Monday, October 29, 2012

More horror stories from Atos [Michael Meacher MP]

Michael Meacher MP

I have now received several more letters from around the country which illustrate the ruthlessness with which Atos Healthcare is dismissing all the medical evidence as ‘irrelevant’ and then cavalierly awarding people with patently serious disabilities 0 points.

*  “He is aged 50, long-term unemployed and has been receiving ESA.   He is taking anti-depressants and 8 different types of medication for his various physical problems.   In order to be mobile, he uses a crutch.   He is in constant pain when moving around and unable to bend down to pick things up without the greatest of difficulties, or to stnd or sit for any length of time.   He feels quite wretched about himself, and has expressed that he would be better off dead than alive, and would consider doing away with his life.   But he was awarded 0 points, and his ESA benefit has been stopped”.

*  Another issue raised with me, which has so far had little attention, is that someone can win an appeal, thus have their benefit claim reinstated, but then within a few weeks be required to undergo another assessment.   It smacks of hounding and harassing people who have been shown by tribunals to be incapacitated.   “She was told by the DWP that it was not a medical but a fit-to-work assessment.   At her assessment the medical practitioner refused to accept 4 separate medical statements and deemed them ‘not necessary’.   On appeal, however, she won her case.   Then just 2 months later she was called to undergo yet another assessment.   She has been told she may have to be assessed every 6 months”.

*  Another device being used, which is a flagrant denial of hitherto inalienable rights, concerns people who are actually employed, but are having their (statutory!) sick pay removed after work capability assessment and prior to their returning to work.   “He is in late middle age, and says he has worked for a long time.   He went on the sick because he was waiting for a hip replacement, but had every intention of returning to work when the operation was done and he had had time to recuperate.   He was then assessed the next monthand 2 months later received a letter from the DWP saying his sick pay was to be stopped because he had been found fit to work.   He had undergone however 4 days earlier his hip replacement surgery, and obviously could not work for at least another 3 months”.   So why is he being persecuted?   It’s not about getting people back to work because he already has a job.   It’s about denying someone who has worked and paid into the system the right to claim sick pay when he desperately needs it.

I’m taking up these cases with IDS (for what that’s worth), and will be raising them in the House as soon as I can get a debate.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Professor Wessely: Knocking the Docs & Overstepping the Mark

I feel that my last post ended on a somewhat cryptic note  regarding Professor Wessely, and that I need to support the claim I made about the  undermining of physical medical authority within his ‘doctrine’. This I feel I have previously done to an certain degree with regard to Professor Aylward and his colleagues (here and here), though the potential certainly exists for more to be highlighted.

An insight into what could be termed the ‘under-the-radar‘ approach to undermining the integrity of medical personnel, such as GPs, is provided by Professor Wessely’s article for Unum’s Annual Chief Medical Officer’s Report 2007 entitled “Why and When do Doctors Collude With Patients?” (The CMO for this publication was Michael O’Donnell, now occupying the same role with Atos Healthcare.)

Subtle But Significant

This notion may seem to be introduced with apparent goodwill, even humour, but the important fact is that it is introduced at all. The question should always be asked about corporately financed material “Who is set to benefit from the dissemination of these ideas?”. Is there anything to gain on the part of the Insurance firm Unum who produced the report? – Such as carving a first chink in the hitherto resilient armour of the authority of physical medicine, perhaps. This, by suggesting that doctors can be psychologically ‘vulnerable’ to forms of ‘collusion’ with those in their care in ways which might work against the patient’s welfare.
Might it not in fact be an attempt to first, construct such a thing as this type of ‘psychological failing‘ of a doctor, and second, draw it into the classification of ‘iatrogenesis‘, a term historically limited to the adverse effects on patients of drugs, medical error, or negligence through decisions taken by medical personnel. Note should be taken of Professor Wessely’s reference to the naivety of  ‘ethically pure’ young doctors, new to practice, who will come to the realisation that “in real life things are not neat and simple, but grey and ambiguous”, ultimately, presumably, succumbing to this ‘necessary collusion’. Some of the reasons for colluding that Wessely lists give anything but a favourable impression of our medical practioners, including as it does such things as  financial reward, lack of time and fear of complaint.

