Atos deaths: A letter to Mr… Smith

Atos: Welcome to Hell

Is the Department for Work and Pensions unable to compile data about the number of incapacity benefits claimants (including IB and ESA) who have died because it is underfunded – or understaffed?

That is the main question in Samuel Miller’s latest letter to Iain (Something) Smith, which you can find over at http://mydisabilitystudiesblackboard.blogspot.ca/2013/06/my-latest-letter-to-iain-duncan-smith.html

This blog mentioned a few days ago that LieDS and his department have decided to withhold up-to-date information on the number of deaths involving people going through the assessment process for benefits (via Atos), who have been refused benefit or who are appealing against a decision.

Vox Political has put in a Freedom of Information request, requiring the DWP to produce that information, and we know that many of you have followed that lead.

Mr Miller has been in the fortunate position to write an authoritative inquiry – as the person who made the original request all the way back in (and this will make your eyes water if you don’t know about it already) November last year!

“On November 6, 2012, I wrote to your department regarding the number of Incapacity Benefit claimants who had died that year,” he writes.

“I pointed out that ‘Incapacity Benefits: Death of Recipients (9 July 2012)’ was outdated, as it only provided mortality statistics up to November 2011.”

The letter goes on to detail the DWP’s reticence in responding, until he received a reply on June 24 stating that there is “no intention” of releasing an updated version of the statistics.

Mr Miller’s appraisal of the situation, while polite, goes straight for the jugular, and if I were Iain Pretentious Smith, the Secretary would be in a right State after reading it.

“If your department is too understaffed and underfunded to compile such data, then I fully understand and sympathize,” writes Mr Miller-  in the knowledge that the DWP has thousands upon thousands of employees and spends billions of pounds every year on pointless money-wasting projects like the Work Programme (see recent Vox Political articles for the current state of that road crash).

“However, I must confess that while I have been very patient and reasonable regarding this matter over a period of many months, I am succumbing to the belief that your department is resorting to petty obstructionism — even a full-fledged cover-up — because the mortality of the sick and disabled has become too politicized for the Tories to cope with”.

That’s a crippling blow, right there. Now that the observation has been made, it will be interesting to watch Smith squirm out of answering it. So let’s keep asking him until he does.

“I suspect that there has been a staggering increase in the number of benefit claimant deaths since November 2011.”

This, of course, is the killing blow. We all want the answer to that one. A proper answer. A straight answer.

And we want it now.

… which isn’t soon enough for Mr Miller, whose legendary patience has worn out: “I intend to file a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office unless the transparency of your department improves.”

That is the next step for the Vox FOI request – if there’s no reasonable response (and you’ll read about it, whatever it may be) then the Information Commissioner will be receiving another complaint.

If you believe this cause is just, go thou and do likewise.

13 thoughts on “Atos deaths: A letter to Mr… Smith

  1. voodooshacklady

    So glad that this is being so passionately pursued, thank you 🙂

    I am amused to learn that the original FOI request was made on 6th Nov. In spiritual terms this date is exceedingly close to what I consider to be ‘True Halloween’ – being the point at which the veils between living and dead are at their thinnest (bare with me here!).

    It is my strong belief that there are many thousands of spirits who cannot move on and find peace because of the misery and untimely death which was forced upon them. These victims of the Atos Extermination Programme are, IMHO, demanding to be heard, to be counted, and they are also calling upon us to stop the fking blatant genocide.

    Halloween 2013 I intend to contact the spirits of the victims. I am not a naturally gifted spiritual medium so I need that seasonal boost…

    More info? https://www.facebook.com/pages/Voodoo-La-Revolution/452530914816908

    Thanks xx

  2. Sam Spruce (@samspruce)

    Although it all sounds very civilised and polite I do have some serious concerns. One of the tools in their armoury is time wasting and distraction. The very fact that they are not being responsible in dealing with the questions and complaints is another crime. It feels as if we are complying with their mechanism of oppression by following their rules of ‘civilised’ behaviour when they are not doing. In other words – they are winning all the way. They literally wear us out at our own expense. How can one deal with that?

    1. Mike Sivier

      We’re not worn out yet – and this part of it may seem civilised and polite, but below the surface, believe me, the knives are out. Mr Miller’s questions are now a matter of public knowledge and Smith, together with his DWP ministers and civil servants, have a limited time to answer them before more serious action is taken.

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  4. davidhencke

    Reblogged this on David Hencke and commented:
    This is an appalling situation. Officlal statistics on the deaths of disabled claimants -particularly in the climate where individual suicides have been already been reported- should be kept. I can well see it is remarkably convenient for the DWP to save money by not bothering them. It seems to me part of agenda- saying the government does not want to know the consequences of its own policies. Part of the view of the right wing that there is no such thing as society as Margaret Thatcher once said.

