I fully supported the vote, that saw an emergency motion pass calling on the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to stop using IT firm ATOS as its assessor of benefit claimants. Concerns have been raised for a while over the company’s suitability to conduct assessments, ranging from the lack of disabled access at their assessment centres to the shocking fact that 40% of their decisions have been found to be wrong on appeal (see Guardian here).
Jillian Creasy, Green councillor for Sheffield Central who also works as a GP, said: “ATOS’s computer-led assessment is far too blunt an instrument to assess a benefit that is vital for so many. For example, the box-ticking exercise is close to useless for assessing a condition such as autism. Not only that, but the number of decisions that have been reversed means that an awful lot of taxpayers’ money has been wasted. Disabled people should be afforded the dignity they deserve throughout any assessment process, and should not be presumed guilty or treated like they’re avoiding work. ATOS has no place in such a sensitive area, and we urge the government to sever all ties with the company.”
Meanwhile a Community Care magazine report on government figures shows "Seventy thousand more families with disabled children than first thought will see their benefits slashed under Welfare Reform Bill plans". An updated Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) policy briefing has revealed that 170,000 families will now be affected by the plans to halve disability premiums. Campaign group Every Disabled Child Matters is urging the government to carry out an Equality Impact Assessment that takes these latest figures into account.
Scope have produced a map of how cuts will hit disabled people - see here - Gloucestershire is rated "Bad" 134 out of 152 councils in England. The cuts will indeed impact hard but I do need to note a word of caution - it is easy just to look at figures - it is more important to see how the cuts will impact and what is being done to change the way services are being provided. Gloucestershire are looking at some innovative ways and I welcome their approach but am also concerned....a blog on this soon I hope!
If you are Bristol way on Saturday 22 October the Hardest Hit Campaign will hold a rally and march there from 12 noon on College Green. Many look set to attend from across the area - see more details here: http://falseeconomy.org.uk/campaigns/item/the-hardest-hit