Poor NHS. Also deluded.

Just prior to introducing Professor Wessely’s article Michael O’Donnell bemoans the way that “our NHS managers [are] fixated on providing those treatments which can be measured” such as operations and injections. As opposed perhaps to psychological interventions which rest solely on, and the success of which is evaluated only by, certain ‘experts’ in that field. He then states that “until return to work is included as the objective and final measure of success, it seems likely that the NHS will continue to miss the point.” This is of course an ‘objective’ perspective, and nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that it serves insurers such as Unum’s best interests (and saves them money) to get the sick back to work.

Wessely’s ‘Previous’

If what I’m claiming seems a little exaggerated, or ‘conspiracy theory-ish’ perhaps you should also take a look at this paper by Professor Wessely from 2003. The main thrust of of which is that doctors who accept the possibility that their patients suffering from (ahem) ‘Medically Unexplained Symptoms’ (MUS) may actually be physically ill are in danger of committing an ‘iatrogenic’ offence against them. He does this by arguing that patients with ‘MUS’ conditions (an important and expensive group he alleges) are in effect made worse by doctors taking their illnesses seriously and organising physical investigations and treatments. There are, Wessely concludes, “points within the doctor-patient encounter where MUS may be iatrogenically maintained“. In simple terms, doctors need to stop ‘colluding’ with these patients because it is doing them harm.

Note: Professor Wessely’s list of MUS illnesses in the paper (detailed below) correlates very closely with those listed by fellow psychiatrist Dr Christopher Bass at the 2004 Atos Conference referenced in my earlier post. (Though he omits chronic back pain in favour of irritable bowel syndrome)
Non-cardiac chest pain
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Repetitive strain injury
Caution: Unbridled Arrogance Ahead. 

An unexpected  interjection to the article under the sub-heading ‘Social’ is yet more evidence of just how entitled proponents of the Biopsychosocial model perceive themselves to be in stepping out of their own field and usurping theories from Sociology to twist into their arguments. Aylward from his ‘Medical’ expertise, and Wessely from Psychiatry. It is very telling indeed that there are no qualifed Sociologists involved in the Biopsychosocial lobby. A small matter of ethics, perhaps.

Wessely’s A Sociologist Now?

In this instance Wessely attempts to appropriate Ivan Illich’s notion of ‘Social Iatrogenesis and ‘invent’ his own version for his own purposes.

Illich explains the meaning of his term as referring to the “impairments to health that are due precisely to those socio-economic transformations which have been made attractive, possible, or necessary by the institutional shape health care has taken“.  Note the use of the word ‘institutional’ here.

Illich’s main concern is that autonomy has been removed from the people, and he speaks about the danger of ‘radical monopolies’ such as is expressed in the idea that “When cities are built around vehicles, they devalue human feet“.

Illich asserts that “Ordinary monopolies corner the market; radical monopolies disable people from doing or making things on their own”. Disregarding this core idea, Wessely feels entitled to put his own spin on ‘Social Iatrogenesis’. Describing it as “a term for illness caused or prolonged by wider sociopolitical inputs” he uses it to discredit ‘Patient Support Groups, no less! It would be quite one thing were he a qualified Sociologist to make that assertion, and accordingly be ethically required to back it up with a full argument as to why that could be a reasonable (though inexplicably contradictory) interpretation of Illich’s theory. It is quite an extraordinary presumption to appropriate that theory towards the opposite aim of its originator.  Patient Support Groups are nothing if not an attempt to restore a measure of  autonomy to ‘the people’ within what has become an ever more  bureaucratised, institutionalised healthcare system.  This is nothing short of  abominable arrogance on Wessely’s part, but oh so very symptomatic of this group of ‘experts’ including Aylward et al.

