1) Controversy as ATOS wants to back out of ‘fit to work’ contract
Thousands demonstrated against the French healthcare company ATOS in a national protest on Wednesday, following the suffering and deaths of thousands of sick and disabled people attributed to the Work Capability Assessment provided by the company.
Shortly after, it came to light that ATOS wanted to back out of it’s £500 million contract before it’s end in 2015. ATOS stated their main reason for doing so would be the number of death threats and verbal abuse they have received, which has angered protest groups and campaigners who have fought for years to expose suffering at the hands of ATOS.
A statement released by the WOW petition, Black Triangle and Disabled People Against Cuts said:
“The bizarre exit strategy ATOS have developed in identifying apparent physical threats on Facebook despite the growing lists of real deaths caused by the WCA regime is an outrageous insult to all those that have died and all those that have lost family members through this regime. It is an insult to those left without their homes, without money and needing to go to foodbanks. It is an insult to every person who has suffered worsening physical and mental health through this inhuman regime.”
2) Public health emergency declared as one in six GPs asked to refer patients to food banks
One in six family doctors have referred a patient to a food bank in the last year, a new survey has found. Doctors have said that they have seen patients come to them with illnesses caused by not eating, or have been affected by the delays in benefit and welfare reforms leaving some without food for weeks.
Pulse magazine found in a survey of 522 GPs, 16% had referred a patient to a food bank in the last 12 months, and many now held vouchers for their local food bank and contacts for local support groups.
With rising living costs and cuts to wages and benefits, GPs and academics have described there to be an emerging ‘public health emergency’, with evidence from this survey backed up with hospital diagnoses of malnutrition, which has doubled in the last five years.
3) People could be charged for challenging sanctions and benefit removal decisions
People stripped of their benefits could be charged for challenging the decision with an independent judge.
A leaked document obtained by the Guardian from the Department for Work and Pensions about their finances said “introduction of a charge for people making appeals against [DWP] decisions to social security tribunals.”
Critics say the charge would hit the poorest hardest and could serve to reduce the number of challenges made despite the fact that 58% of those who wanted to overturn benefit sanction decisions in independent tribunals have been successful.
4) David Cameron calls his welfare reforms a ‘moral mission’
The Archbishop of Canterbury became the latest Church figure to speak out against the government’s welfare reforms last week, branding them ‘punitive’ for leaving more and more people hungry and destitute.
However, on Wednesday the Prime Minister hit back in an article in The Telegraph, defending his reforms as part of a ‘moral mission’:
“Of course, we are in the middle of a long and difficult journey turning our country around.”
“That means difficult decisions to get our deficit down, making sure that the debts of this generation are not our children’s to inherit.
“But our welfare reforms go beyond that alone – they are about giving new purpose, new opportunity, new hope – and yes, new responsibility to people who had previously been written off with no chance.
“Seeing these reforms through is at the heart of our long-term economic plan – and it is at the heart too of our social and moral mission in politics today.”
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass