News Feed: DWP deems patient in a coma is fit for work

Government attempts to “turn shirkers into workers” achieved new levels of dedication earlier this week, with the decision by ATOS, acting on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions, that a patient in a coma was capable of work.

The story appeared on Tuesday on an online forum run by, and was posted by the Deputy Manager of Reading Community Welfare Rights Unit. They write:

“Client’s husband is in hospital in a coma. He was sent ESA50. Client contacted DWP to explain situation and was asked to obtain letter from hospital confirming he is in a coma. Did so.

“Was told to send it to ATOS rather than local BDC. Did so. Husband has now received decision letter- yep, as he has failed to return the ESA50 without good cause and is therefore capable of work and no longer entitled to ESA.”

According to the manager of Reading Community Welfare Rights Unit, who would not name the individual involved for reasons of client confidentiality, this is a bona fide post. He said: “if its out on that forum from one of our log-ons, then it is a genuine story”.

A DWP spokesperson said “Nobody would be found capable of work on the basis that they did not return a form. Work Capability Assessments are based on thorough assessments by medical experts.”

Jane Fae

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5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Rebecca Ashling said,

    A couple of months ago I joked to my friends that the DWP would hire necromancers to raise all those corpses as zombies. After all, we couldn’t have all those dead people lazing around in their coffins all day. Now it the joke is turning a little sour 😦

  2. 2

    julianagain said,

    It’s true that nobody would be FOUND capable of work for failing to return an ESA50. However, the point is rendered academic by the fact that failure to return results in termination of ESA – whether it’s because ATOS have made a specific finding of capability, or because the inference is drawn that form-non-returners are capable scroungers, doesn’t really matter, the point is that ESA stops.

  3. 3

    Rebecca Ashling said,

    And of course, if the dead were forced to work for a, ahem, living, there’d be all this valuable land available for development as the cemeteries emptied.

  4. 4

    Yes, the response from the DWP ingeniously (and disingenuously) answers the question ‘was someone in a coma found capable of work?’ when the question that should have been asked would be ‘did someone in a coma have their benefit stopped and was ‘being in a coma’ found to be not good enough cause for the return of a form.

  5. 5

    Rebecca Shaw said,

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

    ATOS are seemingly no better than Schlumberger SEMA who previously held the contract, and BAMS (Benefits Agency Medical Services) who preceded SEMA. Working at the Ombudsman’s Office between 1996 and 2004, I investigated a number of complaints about the administration of the medical assessment process. Frankly the system was a disgrace. On appeal, 41% of decisions on entitlement were overturned.

    You might want to look at the evidence given to the then named Parliamentary Select Committee for Social Security in January 2000 when it was looking into services provided by BAMS.
    see at paragraph 189 in particular which reinforces the point made by julianagain. Bx

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