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In an effort to save money and simplify the test used to assess whether people on sickness or disability benefits are fit enough to work, the Department of Work and Pensions has decided to reduce the questionnaire to just one yes or no question – Are you alive?

But according to experts, the simplified one question computer test, which the government pays French IT firm ATOS £100 million a year to administer, still gets the assessments wrong 70% of the time.

A spokesperson for ATOS explained why, despite extensive training in box ticking, their assessors still may face difficulties knowing which box to tick:

No test is perfect and although our box tickers are experts on ticking boxes, we admit we might still be getting it wrong sometimes. For example, if you ask someone the question “are you alive” and the person answers “no” it’s obvious which box to tick but if for example, an assessor receives an answer such as “barely”, which sometimes happens, it’s not as easy as you think to decide which box to tick.

The government denies it has set quotas whereby ATOS must find 70% of dead people fit for employment whether they are able to work or not.

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions explained that the government was keen to make sure anyone claiming to be dead was genuinely unable to work:

If the person is clearly dead, then they can claim incapacity benefit but it’s possible a certain percentage of people who claim they are dead may be swinging the led and we want to make sure they really are unable to work.

The government has also promised to weed out any people who may be technically deceased but despite their condition are still eligible for work. The DWP spokesperson explained:

You only need to look at Rupert Murdoch to see someone who looks like he’s dead but in fact is most likely alive. Allegations that he’s a special case because he is actually a member of the undead whose aim is to sap the will to live out of every living being on Earth, have absolutely no basis in fact. Probably.


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