Remembering the thousands who have died after being passed 'fit for work'

Remembering the thousands who have died after being passed 'fit for work'

As sick and disabled people suffer distress and poverty they really need people of faith not to pass by on the other side of the road. So it was heartening when on 28 September 2013, the Dean of St Paul’s joined grassroots campaigners to demand an end to Work Capability Assessments and a New deal for sick and disabled people, as called for by the WOW petition.

Explaining why he was adding his voice to the campaign, David Ison said : "Many disabled people feel desperate facing possible cuts in support, the bedroom tax, and in particular an inflexible and failing work capability assessment scheme which can blight and even cut short their lives. The government needs to respond by enabling disabled people to live with dignity and security."

The Dean took part in a ceremony of remembrance in Parliament Square for the thousands of people who have died shortly after undergoing a Work Capability Assessment. You can watch a short (less than 5 minutes) video of the event. The Dean also signed the Downing Street Demand, a letter to the Prime Minister which supports the WOW petition.

One of the speakers at the ceremony was Rick Burgess of WOW petition, who spoke of his personal experience of Work Capability Assessments.

"I was first tested by the computer check box system in 2003 in a new Labour pilot, the result ignored my impairment and in the subsequent appeal we found the DWP had altered the report in order to deny me my social security, So it's been 10 years of this abusive process, with each year that passed it got progressively more brutal, more dishonest, more sadistic until now it is destroying thousands of lives each year.

"And when the government has been told about this, what did they do? They removed legal aid and have made the appeal process hidden, without time limit and without any benefits while you await the DWP reconsideration, making it virtually impossible to use. This assault on basic human rights is why we got Amnesty International involved to resist this attack upon us. This is not how a good faith system works, this is how a spiteful, corrupt and illegal system operates, it is the disability denial model prototyped by US insurance companies and being applied to British social security.

"Last year I had my fourth WCA, again I had to appeal, the process almost killed me, that I am here today is thanks to friends and family who helped me survive."

Campaigners heartened by the Dean’s support hope it will encourage more local parishes and faith communities to adopt the WOW petition and help collect signatures. Posters and flyers can be downloaded from the website. Every signature is deeply appreciated.

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© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden

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