Could He Possibly Be More Wrong?

Wessely just couldn’t be more wrong in citing Illich in this context, when the latter complains that the spread of medicine “turns mutual care and self-medication into misdemeanors or felonies”. Please compare against Wessely’s rubbishing in the Unum Report of any steps that that an individual may take outside of traditional medicine to ‘self-medicate’. These potential treatments he disparages as ‘”cod-immunology [mixed with] pseudo radiation science interspersed with New Age homilies” directing us towards that reknowed ‘quack-busting’ site ‘’. Hardly comments or sentiments in line with Illich’s philosophy is it? No, it’s quite the opposite. Perhaps Professor needs to sign up for a beginner’s course in Sociology, or better still refrain from playing with concepts that he doesn’t understand.

I’ll leave the final word to Illich on “nosology” (the system of classification of diseases, which he notes “changes with history”)
 In our society nosology is almost totally medicalized; ill-health that is not labeled by the physician is written off either as malingering or as illusion.
Oh deary me, Professor Wessely, oh deary me…


Monday, October 15, 2012

Poor and disabled? Tories think you're a troublemaker [reblogged]

I wrote yesterday about the plans by Iain Duncan Smith to restrict what "troubled families" can spend benefits on through the use of smart cards, and why this is a terrible idea for many reasons. It's even worse than that though. The plan is to get councils to send "troubleshooters" to confront these families and force them to conform to the expectations of the government. The Independent and BBC News both have more details.

What I didn't write about yesterday is the definition that the government are using for troubled family, and that definition is very bad indeed. The Conservative Party have turned to research by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to decide who might be "troubled". The government have decided that a troubled family is one that meets five out of seven criteria:
  • Low income
  • No one in the family who is working
  • Poor housing
  • Parents who have no qualifications
  • The mother has a mental health problem
  • One parent has a long-standing illness or disability
  • Unable to afford basics, including food and clothes.

Government Lies

In fact these criteria boil down to one thing: poverty. And the ESRC have come right out and stated that the government have basically made up their own minds about what it all means. They said "In the term 'troubled families' it deliberately conflates families experiencing multiple disadvantage and families that cause trouble." The definition that the government are using does not mention child truancy, criminal records, ASBOs, police call outs, drug abuse, or any of the other things that they claim to be addressing.

It is quite likely that none of these conditions are under the control of the family themselves, and yet under government plans they can be penalised for it. Even worse than that, though, is the presence of illness, disability and mental health on that list. These are definitely not under the control of the people involved, but it is clear from what Eric Pickles told The Independent that the government do blame these people. Pickles said that these families must end an "it's not my fault" culture of excuses and must stop avoiding taking responsibility for their own lives. He said that there would be "less understanding" and a tougher approach.

Victim Blaming

This is blaming the victim, plain and simple. It fits right in with the Bio-Psychosocial model of disability that the government have adopted after decades of being advised by insurance company UNUM. The model basically says that disability is all in the mind of the disabled person and they only need to adopt a better attitude to overcome barriers to work and other activities. This is the model that has seen so many people judged fit for work in their Work Capability Assessment by Atos, and now we see it being used to clamp down on poor people who the Tories find distasteful. Instead of helping them, which costs money, they are punishing them because they don't fit their Victorian ideal of "deserving poor".

120,000 troubled families could be legally banned from spending benefits on alcohol and tobacco [Telegraph]
Problem families told - 'Stop blaming others' [The Independent]
Councils back troubled families scheme [BBC News]

This blog post first appeared at A Latent Existence.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Worsening of Mental Health, Self Harm and Suicides Directly Attributable to WCA

