Problems with Disability Testing

  • BBC's Panorama highlights the problems people are having with ATOS disability testing and the work programme, following Iain Duncan Smith's pledge to not leave disabled people behind.

    The testing to find people who are able to work and get them off benefits and in to employment, has been proven to pull legitimately disabled people into the programme too without consideration for how their lives are affected.

    Last year, Panorama went under cover and found that ATOS testing has been wrongly and unfairly assessing people as fit for work.

    The programme, aired earlier this week, showed that people are still having troubles with the welfare reforms intending to get people who are fit for work off benefits and back to work.

    They told the story of Ruth who suffers severe learning disabilities and epilepsy. She struggles with almost all day to day tasks, such as making a drink.

    She was assessed by ATOS as capable of preparing for the work place, but when she attended the job centre to begin 'actively searching for a job', her mother was advised to appeal.

    They appealed and won! This is great news, except for the undue stress herself and her mother would have suffered, on top of the difficulties they already have to manage with Ruth's learning disabilities.


    Ruth suffers severe learning disabilities but was wrongly assessed as able to prepare for work.
    Follow the link to watch the full programme on BBC iPlayer.

    This is just an example case, and an extreme one, of some of the problems found with government assessments trying to get disabled people back in to the workplace. It is not the case for everyone, and is hopefully not the intention of the government.

    However, Panorama suggests that as this push continues, more cases like this will occur where people who should not be working are forced in to the work place.

    The company who have been put in charge of the work capability assessments do not seem to understand illnesses such as learning difficulties and cannot comprehend the challenges that people have in every day life.

    The show also highlights that the work programmes have worked for some people, such as a homeless man who was unable to work mostly due to not being able to socially interact with anyone, but with confidence building courses, help and encouragement he has been able to hold down a job.

    The payment by results work programme does not seem to be working for many disabilities, which come under the 'hard to place' category of work placements, in particular mental illnesses. The stress of the continuous assessments and pressure to work on people who are already suffering disabilities, with an almost accusatory tone, does not seem justified.

    The programme is definitely worth a watch, as it shows an insight into how some people have genuinely suffered from the scheme, but bear in mind that this is hopefully not the same experience for the majority and some people have been really helped by the work programme.

    It is made very clear however that the problems for those that have suffered do not seem to be addressed and the schemes continue as they are.




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