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article imageReview: Disabled or Faking It? Special

By Alexander Baron     Aug 1, 2012 in Politics
In this era of austerity, all governments have been swinging the axe. In Britain, people on disability benefits are one of the prime targets.
In this half hour programme, the Panorama team take a long hard look at where the axe is falling. It begins with the claim - undoubtedly true - that the government has contracted out the assessment of disabled people and others unfit to work to the French company Atos Healthcare, for around £100,000,000 a year.
According to David Cameron, almost £1 in every 3 is spent on welfare. He doesn't say how much is spent on servicing the national debt, which could be dissolved if Britain and every other country printed its own currency instead of borrowing at interest from the private banking cartel.
The programme is called Disabled or Faking It? and can currently be found on iplayer, for those who can receive it.
There are two extreme views of disability claimants, and clearly neither of them is right. There are some people - few in number - who are playing the system, but the vast majority are not, although the former often receive considerable publicity. Chris Grayling MP, one of the people who is on the case, makes the rationalisation that the Government's current programme is aimed at bettering the lot of those people who can get back into work, saying they will be much better off. But will they?
One person who is definitely not faking it is the former lorry driver interviewed here who contracted chronic emphysema in 2009. At one point, his wife was told he had two days to live. He survived that but was and still is, clearly, not a well man, but he was told by Atos Healthcare that he was fit for work, a claim with which his own doctor disagreed profoundly.
Fortunately, on appeal, common sense prevailed, but says Panorama, his case is far from unique. Chris Grayling appeared none too impressed with the myriad such successful appeals, but clearly Atos Healthcare is agenda rather than evidence driven, at least in this field. Among the others it found fit for work was an unfortunate young woman who had been diagnosed with a particularly acute case of arthritis.
Panorama recruited two claimants to film covertly during their Atos Healthcare assessments. One was a young woman who suffers from fibromyalgia; the other was the chronic emphysema sufferer alluded to above, who was on his third assessment. At the time this programme went out, this man was readmitted to hospital.
Another man who had been found fit for work in spite of being on the waiting list for a heart operation, died 39 days later. Sadly, his case is by no means exceptional. Yet another man had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act, and guess what Atos Healthcare said about him while he was still in hospital?
The Government's claim that neither they nor Atos Healthcare are working to targets is thus exposed as facile nonsense. This ludicrous campaign is all part of Prime Minister Cameron's equally ludicrous campaign to "pay down the deficit"; it is though a false economy, one that is doomed to result in not only greater cost for the Government, but in human tragedy, as with the man who was waiting for the heart operation, and is now, alas, waiting no more.
More about Panorama, Disability, atos healthcare