Investigative news outfit Exaro have revealed that a recent survey commissioned by mental health charity ‘Rethink Mental Illness demonstrates the devastating effect that the, now notorious, Work Capability Assessment is having on the sick and disabled across the country. Of a thousand GPs surveyed it was reported that 6% had disabled patients who had either attempted, or actually committed, suicide due to the distress the process is causing. One in five (21%) revealed that they had patients who have considered suicide in connection with the WCA, either as a result of undergoing it, or fear of having to. 14% of GPs also confirmed self harming behaviour among patients forced to undergo the Atos administered test.
“These shocking statistics show that the work-capability assessment is pushing some of the most unwell and vulnerable people in our society to the edge.” – Paul Jenkins, chief executive, Rethink Mental Health.
Further, Rethink’s survey indicates that not only is the WCA exacerbating  ill-heath for those with existing mental health problems, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, but
More than eight out of ten GPs say they have patients who have developed mental health problems due to [the] controversial benefits test” [italics added]
Only ‘Anecdotal’  
an·ec·do·tal [an-ik-doht-l, an-ik-doht-l]
based on personal observation, case study reports, or random investigations rather than systematic scientific evaluation”
Attempts to undermine the vast amounts of incriminating evidence discrediting the WCA include comments such as this by Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone reported in the Daily Record:
“But many of the stories we have heard are anecdotal. It is difficult to find a statistical or empirical set of figures to tell us exactly what these problems are.”
Is this survey ‘statistical’ and ‘empirical’ enough for those such as Mr Johnstone? Or will they find some other means of dismissing the facts? There is material which has been expressly designed for just that purpose, including the means by which GPs and other doctors’ authority can be undermined or dismissed. It can be found among the output from proponents of the BioPsychoSocial model of illness, and adherents to the ‘Wessely’ psychogenic doctrine.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Disabled driven to suicide by Govt's welfare reform

As a survey reveals that disabled patients have been driven to suicide due to the Government's fitness to work test, it's time to fight back.

by Nicky Clark

Six per cent of doctors have experienced a patient who has attempted - or committed - suicide as a result of “undergoing, or fear of undergoing” the Government's fitness to work test.

The survey, highlighted by Exaro, the investigative website also found 14 per cent had patients who had self-harmed as a result of the test.

As I’m commenting on this, I’m so angry that the words are crashing against one another in my fury.

People are either contemplating, or actually committing suicide, because their Government, our Government, are pushing through with policies which defy all understanding.

The survey found that one in five GPs had at least one disabled patient who had thought about suicide because of the test.

There are people are dying because their elected representatives have chosen to make the welfare reform a reality.

In 2011, the Government ordered that everyone on incapacity benefit, some two million people, should be assessed.

This is just the beginning as George Osbourne set out plans for £18 billion in welfare savings by 2014-15. And yet it seems to me that disabled people are always remembered for a politician’s PR photo opportunity, but forgotten when it comes to pushing through dehumanising policy.

This is robbing disabled people of life chances and meaningful existence, but with an eye to the polls, the votes and the perceived will of the public, no one will speak out.

These men and women are choosing death because life is offering no meaningful option. They have no champion, they have no hope. So they tell their doctor. These doctors are ignored by the people paid to bring the savings, but these same doctors have made an oath to save lives.

DWP told to remove Work Programme ‘gagging clauses’

DWP told to remove Work Programme ‘gagging clauses’ Charities are urging the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to remove “gagging clauses” forbidding subcontractors working on the Government’s flagship Work Programme doing anything to “attract adverse publicity” for the department.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) – which today warned that seven out of 10 charity subcontractors felt their contacts were at risk of failure – says subcontractors are also prohibited from making press statements or publicising their contracts without approval from the department.

It wants the clauses to be lifted following concerns that undesirable funding terms, low levels of referrals and prime contractors managing referrals in-house were making contracts unsustainable. Many, it said, were having to subsidise delivery through their reserves.

The report said: "Transparency, advocacy and holding government public services to account are at the heart of the VCS. DWP should clarify its guidance around 'gagging clauses' to ensure that they are being interpreted correctly and to tackle the perception that they prevent the sharing of good practice."

