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MP calls on Labour to dump cruel scheme

Skinner demands party puts in new, fair system for disabled

Left MP Dennis Skinner appealed to Labour yesterday to replace the government's disgraced "work assessment scheme" for disabled people with an panel of trade unionists and medical experts.

He told the Star that such a system existed for decades in dealing with disability benefits to people unable to work.

The Bolsover MP slammed the current system operated by French privateer Atos for making assessments, which has no medical or union representation on assessment panels.

Mr Skinner was speaking after hundreds of people demonstrated across Britain on Tuesday at 80 Atos centres.

He attended a demonstration at Atos headquarters at Triton Place at Regents Park in London.

Mr Skinner raised a storm in the Commons recently when he quoted the case of a Bolsover constituent diagnosed with cancer.

"David Coupe had his benefit taken away by Atos, even though he was very, very ill," said Mr Skinner.

"Weeks after that he was diagnosed with cancer. He appealed against the Atos decision. But when he was diagnosed it did not rush the appeal forward."

He said Atos's chaotic handling of assessments has delayed appeal hearings from three weeks to six weeks to six months and now over 12 months.

"For 11 months his appeal was not heard. Then he died," said Mr Skinner.

He said that since raising the case in Parliament many other MPs have raised similar cases from their own constituencies.

Mr Skinner called on Labour to pledge that in government it would restore a similar assessment to system to that which existed before Atos was appointed by the government's Department for Work and Pensions.

"There is no-one on the Atos assessments as of right with medical experience," he said.

"Labour should make it clear that we would put something in its place that mirrors life in the community. That includes both sides of industry, including trades unions, there should be someone with medical experience."

More than 10,000 disabled people have died within six weeks of losing benefits. A growing number have committed suicide.

In addition new regulations mean that benefits are not restored pending an appeal.

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