The myth:Distraught at the Government sponsored murder of his father, a child writes to the Minister who created the abhorrent scheme, who, being the most evil most right wing bastard in the Con-Dem government, not only refuses to answer any of the little boy's questions but, in a machine-produced cut'n'paste letter tells him to visit the Job Centre if he wants to put in an appeal about his father's benefit claim.
The reality?A very sick man dies a month after receiving a letter telling him he is "fit to work"*. It happens to be the day after his benefit is reduced (not stopped, no - but significantly reduced). The family are, understandably, distraught at this personal tragedy and his teenage son writes a letter to what is not just a Labour supporting tabloid but an active and permanent campaigner for the Socialist People's Democratic Republic of Weegieville. Then, with the connivance, possibly even at the suggestion of a journowanker, the son then writes another letter which is hand-delivered to Ian Duncan Smith by the paper.
This letter was, apparently, "his anguished appeal to end the hated assessments". In response to a letter to a Minister in his formal capacity, IDS responds with a letter on Departmental headed paper and hand-signed. The bits that have been released address the lad formally and offers his condolences, then says that if he has any questions about the actual assessment, he should contact the relevant senior Departmental Official - who happens to be the District Manager for JobCentre Plus and gives his telephone number and address.
So what's the issue?I'm not sure what they wanted from IDS (Ed notes: well, actually, I am - what they got. Another stick to beat the "heartless Tories" with.) He's not going to stop the welfare reforms because a sick man died. Sick people do that (it's one of the reasons we say they are 'sick'.) If you aren't a casual visitor, you'll know I'm no champion of ATOS - the bits I've worked with have been notable only for their manifest incompetence and ability to blame others for their mistakes. But, even if an incorrect ATOS assessment was a contributory cause in Brian McArdle's death, I'm not sure that this is a sufficient reason for turning the state tanker around.
The Cretinous Crusader himself takes up his Cudgel of Incompetence** to call this "The most cold hearted letter ever sent by a Tory Minister." Now, as this didn't spring fully-formed from the not-apparently particularly cuddly brow of IDS, but was a response to an unreleased letter, might we not need to see the original enquiry in order to determine how appropriate or not the response was? If the lad, or a journalist acting on his behalf, wrote in an adult manner, surely he deserves a non-patronising response?
* Of course, if this was one of the old "work capability assessment" tests, not one of the tests for the new Personal Independence Payment, then the contract was started and extended to 2012 under the previous, Labour, regime and given a short extension by the Coalition.
** Displayed, to the only amusement I've felt in this short but sorry saga, below yet another extended apology from Eoin for getting all of the basic facts wrong.