Angry calls for Portsmouth-based ‘fit to work’ firm to be axed

Policing minister Nick Hurd with Havant MP Alan Mak

Havant MP says policing minister is ‘sympathetic’ to Hampshire police’s budget shortfall

0
Have your say

PROTESTERS have called for the company which assesses whether people are fit to work to be axed by the government.

Campaigners gathered outside Atos Healthcare’s office at Wingfield House, Commercial Road, Portsmouth, to demonstrate against the French IT firm which has sparked anger by judging severely disabled and terminally ill people as being eligible for work.

DEMO Protest outside the ATOS medical examining Centre based at Wingfield House, Commercial Road in Portsmouth.    Picture: Paul Jacobs  (123380-1)

DEMO Protest outside the ATOS medical examining Centre based at Wingfield House, Commercial Road in Portsmouth. Picture: Paul Jacobs (123380-1)

Among them was Dave Murphy, 45, of Portsmouth, who has mental health issues.

He said: ‘The first time they said I was fit to work, I had a psychotic break and had to be sectioned. The second time, it was overruled on reconsideration and the third time it went to a tribunal and it got overturned on the basis of the medical evidence which they completely ignored.

‘Atos need to be kicked out. The whole corrupt system needs to be changed.’

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which makes decisions based on the Atos assessments, paid the firm £112m last year to carry out 738,000 face-to-face medical tests on benefit claimants. But four in 10 DWP decisions went on to be successfully appealed in tribunals which cost £60m last year.

The protest was organised by the new group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) Portsmouth.

Campaigner Sarah Walsh, 27, of Gosport, said: ‘It’s a ridiculous, flawed system.

‘The people who do the assessments just ask a few questions and tick a box, and they get a bonus for every person they say is fit to work.’

Atos denied the claim its employees are paid bonuses as ‘absolutely not true’.

A spokeswoman added: ‘We will continue to make sure that service that we provide is as highly professional and compassionate as it can be.

‘We do this through a constant programme of training and education for our staff, a rigorous recruitment process for healthcare professionals and through continual work with the government, disability rights groups, healthcare professionals and those going through the process on the ground.’

The DWP said it has worked with Atos to ‘substantially improve’ the service.