THERE is little doubt a few hundred scare stories about the break up of the union are about to be thrown at the Scots electorate. Most of the stories will have as much credibility as as a paper bag can hold a gallon of water, however, some of the stories, such as Margaret Thatcher’s Poll Tax which ripped Scotland apart in the 1980’s and leaves a horrific legacy of inescapable personal debt even to this day, are worth considering in the context of whether Westminster really gives A-TOSS about retaining the Union with Scotland.
Given we are in the deepest recession the world has ever seen, a recession caused by bankers & regulations made by national Governments in the nation’s capitals rather than devolved assemblies such as the Scottish Parliament, perhaps one of the most important subjects on everyone’s mind in Scotland should be the CONDEM Coalition Government’s dreaded Welfare Reform Bill, parts of which are already being implemented with a Concentration Camp zeal upon the long term sick, patients with debilitating illnesses & benefits claimants across the UK, particularly in Scotland.
Every day there are stories about the weak and the sick in Scotland being treated like cattle off to the slaughter by a Westminster appointed company receiving at least £100 million and doubtless all the hidden extras we will never get to hear about. The Tories it seems, may give A-TOSS about keeping the union but they certainly don’t give A-TOSS about caring for Scots in need.
So, simply, Scots may well have to consider, if the UK Government in London don't give A-TOSS for Scotland, and feel that £100 million is a good price to pay for torturing the long term sick, disabled and near death up and down the length of the country, then wouldn't it be better Scots looking after their own?
Its not as if we Scots don't have our own resources to deal with the population on a more fairer basis. After all, we are the only country in the world who discovered oil, and then lost it to another country, a resource which may come back to Scotland if the independence referendum swings in favour of a nation status. Isn’t it therefore time to take a hard look at whether Scots are safer with, and may expect fairer treatment in the hands of an independent Scotland?
Considering we are supposedly all in this recession together, yet like in the rest of the UK we Scots watch as our safety nets are gradually being stripped away from us, with who knows, the NHS next in the firing line as the block grant from London decreases to cover up the banker’s billions, Do YOU give A-TOSS for a Fairer Scotland with a stronger voice within the union or a stronger and more caring for Scots voice as an independent nation ?
* Scottish Law Reporter agreed to run this article after a GP working in the South of Scotland reported to one of our journalists she had been offered a substantial cash sum [by an unnamed party] as an incentive to withdraw her backing for a disability benefits claimant who is suffering from cancer.
Readers can find out more about ATOS Healthcare by using GOOGLE .
The Sunday Mail newspaper reports on how the UK Government is treating Scots in need :
Jul 17 2011 Mark Aitken, Sunday Mail
A PRIVATE firm hired to slash benefits are promising "a brighter future" to claimants whose payouts are stopped. Atos Healthcare are being paid £100million a year by the Tories to reassess people on disability and sickness benefits and drive them back to work.
They pay doctors up to £60,000 a year to assess whether claimants are fit to work. In a job advert for doctors, they claim: "You could make the difference that gives someone on incapacity benefit a brighter future." The advert, published on the British Medical Journal website, adds: "It's a vitally important role that aims to change lives for the better."
Labour MP Tom Greatrex, who has campaigned on the issue, branded the ad as "insulting". The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP said: "The Tory-led government need to get a grip on Atos as a matter of urgency. "This advert is an insult to the thousands of people across the country who have been let down by the shambolic way Atos conduct their assessments.
"The idea that Atos are giving people on incapacity benefit a brighter future would be laughable were it not causing so much distress and pain to those who have been unfortunate enough to go through the process of their assessments."Rather than advertising for more highly paid staff, the Tory-led government should demand Atos sort themselves out, so their assessments are fair and reasonable."
Last week, the Sunday Mail revealed bungled rulings were costing taxpayers £50million. Around 30,000 people appealed against their decisions, with 40 per cent of them successful, which has cost the government around £50million. But UK employment minister Chris Grayling has admitted no money has been claimed back from the firm for poor medical advice.
An Atos spokeswoman said: "We have no comment on the advert."
Chemo patient's despair at ruling : Maggie Mackay was assessed by Atos as "fit to work" when she was still recovering from chemotherapy. The 51-year-old, from Glengarnock, Ayrshire, was a furniture restorer before breast cancer stopped her in her tracks.
She had radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery but was then assessed as being to fit to work by Atos and taken off disability benefit. Maggie, who bravely took part in our Breast Cancer Care Fashion Show last year, has launched an appeal.
