Revealed: Truth About Atos Death Threats Plus Your Top Tips For Surviving On Benefits

ESA Tribunal Triumph
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Dear Reader,

In this edition we reveal the facts behind Atos’ claims that their staff were subjected to such a barrage of assaults and death threats in 2013 that they decided get out of the work capability assessment contract.

Plus, we’ve been overwhelmed by the many hundreds of responses to our request for your tips on Surviving Life On Benefits. They display a degree of dignity and determination in the face of hardship that is the very opposite of the ugly portrayal of claimants by politicians and the media.

Also in this newsletter, a spectacular own goal by the claimant hating Mail on Sunday, Benefits Street struggles to find a home, the DWP talk to themselves on Youtube, Atos’ profits perk up thanks to PIP and Capita try to persuade us that they really, really do care.

If you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community before midnight on Friday and you can get 20% off the cost of your annual subscription.

Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay: 3758

Claimants and carers get an annual subscription for £15.96, down from £19.95. Professionals get an annual subscription for £77.60, down from £97.00.

We’ve had well over 500 replies to our question about what advice you would give to people new to claiming benefits.

They cover issues as varied as where to shop, how to cook, what websites to use, where to get advice, how to cope with neighbours and the media’s hate campaign.

And the picture your suggestions paint is a very different one from the ugly distortions of the tabloids. Not a single mention of food banks. No suggestions about ways to afford flat screen TVs or cigarettes or alcohol.

Instead, your tips have an almost wartime spirit of defiance – a mixture of dig for victory and make-do and mend. Shining through them is a determination to survive without bitterness and without being ground down by adversity.

Above all, they demonstrate the reality of life on benefits that politicians, bankers and the media are desperate to keep hidden in order to make claimants the scapegoats for their own failings.

Having started this, we’re keen to keep it going. So, please do take a look at what your fellow claimants are doing to make life bearable.

And do add your own suggestions or comments if you haven’t already. You can use the Comments function on the page or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We’ve highlighted the winning tips from last week’s competition on the tips page.

Facebook users can also join in the conversation here.

And if you have a particularly pithy tip, you can even tweet it to us using #realbenefitstips

Benefits and Work has obtained documents via the Freedom of Information Act that may undermine claims by Atos that its staff were the subject of nearly two thousand episodes of assault or abuse, including death threats, by claimants in 2013 alone. Atos used the claim to justify wanting to exit early from the contract to carry out work capability assessments (WCAs).

This was, by any standards, a very serious accusation.

Characterising thousands of sick and disabled claimants as violent thugs that Atos could no longer expose its staff to is likely to have increased the level of prejudice against benefits claimants. It may even have contributed to a rise in the number of violent hate-crimes committed against disabled people.

Benefits and Work, however, has now obtained a month-by-month breakdown of all the incidents of violence and abuse reported by Atos to the DWP throughout the whole of 2013. It includes:

Staff assaulted. 5 times in the whole year.

Threat made to staff ‐ direct or implied. 110 times in the whole year.

Security called/police called. 215 times in the whole year.

Readers can decide for themselves whether Atos’ claims are justified by reading the whole year’s figures.

In other ESA news, labour has pledged to overhaul the work capability assessment. But without definite information about what is going to change, it’s a pledge that will probably be greeted with a certain amount of scepticism, at least by our readers.

Plus, yet another case of a dying man being found capable of work – in this case whilst he was waiting for a heart transplant.

Finally, we have now heard from three current ESA claimants who have been asked to attend an Atos medical in spite of the decision by the DWP to suspend all repeat referrals to Atos. The numbers seem too small to suggest that the suspension policy has ended already, but we’d be interested to hear from anyone else who has recently been invited to an Atos medical even though their ESA review date was February 2014 or later.

Anyone who imagines that Atos is hurting financially following the decision to try to make them produce better quality WCA reports and to suspend referring ESA claimants for reassessment will be in for a disappointment.

Atos first quarter profits are up 1.6% in the UK where “the ramp-up of the PIP contract offset the revenue decrease on WCA.” In other words, what they lost on the WCA roundabout they made up for on the PIP swings.

But while Atos may be very content with the way PIP is panning out, Emma Cross a Macmillan Cancer Support benefits adviser calls it “Heartbreaking, truly astonishing, I've never seen anything like this." She says delays in PIP leave the sick utterly destitute.

"Does anyone know how many people are struggling?", she asks.

