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Ministers have "blood on their hands" over benefits tests, say MPs
MINISTERS have "blood on their hands" after the suicides of sick people wrongly found fit for work after badly-flawed tests, a North-East MP said yesterday.
Kevan Jones, the North Durham MP, attacked the failure to reform widely-criticised assessments of incapacity benefit (IB) claimants - asking how ministers could have clear consciences.
Over three years, Atos will test about three-quarters of the 122,000 people in the North-East and North Yorkshire who claim IB, a legacy of the industrial meltdown of the 1980s.
But, across Britain, 40 per cent of appeals are successful. Some claimants have been stripped of disability benefits, only to die of serious medical conditions soon afterwards - and there have been reports of suicides.
Yesterday, the three MPs revealed numerous worrying cases of constituents, including:
* A 59-year-old with severe schizophrenia told to "retrain as a security guard because that was the last job he did ten years ago".
* A man with no legs told to undertake an 80-mile round trip for his work test.
* A cancer-victim judged fit for work, even before the results of an operation came through.
* A 51-year-old woman judged fit for work who, because of a bowel disease, "soils herself on a daily basis, requiring a change of clothes".
* A man in his late 50s judged fit for work, who - because of a brain tumour - is unable to "stand or walk for any length of time without feeling dizzy or in pain".
* A woman judged fit for work despite Crohn's disease, leading to severe diarrhoea, incontinence and abdominal pain, who was told she "could wear a nappy for work".
Mr Jones said: "People have taken their own lives because of this system.
It is not too strong to say that this Coalition government has blood on their hands for the deaths of those individuals."
Condemning the "crass, insensitive, unprofessional" tests, Mr Wright said: "Several of my constituents have told me they were asked by the person carrying out the assessment whether they just sit around and watch Jeremy Kyle all day."
Ms Goodman acknowledged the work tests had been introduced by Labour, saying: "Because of the way this has been run, I am sorry."
In reply, County Durham-born work minister Mark Hoban insisted that independent reviews of the 'work capability assessment' (WCA) had found "real progress" in improving them.
And he sparked criticism by suggesting the media was guilty of peddling "incorrect anecdotal information and total myths" about the tests.
However, Mr Hoban did pledge that further changes would be made if necessary and pointed to the appointment of 60 'mental health champions'
to help with assessments.
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