Launched last year, the Work Programme replaced the popular Future Jobs Fund, and sees nearly 20 prime contractors, mainly private firms, sub-contract to specialist providers, including housing associations and charities, to provide the unemployed with job skills training.

The £5bn programme sees the government pay contractors by results in three stages – through an initial attachment fee, a main outcomes fee and cash for sustained employment.

One of the criticisms has been that the prime contractors have been passing on the tough payment terms to smaller charities and housing associations who might not be able to carry out the employment support and wait for months, even years, before they are paid.

The NCVO report – which details the survey responses of nearly 100 voluntary organisations –reveals that 71 respondents claim their contracts are at risk of failure.

Its report found that 47% of respondents felt that their contacts were at risk of failure within the next six months and 26% thought they were at risk of failure before the end of the contract.

Other issues identified in the report include a “considerable mismatch” between anticipated referral flows and Work Programme customers received, subcontractors dissatisfied with the relationship with their prime contractor and the majority of prime contractors not sharing supply chain performance data with their subcontractor partner.

Sir Stuart Etherington, CEO of NCVO, said: "The sustainability of these contracts is a major cause for concern. This programme is clearly not working for many charities involved in its delivery. More worryingly, this will have a damaging knock on effect to the many job-seekers who desperately need the specialist support that charities can deliver.

"Despite concerns about contract viability, charities are still working hard to provide a quality service and are dipping into their own reserves rather than neglect people that need their help. It’s still early days and 2013 will prove critical to the overall success or failure of the Work Programme - we have a small window of opportunity to get this right and ensure that this scheme delivers for job-seekers.

"We are calling on the Government to investigate the current funding arrangements to determine why so many contracts under the Work Programme are at risk of failure and why some charities are subsidising this work."

A separate investigation by the BBC revealed that several charities that have closed recently, have cited their Work Programme contracts as a major reason in their collapse.

The DWP told the BBC the financial arrangements between providers and their subcontractors were a matter for them and no organisation should negotiate a deal they could not afford.

A spokesperson said: "Payment by results is working. It is right and fair to the taxpayer that we only pay organisations that get people into work and keep them there, unlike the last government which paid out money to schemes upfront regardless of results.

"There are hundreds of organisations playing a part in the Work Programme, all working closely with us with the aim of making this a success and getting people into long term employment."


10,600 sick & disabled people died last year within six weeks of their claim ending


Subject: Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients (July, 2012 statistical release) See:

10,600 sick & disabled people died last year within six weeks of their claim ending. This latest statistical release adds some information not covered in this article:

I wish to point out that the DWP improperly responded to my request and did not provide mortality statistics on 2012 ESA claimants; see

This information certainly must be available as the Department is supposed to be monitoring and modifying systems on a continual basis.

Best wishes.

Samuel Miller.

Samuel Miller
Blog: Hephaestus: Disability Studies
Blog: My Disability Studies Blackboard
(Montreal, Canada)

Documents and analysis of deaths.

Posted by Kessa Treedweller:

‘Allow me to introduce researcher John William Brown:

I’m beginning to understand the various figures I’ve been supplied with on the DPAC FB page and it is not simple - I WILL TRY RECAP – IN BRIEF – It is greater than one thinks!

Number of deaths for Jan. to Nov. 2011 = 10,600 - supplied by DWP via Atos from page 6 of following pdf


Those with Assessment not complete 2,200 (50.6 per week)

Those in Work Related Activity Group 1,300 (29.9 per week)

Those in Support Group 7,100 (153.6 per week)

Total number of deaths 10,600 (to nearest 100)

Jan to Nov inclusive is 11 months = 47.5 weeks
10,600 deaths divided by 47.5 weeks = 223.2 deaths per week
Total approximation in EACH group is 223.2 divide by 3
Approximation of deaths in each of 3 groups = 74.4 per week

1. It’s important to know how 73 (74.4) was sourced, and
2. That this number is an average within 3 different groups and
3. That the overall number of deaths is 223.3 per week