Meanwhile, Dr Stephen Duckworth, the head of Capita’s PIP unit has told the press that disabled people are trapped in an assessment nightmare because of all the tests they have to undergo in relation to benefits. He believes that this has dangerous impacts on their health and personal lives and also increases the levels of prejudice against them.

All of which would be a great deal more convincing if Dr Duckworth didn’t work for the company which is busy selling dodgy lie detector software for local authorities to use on sick and disabled housing benefit claimants.


The Mail on Sunday tried its best to discredit food banks on Easter Sunday. Its reporters lied about being unemployed with families in desperate need of help to con CAB and Trussell Trust staff into helping them.

The vicious stunt backfired spectacularly, however, when thousands of disgusted members of the public made online donations to the Trussell Trust, specifically stating that it was the Mail’s article that prompted their donation.

Only around 250 people had donated to the Trust on their Just Giving page since late January, giving under £3,000. Following the Mail’s ugly stunt, there have now been almost 5,000 donors handing over a total of more than £61,000. The Trussell Trust are delighted, the Mail on Sunday probably not so much.

Others in the media are no longer getting such an easy ride with their claimant hating agenda either.

Channel 4’s Benefits Street is struggling to find a street anywhere in Britain that will let them film a sequel. A disgruntled director claims that someone is getting to potential participants and ‘putting the fear of God into them’.

And finally, the DWP’s attempts to set the internet alight with £31,000 of our money spent on nine Youtube videos has failed as spectacularly as all IDS’ other enterprises. A video on home swapping for bedroom tax victims has, for example, had just 84 views.

If you haven't already had enough benefits news, then you can find plenty more on the benefits and work website that we don't have room for here, including:

Councils sit on £67m in emergency help for poor

Two million poorest families hit by welfare reforms, says Oxfam

The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame

Still not clear Universal Credit IT will work warn MPs

Report: Bedroom tax has left 50 per cent of tenants in arrears - but savings aren't being made

News about PIP is still a great rarity, but lots of members are sharing their good news when it comes to ESA.

SUCCESS !, got extra ESA Premiums, THANK'S B&W !
“Thanks to B&W I had already successfully claimed PIP and had my IB successfully transferred to ESA support group. Now I have successfully claimed the ESA income related Enhanced Disability Premium and the Severe Disability Premium, both of which I'd never even heard of before reading about them here on B&W !.

Yay! I’m in the Support Group of ESA
“After having a recorded ATOS medical assessment in February, I have been placed in the Support Group for ESA. Thank you, for all the help and advice for filling out the form”

WRAG to Support Group
“i have just found out that i have been placed in support group from wrag… i can not tell you how relieved i am, the stress of it all has really took it out of me, thankyou it really helps just knowing someone is there for you if you need help”

Zero points to Support Group at appeal
“thanks to this wonderful site and the helpful moderators i had the best of medical evidence from my gp and cfs team …the relief was so much that my fiance who has supported me throughout broke down in tears. i hope this brings hope to those in the same situation, dont give up!...thank you again at B and W”

Moved from WRAG to ESA Support Group
“I appealed against being placed into WRAG, and have been sent a letter saying decision on my ESA claim looked at again and I have been placed into support group, won't be sent to independent tribunal etc. Thank you for guides and info on B and W site”

ESA- Won on appeal
“Thanks to your great site which I am so happy I subscribed to, I had my tribunal hearing for ESA on Friday 28/03/14 and won…”

Incapacity to Support Group
“hi all… today was told i had been placed in the support group with no medical i am sure the outcome is as a result of the info and guides on this site so i would like to give a big thank you to all…Thanks again its a great site and i for one would have been lost without it!”

WRAG to Support Group
“Was taken off WRAG group on to support group, thank you for your advice, invaluable”

ESA Support Group
“Thought I'd post to firstly say thank you to Benefits and Work for your fantastic guides - Couldn't have done it without your help!! And secondly to give others in same situation an idea of timescales - 30 weeks to the day from posting to receiving results!!”

ESA new claim support group success
“Brand new claim. Today received the news I am in the support group from 11th March. No medical! It's thanks to the guides on here & a brilliant gp”

Successful ESA appeal to support group
“Appeal allowed - to go from work related activity group to support group, under section 35 ESA regs 2008…In a sort of state of happy shock! Many thanks to the site organisers and contributors.”

Join the Benefits and Work community now and discover what a difference we can make.

And do remember: you're welcome to republish part or all of this newsletter, provided you credit Benefits and Work

Good luck,

Steve Donnison, Sangeeta Enright and Karen Sharpe

The Office Team
Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666


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