, which was sometime last year and may therefore be understating the problem), something is seriously wrong. Obviously.

I’d like to urge all my readers to watch the programme, then make your opinions known and share the link to the petition. The BBC Panorama blog is at and you can sign up to comment on it here:

Also you could sign up to The Guardian’s website:

And the Independent site, where you sign up when you add your first comment to a piece:

The government, and the companies who are profiting from this multi-billion pound business, want people to forget about what’s happening and go back to sleep. That can only happen if you let it.

My feeling is that you won’t.

23 thoughts on “Panorama’s ‘great disability scam’ – companies get fat while the disabled are punished

    1. Distressed and worried by Evil

      Just seen it…..upset but not shocked…This bunch of cruel idiots in our so called government can be likened to what Hitler did to anyone that wasn,t quite perfect….I live for the downfall of these callous B——s..I live for the headline..POLICE ARREST CAMERON,, IDS.OSBORNE,MILLER HUNT FOR INCITE TO KILL…Good job they,re building new prisons we,ve going to need them with this lot…

      1. william hawkins

        Eugenics for money to be transferred to the rich, what is spent on the disability benefits budget for the next twenty years, and the national debt cleared and possibly becoming the wealthiest country in the western world overnight, could be achieved by recovering the £128 trillion in tax avoidance by the rich if it were recovered, But the whole issue of these cuts is not reducing economic debt but about using it as a smokescreen to make buisiness opportunities for camerons rich friends in asset stripping the welfare state. WCA

  1. Ian Jd Andrews

    I’m with you on this one … I’m cynical about the Beebs intentions with this programme but hopefull that maybe just maybe SOME of the truth will creep in and wake people up ….

  2. Another Angry Voice

    Great article (as usual) but I feel it could benefit from a mention of the huge scale of Atos profits. This Daily Record article is worth a look.

    Atos predicting a £40million+ profit on a single contract, whilst the cost of appeals for their dodgy decisions to date has been estimated at over £50 million, which of course is borne by the taxpayer.

    Atos get rich, the disabled suffer, and the taxpayer pays the cost of all of the appeals due to the dodgy assessment process.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I agree completely. Apologies for the omission – I’m literally about to step out the door to take Mrs Mike to her carpal tunner operation and was writing the article in haste, to get it out in good time before the programme as I don’t know what time I’ll be back.

  3. Steven Goodman

    The problem with ATOS is its a cut-throat international corporation who are doing everything to enable their receipt of additional payments offered for getting an individual back into the work market. Unfortunately these premiums mean that ATOS will declare anyone and everyone fit for the workplace. The fact there are no jobs is irrelevant to the government. Atos by their very application saves the government money that by rights belongs to the disabled. It is legalized robbery.

    I for one feel that the incentive bonuses is what drives ATOS into making outlandish decisions. Profit is their only drive. I also believe that £100,000,000 for the contract to adminster medicals, is sufficent payment for the lousy service they provide.

    Why should they get a £13-14,000 per person bonus? they certainly don’t deserve it!
    that’s enough money to finance disability benefits for around 2 to 2 and a half years for the individual.

    Also worthy of note is the money saved by reducing benefits just about covers the cost of the 5% tax relief for all rich people!

  4. Josefiend

    “My feeling is that you won’t” – that’s a really poor and cynical end to your post. One of the reasons I won’t is because I’ve already registered with 2 of them and am unsubscribing from your daily blogrant. Thanks for the entertainment while it lasted and for the heads-up on tonight’s Panorama.

    1. Hrothgir Ó Dómhnaill

      I don’t see what the offence is about.
      “The government, and the companies who are profiting from this multi-billion pound business, want people to forget about what’s happening and go back to sleep. That can only happen if you let it.

      My feeling is that you won’t.”
      No, I won’t let people forget, to the best of my abilities, and neither will many of the readers of this blog.
      Seems that you’ve either got the wrong end of the stick, or you’re trolling.

  5. Joan

    I’m not at all sure what you object to in Mike’s last statement. He is saying that he doesn’t believe people will forget this blatent robbery and that they WILL try and do something to stop this government. Apologies, Mike, if I’ve read you wrong. I will certainly watch this and see if it changes my ever-decreasing regard for the BBC.

