Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Monday, 24 September 2012 15:47 UK

Scottish Parliament

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart highlighted concerns about work capability assessments carried out by private company Atos which were in "every members' postbag" and said concerns he'd received were "absolutely heart wrenching and an absolute disgrace".

Mr Stewart was leading his member's debate on concerns across Scotland regarding the work capability assessments for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) that are being carried out by Atos, on 26 September 2012.

Atos are the private firm paid to carry out fit-to-work medical assessments by the Department of Work and Pensions.

His motion highlighted the reported fears of stakeholder organisations and individuals that similar concerns will be reproduced with assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), which is set to replace DLA.

MSPs are receiving significant casework from constituents regarding negative experiences of these assessments, as was highlighted on 18 September when the Welfare Reform Committee took evidence evidence on the 'Your say' initiative.

Mr Stewart said he was no cheerleader for Atos, but it was "Westminster that is to blame for this" as the contract had been written by the Department of Work and Pensions.

He called for the Scottish Parliament to take "full control over welfare, and I hope that that will happen sooner rather than later".

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said that those who could not work should not be exposed to ""a chaotic shambles of a system that denies them dignity" with systems more about IT than about people.

Ms Baillie called on the Scottish government, if at all possible, to pass on the "formula consequentials" from Westminster to support advice services in Scotland.

Scottish Conservative MSP and Welfare Reform Committee member Alex Johnstone said there must be confidence in the assessment process and that, that confidence had been undermined and he called for the committee to gather "empirical evidence".

SNP MSP Fiona Mcleod drew on her own experience of a work capability assessment from Atos, saying they were more interested in IT than her mental health.

Ms Mcleod said: "I have been through that process, I've been assessed, I was found fit for work, I appealed it and my appeal was upheld."

She had been suffering from depression and was passed fit by Atos, who asked if she could pick up a pen and had her stomach examined, despite having a mental health problem.

Ms Mcleod said: "The system is profoundly unfair, its philosophically flawed and it must be challenged by individuals and collectively by society".


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