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If any MP, government representative or stooge tells you the UK is bankrupt, or close to it, ask them why we can afford to pay Thierry Breton £1.9 million to preside over a company running a flawed system that leads to the deaths of 73 of us every week.
Mr Breton is the boss of Atos, the company that has been “reassessing” people who used to be on Incapacity Benefit, in a bid to clear the vast majority of them from the government’s welfare benefit bill within a year of assessment.
Only between 12-13 per cent of those who go through the Atos ‘work capability assessment’ keep their benefits indefinitely, going through to the ‘support group’ of the new Employment and Support Allowance. This means they have conditions which mean they will never be able to work in any way – and, in practice, many are likely to die in the near future.
Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions say this figure should be 30 per cent, but that seems more likely to be the percentage transferred from IB. In regard to new cases, I’ll stick with what the Atos trainer said on Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary in July.
The others are either put into a ‘work-related activity’ group and told to get better within 12 months, or marked ‘fit for work’ and told to get looking for a job. These are where the controversial deaths take place, due to stress exacerbating people’s illnesses or suicide because they cannot see a way to go on.
For this, Mr Breton is being paid around £1 million per year. His bonus – nearly another £1 million – means he pocketed £1.9 million in total (before tax – although he could always seed it away in one of the tax havens the government is assiduously failing to close down).
This is why disability specialist Samuel Miller needs to hear from people whose family members or friends have suffered at the hands of Mr Breton’s company. Mr Miller is putting together a file of atrocities which he intends to send to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations.
The aim is to show that austerity measures are violating British people’s human rights. His best hope is in receiving coroners’ reports where the cause of death is found to be destitution and/or suicide.
He can’t do this on his own.
I reported Mr Miller’s plan last week and as a result he has received some responses – but many more are needed. He needs you to get in touch – if you have been affected.
If nobody does anything, the government will merrily assume it is right to persist with a regime that leads to 73 deaths, of your loved ones, every week. And they will continue. If you are disabled, you may be next.
So don’t leave it to somebody else. If you have been affected, get your story in to Mr Miller. You could also contact your local news media and get them to run a story about this, with his email contact details: email@example.com
If they don’t run anything, ask them why. There does seem to be a media blackout and this must be overcome as well.
Otherwise you, or someone you know, could end up like Susan Atkinson, who died of cancer last year, aged 37, after Atos told her she was fit for work.
A friend of hers, Donna Thornton, wrote: “I’m not saying they caused her death but they did add more stress and worry, which I do think helped her give up the fight.
“Her quality of life before she died was so very sad for me to watch – instead of her last few weeks of life being happy ones, they were sad and upsetting. I couldn’t even help her as I was going through the same.”
Donna, who has been in three car crashes, has fibromyalgia, nerve damage, has had shingles and suffers depression, wrote: “I just received a letter saying I have got to got to court this time to appeal.
“Not only do I feel like a criminal but feel sick [that] I’ve got to go through all this to prove I am sick and disabled.
“This system is so wrong; they have got me in so much debt over the past two years, I now want to give up the fight. Life is hard enough being sick, never mind going through all this.
“Please help before I end up on Atos’ death list.”
Is this familiar? firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s not just the Atos assessments that are pushing people to the brink, of course. How many of you will be affected by the so-called ‘bedroom tax’? email@example.com
Pressure from the public can stop the insanity of Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions, and the other government “reforms” (what a cheek, to suggest changes that will ruin the lives of millions of people are improvements).
But it’s not going to happen if people can’t be bothered to lift a finger.
All it takes is an email. If you can read this, surely you can do that?