  6. rainbowwarriorlizzie

    Blessings Mike and Mrs Mike, we pray all goes well with Mrs Mike’s operation today, we have set prayer support in place for you both. God Bless. thank you getting this article written in time for programe this eve. We looking forward to watch. Will get back laters n feedback. Take care of you and Mrs Mike, kind regards and warmest huggs to you both. Blessings, Prayers n Huggggs Rainbow Warrior Lizzie n Josh 🙂 xx

  7. teddymcnabb

    As a disabled, council sheltered housing resident, i have no hesitation in condemning this nasty ConDem Government just as i have no hesitation in condemning the nasty Labour government, hence i wont be accused of politically biased / motivated. [ a nasty hypocrite] In 2003 the labour government under Prescott and our ex-mp Sally keeble, removed the ring fencing of our resident wardens, affecting almost 1m vulnerable, elderly, sick & disabled, the horrors of that continue today and the same tragedies, dirty tricks, farcial assessments, residents being found dead days weeks later etc as the disabled today, we too have had a whitehall debate, [ all talk] and panorama “Gimme Shelter”. In 2003 there was NO Austerity now will those who are genuinely concerned about the vulnerable as opposed to those who use them as political pawns always include ALL the Nasties!

  8. Distressed and worried by Evil

    i doubt very much panorama will do anything to help the disabled..Just like the people watching it…they won,t do anything either..while more and more disabled people are being murdered by this evil government……They are also very cleverly hiding all these deaths from the media…either that or the media has been gagged and paid off? BECAUSE I CAN,T GET MY HEAD AROUND IT THAT NO ONE IS HELPING TO TRY AND STOP THIS CLEANSING OF DISABLED PEOPLE…

  9. Distressed and worried by Evil

    Actually, re…deaths of disabled /ill people since welfare reforms/wct /atos etc.Can someone please explain to me WHY! its not on the front pages of all national papers? on every news report? on question time? can the government stop the media from reporting these deaths? And why are the police not investigating ? can the government stop them too?

  10. nick pearce

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention I will certainly watch it with interest. It is of course a very important and serious issue and as such it is important that it is treated with a vigorously critical approach and with great care to present the facts accurately. I am therefore anxious about claims of thousands of people dying from the stress of these assesments. Where does this info come from? Also to clump all welfare to work providers involved in the work program as private companies getting rich on other peoples misery is a misinterprietation. Due to its payment structure it is a very tough contract to deliver on. Many private companies are pulling out because of the lack of profit. Other providers including charities are struggling passionatly to help people back into work.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Official figures last year put the number of deaths at an average of 73 per week. Those are government figures. The total quoted at the time was 10,600 but that was several months ago and may have increased considerably.
      I don’t think it’s helpful to comment on your observations about the work provider companies until after we’ve all seen what the programme has to say, but thanks for providing an alternative perspective!

  11. Patrick Bateman

    You’ve got to be kidding. How in God’s name are people being pushed into their graves in order to save money. This is supposed to be a civilised nation. If our government stopped worrying about poking their noses into the affairs of countries where they’ve no business being and got a grip of immigration, we would have the money to support the needy and vulnerable without making them feel like criminals. I think it’s a total disgrace.

  12. Silver

    I would be interested to see in future,if any of these Ministers,end up on the boards of these companies.

    We need to separate Politicians from Lobbyists,and from taking advantage of there positions in respect of future employment.

    I remember the call for MP,s wages to be made more attractive to get more professionals,business people into Parliament.

    It clearly has not worked,the Professional Parliamentarians are milking the system.Its time we went back to when people went into parliament,it was a vocation,calling if you like,to assist their constituents,but now its all about getting their nose in the trough.And that applies to MP,s of all political persuasion.

    We don’t want Millionaires running the country,how on earth can they have empathy and understanding of ordinary people.

  13. Joan

    I watched this last night and, although it was referred to as a BBC Scotland program called Parking the Disabled, it was in fact exactly the same as the Panorama shown down south.

    I felt that, although they questioned whether the Work Programme was working, there was still no real criticism of the government, who know it’s working just as they want it to. The only critisism was of the private companies profits and cherry-picking of “clients”.

    I doubt if this sort of coverage will sway a single voter.

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