‘Bones of Richard III would be declared fit for work’

A North-East MP has said the remains of Richard III would struggle to pass the Government’s too-strict ‘fit for work’ criteria.

Thousands of benefit claimants are dying within six weeks of being wrongly assessed as being fit to work because of the Government’s “scandalous” welfare reforms, the Commons heard today.

Gateshead Labour MP Ian Mearns compared the coalition to “oppressive regimes in Central and Latin America”, blaming ministers for misdiagnosing at least 10,600 sick and disabled people as being fit for work.

Speaking during a backbench business debate on welfare reform, he said: “Put bluntly, this Government, the Department for Work and Pensions and their agencies are telling us repeatedly that people who are dying are fit for work.

“Between January 2011 and November 2011 some 10,600 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claims ended and the date of death was recorded within six weeks of the claim end.

“This Government has repeatedly refused to release updated 2013 (figures) for deaths within six weeks of an end of an ESA claim.”

Mr Mearns added: “Four people a day are dying within six weeks of being declared fit for work under the Work Capability Assessments.

“It is scandalous – scandalous and an indictment of this place.”

He suggested that the remains of Richard III would also struggle to pass the Government’s strict criteria.

He told the House: “Some might consider this bad taste, but I’m told there was a story doing the rounds, that when the bones of Richard III were discovered in Leicester, Atos carried out an assessment and judged him fit for work.

“It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

“It’s a sad truth faced by 12,000-plus families who, every year, have to face their own personal tragedy of this nature.

“In my youth, I never would have imagined that in 2014 it would be the United Kingdom that would be the subject of an Amnesty campaign.

“Yet at its AGM in 2013, Amnesty UK passed a resolution recognising the human rights of sick and disabled people in the United Kingdom had been dreadfully compromised.”

Source – Shields Gazette,  27 Feb 2014

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