The Right Honourable Chris Grayling MP
Minister for Employment
Department for Work and Pensions
Date: April 19, 2012
Subject: Deaths and Suicides of Sick and Disabled People
Dear Mr. Grayling,
I am a 55-year-old Disability Studies specialist, stock market trader, and a disabled person (born with cerebral palsy) from Montreal, Canada. For the past several months, I've been reporting to the UN Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SRCPD), in New York City, regarding Britain's Welfare Reform Bill and the plight of the long-term disabled and seriously ill population in your country. Suffice it to say that your society's most vulnerable people are facing onerous cuts to, or outright loss of, benefits and thus are being sentenced to a life of hardship, entrenched poverty, and despair. Disabled people in the U.K. have even committed suicide as a result of being wrongly declared "fit for work" by ATOS, who are in charge of performing the government's work evaluation assessments.
It is not hyperbole to state that hundreds of thousands of long-term sick and disabled people are at serious risk of destitution and suicide because of the negative consequences of the Welfare Reform Bill and austerity measures in the United Kingdom.
Moreover, there is serious concern that the Welfare Reform Bill itself violates the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and European human rights treaties, according to the reports prepared by the U.K. government's own Joint Committee on Human Rights.
I wish to query you specifically about the deaths and suicides of sick and disabled people in the U.K—a calamity that has received some media attention. According to Sonia Poulton of the Daily Mail (http://poultonblog.dailymail.co.uk/2012/03/people-are-choosing-suicide-to-escape-poverty-is-this-the-states-final-solution.html ), "there have been almost 150 deaths related to sick and disabled citizens who fear being plunged further into poverty as our benefit system - designed to protect the vulnerable - increasingly cuts people adrift leaving them to fend for themselves."
Furthermore, more than one thousand work sickness benefit claimants died last year after being found "fit-for-work" by Atos (http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/investigations/2012/04/32-die-a-week-after-failing-in.html; http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/investigations/2012/04/atos---how-much-grief-can-one.html), no doubt due to the stress and anxiety of having their benefits withdrawn.
Paul Farmer, CEO of the health charity Mind, recently resigned from the review panel for the Work Capability Assessment http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2012/04/02/sole-charity-representative-quits-work-capability-assessment-review-panel/ and criticized the assessment test as "still not fit for purpose." He strongly advises that the assessment be halted "until real changes are made. It’s damaging people’s lives. It’s costing the taxpayer a fortune. And it certainly isn’t fulfilling its purpose of supporting people with mental health problems on their journey back to work."
So my questions to you are as follows: Why haven't the work capability (ESA) assessments been halted until deemed fit for purpose? Is Atos simply a facilitator of the British government's welfare-dismantling and deficit-cutting agenda? If you are as alarmed about the tragic deaths and suicides of the sick and disabled as the United Nations and myself are, then what action(s) is your government taking to prevent further casualties of your society's most vulnerable? Why is the government endorsing The Sun's and Daily Mail's "benefit cheats" campaigns when they are resulting in a rise of disability hate crime (verbal and physical attacks)? And lastly: Why hasn't either Lord Freud or Disability Minister Maria Miller made an effort to defend the reputation of genuine sick and disabled people whenever those articles are published? It's truly unfair to ruin their reputation in order to expose a few cheats.
A copy of this letter is being sent to the UN Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I await your reply and strongly urge your compliance. (Failure to respond in a timely manner will result in this matter being brought to the attention of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland—and acted upon as a CRPD and Human Rights complaint against the United Kingdom.)
Yours very truly,
Blog: Hephaestus: Disability Studies
Blog: My Disability Studies Blackboard