See also from Samuel Miller: 

United Kingdom Government Denounced for Crimes Against Disabled People to International Criminal Court in The Hague

Deaths and Suicides linked to WCA: more evidence needed for justice


A million working adults face benefits cuts next year

Nearly 1.2 million people may be sanctioned if they do not obtain extra work, increase their hours or find a higher paying job

The Guardian,
Jobcentre Plus in London
Some claimaints will lose their benefits if they do not find extra work - even if there is none available where they live. Photograph: Rex Features
Nearly 1.2 million working adults will for the first time next year face losing some of their benefits if they do not comply with new state requirements to work longer hours, find an additional job or seek higher wages, it has emerged.

Until now benefit sanctions have only applied largely to those out of work. The new sanctions regime is an unprecedented byproduct of the government decision to introduce universal credit, merging most existing means-tested benefits and tax credits together into a single system.

The aim is to increase the incentives to work but it means that people will lose money if they don't find extra work, even if there is none available where they live.

There are currently 1.4 million people working part-time because they are unable to find full-time work – compared to 500,000 in 2004.

The claim that 1.2 million working adults will be brought under the oversight of the department of work and pensions sanctions regime is made by the Resolution Foundation thinktank, and is based on figures supplied by the DWP for the first time.

The foundation suggests about 700,000 single people will be affected, as well as 500,000 who are living as part of a couple.

The conditions will be set on payments to many working claimants who earn less than the weekly equivalent of the minimum wage – £212.80p for a single person.

The Resolution Foundation claimed on Wednesday night that the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith was moving into unchartered territory and questioned whether DWP jobcentre advisers have the capacity to cope with double the number of claimants subjected to potential sanctions.

Universal credit removes the requirement to work at least 16 hours to be entitled to benefit, so allows claimants to receive state help if they are working as little as five hours a week.

To counter the clear financial incentives for low-hours work in the new system universal credit introduces, for the first time, a bolstered system of personalised conditionality, including directed mandatory activity to help people obtain and prepare for work.

Claimants will be expected to meet a new, higher conditionality earnings threshold, equivalent to 35 hour week at national minimum rates through a combination of measures. These can include: increasing their hours or their hourly wage with their current employer, finding one or more additional jobs alongside their existing employment or finding a new job with a higher income.

The foundation warns that "with little over a year until implementation it is of concern that little has been said about how a fair, consistent and adequately resourced conditionality system for working claimants will be implemented. It also questions "whether an extension of conditionality to working claimants can function in the current context of a chronically weak labour market in which millions of people want to work more hours, but are unable to do so".


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sickness benefit claimants' fear of the ‘brown envelope’ [BBC Radio 4]

Thinking Allowed
28 minutes
First broadcast:
 Wednesday 03 October 201

Laurie Taylor hears about a new study into the views and experiences of the long term sick and disabled in the context of ongoing welfare reforms.

The researcher, Kayleigh Garthwaite, highlights their ambivalence – whilst some have a deep seated anxiety about losing rights and income; others hope it will distinguish between the genuinely ill, such as themselves, and those that are ‘faking’.

Also, the former social science magazine ‘New Society’ broke new and radical grounds in its creation of a space for thoughtful debate about everyday culture and social issues; showcasing the ideas of academics and intellectuals as diverse as Angela Carter and Richard Hoggart.

A former editor, Paul Barker, analyses the heyday and legacy of ‘New Society’ 50 years after its launch. He’s joined by the writer, Lynsey Hanley and the Professor of Cultural Studies, Fred Inglis.

Producer: Jayne Egerton

Kayleigh Garthwaite

Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the Department of Geography, Durham University 
Paper: Fear of the brown envelope: sickness benefits recipients and welfare reform” 
Kayleigh Garthwaite

Fear of the brown envelope: sickness benefits recipients and welfare reform.
Hardly a day goes by without sick and disabled people being discussed in the media, 
painting a picture of lazy, faking, workshy scroungers; yet it is very rare that the voices of sick and disabled people involved in the welfare reform process are heard.

