Labour MP Bill Esterson: 'Tory-Lib Dem Government is covering up

Bill Esterson


Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson has accused the Tory-Lib Dem Government of covering up the "appalling failings" of Atos in carrying out assessment examinations of disabled benefits claimants.

Bill said the Tory-Lib Dem Government was "brushing under the carpet" the disgraceful way disabled people had been physically examined and how the company responsible had produced "entirely inaccurate reports" based on those examinations.

The MP said the government was intent on pushing people off benefits, regardless of people's needs.

Bill asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP: 

"How many appeals of the outcomes of work capability assessments are based on a claim that (a) the Atos report does not accurately reflect discussions or physical examinations which took place at the assessment and (b) disagreement between Atos assessment reports and supporting medical letters from a claimant's GP or consultant."

Minister for Employment, Mark Hoban MP replied: 

"The information requested is not available."

Bill also asked Mr Duncan Smith: 

"If he will change disability benefit appeal rules to allow work capability assessments to be repeated as part of the appeal where the claimant has complained that the report of their original assessment contains factual inaccuracies relating to (a) discussions and (b) physical examinations which took place."

Again Mr Hoban replied: 

"Following a work capability assessment (WCA), claimants receive a summary of the outcome, including details of the points that they have scored. If the claimant disagrees with the summary, they have the right to ask for an explanation of the decision and for the decision to be reconsidered—along with any further evidence they may wish to provide.
"If a claimant subsequently appeals against the decision made on their claim by a DWP decision maker, they will receive from Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) a copy of all of the papers to which the decision maker had access when reaching their decision—including the WCA report. Where the claimant believes that the report contains factual inaccuracies, they can include their concerns in any response that they make to HMCTS.
"HMCTS copy all correspondence from the claimant to DWP, so that DWP can consider any concerns raised and whether they wish to reconsider the decision under appeal.
"We have no plans to change these procedures."

Bill said the responses showed a "complete disregard for some of the most vulnerable people in the country".

Bill said: "If this Tory-Lib Dem Government is saying that they don't know how many people are complaining that their Atos assessment reports are factually incorrect, then they are either trying to cover this up, or they are totally incompetent.

"Records are kept on how many people are appealing a decision and so the records must also detail why an appeal is being made.

"I have had scores of constituents, many with serious disabilities or ailments come to me after their Atos assessment to complain. All of them say the physical assessments are shambolic and that many are being carried out not by trained medical experts but by people who have been given minimal training.

"Others say the reports produced by Atos following the assessment are factually incorrect. Descriptions don't match. And some people who are wheelchair-bound are reported as walking into the examination room.

"The Government is aware of all of these allegations, but still they refuse to take action.

"If anything like this happened anywhere else, then there would be fraud investigations held.

"But because the Tories and Lib Dems want to push people off disability benefits, and because many of these people are the most vulnerable in society, then nothing is being done."

Bill said the Government's refusal to change procedures despite growing numbers of complaints highlights the Tories and their Lib Dem partner's disregard for the disabled.

Bill said: "There is a growing consensus that this whole work capability assessment debacle is a scandal.

"It is a scandal which the Tories and Lib Dems are point blank refusing to tackle.

"Meanwhile people who are clearly in need of help are being denied vital benefits causing them distress and in some cases even death.

"The Tories and Lib Dems must come to their senses on this issue and take immediate and decisive action."

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