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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 http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154

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 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/panorama and you can sign up to comment on it here: https://id.bbc.co.uk/users/register?target_resource=http://identity/policies/dna/adult&ptrt=http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/panorama/2011/05/undercover_care_the_abuse_expo.html#comments

Also you could sign up to The Guardian’s website: https://id.guardian.co.uk/register?returnUrl=http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jan/04/disability-claimants-work-assessments-atos

And the Independent site, where you sign up when you add your first comment to a piece: http://www.independent.co.uk/

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.