Atos cock-up leaves stroke-victim without benefits and in fear of homelessness

A stroke-victim has spoken about how an error by a private firm hired by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to carry out disability assessments left him and his wife without vital benefits and in fear of losing their home.

Former businessman Alan Buchanan, 65, has been bed-ridden since suffering multiple strokes and is now fully dependent on his wife Heather and carers. Alan had his first seizure 15 years ago.

Ms Buchanan told the Independent that a benefits assessor from the private company Atos, contracted by the DWP to carry out assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), arrived at their home in Scotland two hours early.


Ms Buchanan said: “A lady came to the house at about nine in the morning. She said she was from Atos. I explained to her that I had asked for an appointment at 11am, because Alan’s carers are here before that.

She added: “I did ask her if she’d like to come in, basically to show her that he was there, in his bed. She could see his wheelchair and everything else sitting about because we live in a very small flat.

“She said ‘no it’s alright, we’ll reschedule’. Then she went away.”

However, Heather says Atos never called to rearrange the assessment and the couple later received a letter from the DWP informing them that Alan’s PIP benefits were ending, because he had not provided “a good enough reason” for failing to attend an assessment.

A few days later the couple received another letter informing them that Alan’s Attendance Allowance, a benefit similar to Carer’s Allowance for older people, would also be ending.

The couple asked the DWP to reconsider the decisions and requested advice on what they should do if struggling to make ends meet.

“I couldn’t believe it. I called up the DWP and asked what we should do in the meantime, because the money stopped, everything stopped, and I thought that’s it, because the flat’s paid for through DWP benefit”, said Ms Buchanan.

“It’s really difficult to communicate with the service because you speak to different people every time you phone, and they all seem to give out different information”, she added.

Heather was left shocked when told the only thing they could do was to “ask for social welfare and use the local food bank”.

“My stomach hit the floor”, said Heather. “We’ve never asked for anything in our lives.


“Alan had his own business for 30 years. He travelled abroad, selling computing products in Indonesia, China, Turkey — everywhere.

“He brought a lot of revenue into the country. And yet he’s now really struggling, and it’s such a shame.”

Ms Buchanan received another letter a week later, informing her that the department had “considered the points raised and any new information provided”, but refused to reverse the original decision to stop Alan’s PIP payments.

It was then that the couple turned to their local MP Steven Paterson for help, who raised the case during PMQ’s and asked Prime Minister Theresa May why the Government was “punishing vulnerable people”.

The SNP MP for Sterling told MPs: “My constituent Mr Buchanan suffered several serious strokes and requires extensive care.

“He was deemed to have missed his Atos assessment appointment when the Atos inspector arrived earlier for that appointment, and his carers hadn’t got him up yet.

“His benefits were stopped. Why is this government’s welfare regime punishing vulnerable people like my constituent?”

Speaking to the Independent, Mr Paterson added: “The fact that the UK Government’s Department of Work and Pensions refused to allow any flexibility in dealing with Mr Buchanan’s case is a damning indictment of the brutal benefits regime being administered by the Tory Government.

He added: “The stopping of lifeline benefits seems to be the first and only step they are willing to take, and vulnerable people facing the most difficult of situations caring for loved ones are left to fight an uncompromising bureaucracy no matter how genuine their need.

“My fear is that there are many others who have suffered the injustice of losing the benefits to which they are entitled due to the patently unfair and ruthless way in which the benefits system is run under the Tories.”


The Buchanan’s have since seen told that the DWP is reviewing the decision and that the case should be resolved within a week.

Left traumatised by the experience, a tearful Ms Buchanan said: “It’s really hard. Alan’s condition as deteriorated rapidly in the last four years. It’s not nice to see him like that. If we were without the benefits for the coming months, I would need a lot of help.

“Had I not shouted about this, I wouldn’t have known what to do or how to do it. You hit brick walls every way you run.

“The people you speak to at Atos can be very rude. It made me feel as if I was asking for something that we didn’t deserve. It makes you feel very guilty.

She added: “Some of the people I see at support groups have given up. They don’t go any further because of the stress and the strain.

“They say they’re at the lowest of the low. Nobody knows where to turn.”


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