THE deaths of 10,600 people who had been through an assessment
of their ability to work were noted at a protest meeting in
Parliament Square on Saturday.
The event, 10,000 Cuts and Counting, was addressed by the Dean
of St Paul's, the Very Revd Dr David Ison. It was organised by
Occupy London and Disabled People Against Cuts, with support from
groups including Christianity Uncut, a network of Christians
campaigning against the Government's cuts agenda. About 100 people
attended, demanding that the Government abolish the Work Capability
In October 2010, the Government started using the WCA to assess
whether claimants of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA, a
benefit paid on grounds of incapacity and disability) were capable
of work and ineligible for the benefit. The assessment is
administered by Atos Healthcare.
Figures released in July by the Department for Work and Pensions
show that, between January and November 2011, 10,600 deaths were
recorded of people who had been through the Atos assessment.
According to the department: "Some 10,600 claims ended and a date
of death was recorded within six weeks of the claim end."
The department cautioned against drawing inaccurate conclusions
from these figures. Most of those who died had been deemed eligible
for the benefit (7100); 1300 had been judged capable of preparing
to return to work. The remainder had not completed the assessment.
Data are not available for the number of claimants who died after
being deemed fit for work.
A note accompanying the data states: "It is possible that the
claimant had already closed their claim and then subsequently died,
meaning that these figures may overestimate the true picture."
There are currently 2.48 million people of working age claiming
ESA and incapacity benefits, 82,000 fewer than in 2012. At present,
48 per cent of people who undergo a WCA are found fit for work.
More than a third (37 per cent) of appeals against this decision
On Friday, Dr Ison described the testimonies of those who had
undergone the WCA as "hair-raising. . . I was concerned about the
plight of disabled people, but had not realised just how
devastating it had been for many people.
"The call is to reform the assessment of people and bring it
back where it was, under the umbrella of the NHS, so that you are
asking the health professionals who know people personally to be
able to deal with their situations."
Siobhan Grimes, a member of Christianity Uncut, said on Friday:
"I hope more church leaders will follow the Dean's example by
speaking out publicly about the death and destruction that the cuts
are bringing." Ms Grimes was one of the Occupy protesters outside
St Paul's last year. In October, with others, she chained herself
to the pulpit of the cathedral (News,