Thursday, 13 June 2013

Stanley Street: a place of miracles

In this innocuous looking building a privately owned French company (Atos) is carrying out one the most repulsive programs of this government, one that is leading to misery and even death for thousands of the most vulnerable. This is the Department for Work and Pensions medical centre on Stanley Street where the sick and disabled must come to jump or crawl through hoops to show they are unfit enough to receive a pittance of benefit. The inspiration behind places like this is the novel Catch 22; so merely turning up for an interview shows you are well enough to work and not turning up means benefits are stopped. Needless to say the system does not work and there are literally hundreds of thousands of people waiting to appeal decisions based on the the rigid computerised questionnaire used by Atos. These appeals can take over a year to reach a tribunal and when they do up to 70% are successful, clear evidence that Atos are not doing proper assessments (they get paid whatever, needless to say). The human cost is measured in the suicides of mental health patients forced to apply for work, filling in the forms is too daunting for some, cancer patients denied benefits on their death beds and others simply dropping dead days after they've been told they are fit for work. The gallows humour has it that this place works miracles: so many infirm and disabled suddenly able to live an active economic life after a short visit.

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