Disability activists said today that Tory plans to put millions of benefits claimants through a gruelling new tickbox test will drive a wave of suicides among those who see payments slashed.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) issued the stark warning after announcing a week of protest during the Paralympic Games against controversial outsourcing outfit and Games sponsor Atos, which has been handed the lion's share of the contract.
Activists will link up with direct action group UK Uncut for a week of "daring and disruptive" action to highlight the company's key role assessing ill and disabled people for lower benefits.
The French IT firm won a £400 million contract last week to assess "how disabled" people in England are in order to decide whether they qualify for the new personal independence payment (PIP).
Under the plans all 3.2m disability living allowance (DLA) claimants aged 16 to 64 will face a tickbox challenge from 2013.
In order to qualify for PIP people will be awarded points on their ability to perform 11 activities, including bathing and grooming, making financial decisions, taking nutrition, and engaging socially.
But campaigners fear that the tests will be heavily loaded by Tory ministers' stated goal of cutting spending by 20 per cent.
DPAC spokesman Adam Lotun said he was stunned that a company with "no understanding of disabilities" had won the contract.
Mr Lotun said: "Atos are going to hit their targets to get people off the benefits.
"A number of people are going to have their vehicles taken away from them or moved down to low rates of benefits.
"More people are going to commit suicide and more people are going to die as a result."
Atos has already faced uproar over its handling of an £100m-a-year payment-by-results deal to shift people off incapacity benefit.
This has seen thousands of people signed off as "fit to work" and shifted onto lower jobseekers' allowance.
But reports soon emerged of seriously ill claimants being passed fit under Atos's tickbox regime, including individuals with advanced terminal illnesses or heart problems.
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