When the coalition government was formed it was a mere matter of hours before it was announced that the government would be “reassessing people on incapacity benefit as fit to work and move them on to the lower jobseeker’s allowance“.
Currently the government is seeking to reassess all 2.6 million people on incapacity benefit – and its successor employment support allowance (ESA) – by 2014 in an effort to encourage more people back to work and to cut the welfare bill.
Cecilia Burns (right), 51, from Strabane, County Tyrone, was just one of these individuals. In February she had her benefits cut after a Work Capability Assessment conducted by Atos, a private contractor, declared her fit for work.
However Ms Burns was very ill with cancer and bravely fought the decision and eventually her benefits were reinstated just two weeks ago. Sadly Cecilia Burns passed away on Monday. She spent the last few precious months of her life fighting an injustice the likes of which we at Z2K see all too often.
The combination of rigid bureaucracy and badly thought out policy means that this is not the first case and is unlikely to be the last.
The death of this woman and the fact that Atos is a sponsor of the Paralympic games have drawn closer attention to the Work Capability Assessments and the fact they are not fit for purpose. Hopefully this increased scrutiny will put pressure on the government to change policy in this area.