She said: "Two weeks ago I had more surgery as my scar was not healing properly. My side effects include fatigue, not being able to sleep, very sore bones and memory loss. "The young woman didn't seem interested. I can't squat because I have two slipped discs."But she wrote in her report that I could squat. She made out I was perfectly fit and healthy. "Everything you say is twisted to make out that you are fit for work. I now have £8 a day to live on."
Jul 10 2011 Mark Aitken, Sunday Mail
BUNGLED rulings by the private firm deciding whether benefit claimants are fit to work are costing taxpayers £50million, we can reveal. The Government have been urged to claw back millions from the contractors after they wrongly assessed thousands on disability benefits.
Atos Healthcare is being paid £100million a year by the Tories to reassess people claiming disability and sickness benefits. But around 30,000 people appealed against their decisions, with 40 per cent of them successful, which has cost the government around s50million.
The Department for Work and Pensions' contract with Atos allows it to recoup money from the firm for poor medical advice. But UK employment minister Chris Grayling has admitted not a single penny has been claimed back.
Quizzed by Labour's Tom Greatrex, he said Atos "have met all of their targets for medical advice". Greatrex, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, said: "The Toryled Government's failure to provide the taxpayer value for money is disgraceful and the attitude of the minister responsible for this defies belief.
"To suggest Atos has met its targets when it is needlessly costing the taxpayer millions is unacceptable. "It is astonishing that the Government did not recoup a single penny of taxpayer money from Atos, despite its obvious failings.
"At a time when the welfare budget is being slashed by billions, many people will be surprised that the government is not demanding repayment from a multi million pound international organisation. "The Government is very quick to demand money back from welfare recipients who don't live up to their responsibilities. They should do likewise with Atos."
DWP's contract with French owned Atos allows the government to "apply financial remedies" where the firm has "failed to meet contractual targets". A dwp spokeswoman said: "If a decision is overturned at appeal, it does not necessarily mean that the original decision was inaccurate. "Often, customers produce new evidence at their appeal." Atos said it had nothing to add to the DWP's statement.
We revealed in March how Glasgow GP Margaret McCartney went undercover at an Atos recruitment evening. She was told: "You are not in a typical caring role. This isn't about diagnosing. We don't call them patients. We call them claimants."
Jan 1 2012 By Mark Aitken, Sunday Mail
A FIRM employed by the Government to weed outbenefit cheats are losing more than two thirds ofthe appeals against their decisions. Controversial French company Atos are paid £100million a year to get people off disability and sickness benefit.
But Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) have revealed that 69 per cent of people they represented at tribunals have won their appeals. Heart attack and lung disease victims are among those Atos have assessed as being well enough to look for jobs.And figures from parliament records show appeals will cost the taxpayer £60million this financial year alone. Incredibly, Atos will not be penalised for their abysmal performance.
CAS head of policy Susan McPhee said: “If the Government want to cut down on fraud and help people into work, we support that. “But with this system, they aretargeting many people who aregenuinely sick and unable to work. They are removing their income and plunging them into poverty. “Our advisers are overwhelmed by people who have been found ‘fit for work’ by the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) assessment when they are not. “Almost 70 per cent of these people who are helped by CAS have their assessment overturned at appeal – which shows how poor the system is and how many people are wrongly caught out by it.”
The figure is based on a sample of 269 ESA tribunals in 2010-11 – with 185successful. Figures obtained by Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP Tom Greatrex show there were more than 166,000 appeals against ESA decisions in 2010-11, costing the taxpayer £40million. And from April to August this year, there were almost 80,000 appeals,costing £19.1million. This means the bill for 2011-12 could be £60million.
Greatrex said: “I know from the Citizens Advice centres in my constituency the amount of time and resources taken up by helping some of the most vulnerable people navigate their way through this tortuous system. “These aren’t people trying to fiddle the system – they are constituents who suffer from serious illnesses such as Parkinson’s and cancer. “The rapid rise in cases Citizens Advice dealt with in the last year clearly shows there is a problem.
“The way to save money, reduce the backlog of appeals and lessen the huge burden on Citizens Advice is not to hire more judges or move to a six-day week at the Tribunal Service, as the Government are doing. “They must reform the Work Capability Assessment so it is fair and gets decisions right first time round.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “The reassessment of incapacity benefit claimants is pressing ahead on time and as expected.” Atos declined to comment.