This paper draws on long term sickness benefits recipients’ perspectives and experiences of the welfare reform process. The research reveals a dichotomy of responses – firstly, a deep seated fear of reform and what it could mean for participants in the study, and secondly, a belief that reform is a positive shift that will not affect them as they are, in fact, genuinely ill.

This narrative is situated alongside a wider one that encompasses ‘Other’ sickness benefits recipients as scroungers. The relationship between identity and welfare reform for participants will be outlined, before a final reflection upon the future of welfare reform and what this could mean for sickness benefits recipients in terms of policy implications.

Lastly, this paper highlights how fears over welfare reform can evoke extreme anxiety and apprehension, but above all, how this fear, coupled with government, media and public perceptions, appears to be creating a worrying undercurrent amongst sickness benefits recipients themselves that perceives other sick and disabled people as ‘undeserving’.

Given at the Hardest Hit: Disability research and welfare reform symposium organized by the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds on September 20th

Find out more about Kayleigh Garthwaite
  • Paul Barker

    Former editor of New Society, writer and broadcaster, and senior research fellow at the Young Foundation 
    The Other Britain 
    Publisher: Routledge and Kegan Paul 
    ISBN 0-7100-9340-3
  • Find out more about Paul Barker

Monday, October 1, 2012

Axemen ATOS face £40m payday for work making disabled Scots miserable

SECRET figures obtained by the Daily Record show the full scale of the “misery money” Atos will rake in.

 THE Atos axemen are set for a £40million payday as they cash in on the misery of disabled Scots.
The Record has seen secret figures outlining the huge sums the French IT firm could collect from the taxpayer for their humiliating assessments of whether the disabled should still receive benefits.

Panicked Con-Dem ministers have desperately tried to suppress details of the new Atos Healthcare contract for carrying out the tests on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions until 2017.

But in a move that will lead to major recriminations in Whitehall, a dossier has emerged that outlines the full scale of the “misery money” Atos will rake in.

MSP Kevin Stewart, who obtained the figures, said: “That Atos may be set to profit by more than £40million is absolutely disgusting.”

MSP Kevin Stewart
MSP Kevin Stewart 
Titled “Atos Risk Management Plan”, the dossier shows a predicted £40,535,679 profit from the £206million Atos contract for Scotland and northern England.

That would pay the disability living allowance of 10,851 people for a year, based on the average weekly payment of £71.84.

Atos will collect the colossal sum if they manage to put 15 per cent more people through their tests than broadly expected.

Even if the number of tests carried out is in line with predictions, they will make £28,636,419 by 2017 – enough to pay a year’s disability allowance for 7664 people.

And if they drop 15 per cent below their expected total, Atos will still be in the money, making a profit of £16,712,945.

The Record has been telling the harrowing stories of Scots who felt bullied and harassed after Atos work capability assessments.

The tests, which have already been going on for years, have been slammed as degrading by doctors and charities.

The new contract will see two million disabled people across the UK tested to see if they should still receive benefits when the Con-Dems replace disability living allowance with “personal independence payments” and slash the welfare state.

There was uproar over the summer when Atos, one of the sponsors of the Paralympics, won £400million worth of contracts to carry out the tests in different parts of the UK.

SNP Aberdeen MSP Stewart used freedom of information laws to request details of the deal for Scotland and northern England.

The DWP tried to keep the vast Atos profits secret by blacking out the figures before sending the paperwork. They claimed, to Stewart’s fury, that they were protecting “commercially confidential” information.

But the blundering bureaucrats failed to censor the documents properly, and the staggering sums became visible when transferred to another computer format.

Stewart, who says he has been swamped by calls from constituents terrified about the Atos tests, called the contract “absolutely disgraceful”. He added: “That a company is making profit like this from other people’s misery is terrible. The UK Government should hang its head in shame.”