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  6. David Welch

    I would just like to raise a related issue. My Doctors tell me that I am too ill to work, but ATOS say that I am able to work – nothing new there!

    But, the DWP has decided that as my wife is working and our household income is above a threshold I can not claim either Job Seekers or Incapacity.

    OK, compared to many other people we are well off. BUT, I am ill and I am out if work, but I suspect that people like myself are no longer counted in the statistics, because we are not receiving benefits.

    If this is the case then the official statistics are not telling the full story when compared to the numbers of people out of work now against previous years.

    1. Mike Sivier

      This is something that was being discussed in a comment column on this site last week, I think in relation to a reblog from the Skwawkbox blog. Have a delve back along the timeline and see if you can find it if you like – short answer is, if I recall correctly, we agree with you.

  7. Dave Mick

    On top of the deaths that can be directly attributed to this willfully and criminally misguided government and it’s policies of divide and conquer, must be added the harm, deaths and lives blighted in the future. The loss of a loved one has no monetary value but the scars are permanent.

    Not only do the professional liars employed by ATOS, at the behest of the DWP, ruin lives, they also act as if they are above the law. I would strongly suggest that anyone dealing with them takes a voice recorder (many mobile phones have them built in) and activates it openly, in front of them, and lays it between them. Explain you have no confidence in the honesty of the system. I wonder what would happen if they refused the interview after the claimant had duly appeared? Another tactic maybe, for someone with greater knowledge than me, to produce a document ‘reminding’ the assessor of the law and procedures and insisting that it is signed by them. And possibly with the appropriate warnings of legal action and ‘sanctions’ that can be applied to those found to have acted dishonestly.

    Remember, the Nazi guards were held to account for their crimes whether or not they were just following orders and the same legal position should be applied to ATOS/ DWP and their employees.

    Off topic, but still relevant to harm, is my concern over the effects of the ‘bedroom tax’ on otherwise decent people, especially young people. If separated parents both maintain a bedroom for a child for which they share custody, only one can claim the appropriate housing benefit. The other will lose the support and therefore lose a measure of the,possibly Court ordered, access they may have gained. This will, almost inevitably, lead to more ‘out of control’ children, more youth offending and more ‘dead beat’ parents. These are all things that the Tories stand firmly against and yet they will directly cause them.

    In addition to the harm to families will be the harm to individuals, disproportionately the young, who will be forced into ‘bedsit land’, these wastelands of poor quality housing attract crime, drug abuse and risky personal behaviour, as those who can’t even use their own bathroom with privacy and dignity, lose their self respect and turn to means to blot out their despair. Again these go against core Tory beliefs.

    The ruling coalition is hell bent on destroying any social cohesion and has fatally wounded the social contract. They do this to feather their own nest and deserve to rot in a very dark and damp cell until they are screaming insane.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I think other readers will respond to some of your comments very soon, Dave. There are definite government positions on some of them, which have been teased out over time.
      You probably won’t like what you read, but you already know where the blame lies!

  8. Pingback: Letter from Samuel Miller to Liam Byrne « Save Disability Benefits and Services

  9. GEOFF REYNOLDS

    ………..extract taken from staff bulletin to DWP internal departments on 7th Nov 2013, as highlighted in Daily Mirror;

    evidence to be obtained before a decision can be made on balance of probabilities.
    12. In exceptional circumstances, should all sources of evidence be exhausted and it is still not
    possible to reach a decision on balance of probabilities, the designated person may seek
    advice from ATOS using the DBD 385 via the medical evidence wizard.
    ………………………………………………………………………………

    …………..they are saying, the use of ATOS material in making a decision on a disabled persons claim, must only be used if every other avenue has been thoroughly exhausted…………….

    A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO ATOS WERE HERALDED BY THE DWP AS THE MOST HIGHLY TRAINED FIRE BREATHING DRAGONS OF THE HEALTHCARE WORLD.

    TODAY THEY ARE NOT EVEN ON THE BACK BURNER……

    NAMED AND SHAMED AS THE CHARLATANS THAT THEY REALLY ARE,
    “THE PRODUCT OF A STATE ENLISTED, DISABILITY DENIAL MACHINE THAT HOLD NO CREDIBILITY WHATSOEVER, A SHAM IN EVERY RESPECT”

    …………a ruthless organisation that has brought about deaths in our community, sponsored by the DWP in collusion with another government department, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service,

    “A FINELY HONED, WELFARE AND DISABILITY KILLING MACHINE”

    1. Mike Sivier

      I’m not sure you should be including the Courts and Tribunal Service here; many, many appeals against DWP/Atos decisions have been granted by that service.

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