11/04/2014 - Another victim of Atos and government cuts

atoskillsA scientist given 18 months to live by doctors was declared fit to work by Atos and died penniless because he lacked the energy to appeal, his family have said.

Nine years ago Robert Barlow gave up his job as a government scientist. He had worked as a microbiologist for Defra in Cambridge. He was diagnosed with severe cardiomyopathy, a heart defect. He died aged 47 in November 2013.

He was declared fit to work, despite partial blindness and difficulty walking, by Atos in early 2012. This stopped his Employment and Support Allowance and free NHS prescriptions.

At first he decided to appeal, later Mr Barlow decided to withdraw it because he felt too ill to fight, his aunt Joan Westland said.

“Robert had very little money on benefits and nothing at all when his money was stopped,” she said. “I know there are scroungers but he was not one of them.”

Mr Barlow died after never regaining consciousness following a fall at home.

A DWP spokesman claimed: “We have followed the correct procedures in the processing of this benefit claim. People have the right to appeal a decision, but if the appeal is withdrawn we cannot continue with processing the claim.”

Atos, which assesses whether benefit claimants are fit to work, is to finish its £500m contract early following a public outcry over the way it has carried out assessments and government criticism over "significant quality failures".

Pat Harrington of Solidarity said:

“Just one more victim of government benefit cuts and Atos procedures. Robert Barlow was denied dignity in death despite years of service to the government. These people don’t care about loyalty or looking after the vulnerable. They are despicable.”