He called for an urgent review of the “sickening” sums being paid out.

The revelations will heap more pressure on Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who has defended the Atos contract.

Medical examination documents.
Medical examination documents are used by ATOS 
Earlier this year, the National Audit Office criticised the DWP for setting performance targets too low, failing to adequately fine Atos for poor performance and not checking the accuracy of data from the company.

A succession of MPs have tried to find out more about the performance targets and financial penalties in the Atos deal. The UK Government have refused to answer the questions, claiming the days is “commercially confidential”.

Official figures show that 40 per cent of appeals against decisions not to award employment and support allowance, largely based on the Atos assessments, are upheld. The figure rises to 70 per cent if the claimant gets help from Citizens Advice or other groups.

Atos said: “All our contracts are competitively tendered and subject to strict Government procurement rules.”

The DWP said the contract was part of a “new approach, working with regional providers, for a service which best meets local needs”.

They said they were making the system better by replacing an “over-complicated 40-page claim form” with “a discussion with a health professional”.

And they insisted: “Atos were chosen in Scotland following the usual procedures for open and fair competition.”

Colin's story

Colin Grieve fears his benefits could be removed by ATOS.
Colin Grieve fears his benefits could be removed by ATOS 


COLIN Grieve is living in fear as he awaits his Atos assessment. He is terrified of being forced into poverty if his benefits are removed.

The 59-year-old from Selkirk has been unable to work for more than a decade, after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and suffering two mental breakdowns.

He receives incapacity benefit but was recently told he would have to attend an Atos assessment.

Colin said: “I keep reading about this Atos and I’m absolutely petrified.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen and it’s playing on my mind.”

Colin says he would be unable to pay for food or other essentials without his benefits. He worries that his lifeline will be taken away and he will be left to starve.

He says mental health patients currently living independently could be forced into residential care, creating a further burden for the public purse.

Jane's story

Jane Ramsey at Home in Muirkirk, East Ayrshire. She has been plagued with ATOS assesments.
Jane Ramsey at her home in Muirkirk, East Ayrshire 

Ayrshire gran Jane Ramsay is facing yet another Atos assessment, only months after she successfully appealed against the findings of a work capability test.

Atos decided last year that the 59-year-old was “fit to work” even though a number of doctors had found that a recent hip replacement and crippling arthritis in her knees had left her unable to hold a job.

Jane is also waiting on word over a potential knee operation.

She said: “I have been receiving disability living allowance and incapacity benefit since 2000.

“But last year I was told by Atos that I was fit to work and my money was going to be stopped. I’d failed their assessment, despite being told at loads of other meetings with doctors that I was unable to work.

“When I spoke to my GP about an insurance line, she laughed and said there was no way I could work.

“I was helped by the Citizens Advice Bureau to appeal the Atos decision, and I won in April this year.

“However, just last week I received more forms in the post from Atos.

“It looks like I’m going to have to go through the whole process again.”

James' story

James Girwood at home in Muirkirk, East Ayrshire. He has been plagued with ATOS assesments.
James Girwood at his home in Muirkirk, East Ayrshire 

James Girdwood, 58, was badly hurt in a road accident in 1995 as he headed home from work at Yarrow Shipbuilders in Glasgow.

He suffered serious foot and ankle injuries and needed several operations. He has since developed a catalogue of other ailments including an elbow injury, arthritis, high blood pressure and a heart condition.

But DWP officials ruled James, of Muirkirk, Ayrshire, fit for work. Now he has been summoned to an Atos assessment and faces an agonising wait to see if he will lose his incapacity benefit.

James said: “I asked the DWP to explain why they think I’m fit to work, but they didn’t answer.

“Instead I have an appointment with Atos to assess me. I have to go or they will stop my payments.

“I’ve been unable to work for years and I rely on lifts from friends to get me about. I also need that extra money from incapacity benefit.

“The assessment they’ve made about me is ridiculous. They are more interested in cutting the money than a person’s health.”