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Jacqueline Harris- Suicide After Being Found Fit For Work

November 25, 2013

Another name to add to the long list of those we can never forget.

PARTIALLY-sightedand only able to walk with the aid of a stick, Jacqueline Harris suffered crippling pain due to slipped discs in her back and neck. Her mobility was reduced further when a dog savaged one of her wrists.

Despite being in agony which strong pain relief could not ease, the 53-year-old was deemed to be fit for work following a government health assessment and told to seek work.

Her sister claims the verdict that she was ineligible for disability benefits drove her to take her own life earlier this month.

Nurse Christine Norman, top right, said her fitness-to-work assessment at a government-run centre lasted only a few minutes.

It is claimed that during the test she was only asked one question – “Did you come here by bus?”, to which she answered ‘yes’. The widow later received a letter by post telling her to find employment.

Ms Harris contested the ruling but was found dead at her home in Speedwell Road, Kingswood, on November 2 having taken an overdose.

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) tribunal hearing had been due to take place to consider her appeal two weeks later.

Her older sister Mrs Norman, 57, from Whitchurch, said her sibling was already low due to her health problems but could not bear the pressure of being forced into work.

She said: “She said couldn’t do it anymore and that no-one was listening to her and no-one cared. She told me she couldn’t work and that nobody believed her.

She just wanted her benefit so she could have avoided the pressure of work – it wasn’t a massive amount of money.”

Of the appointment at the assessment centre last year, she said her sister spent two hours on two buses travelling to the centre, run by private firm Atos Healthcare, and spent only two minutes having an assessment. Mother-of-two Mrs Norman said her sister was only asked one question at the assessment: “Did you get here by bus?”

“She replied with one fateful word – ‘yes’,” said Mrs Norman. “She hadn’t even had the chance to take her coat off.

“If she was addicted to alcohol or drugs, she would have been given a sick note.

“Being a nurse and a health professional I am so disappointed – anyone could see she wasn’t fit to work. She would have loved to have had a job but couldn’t.

“How much grief, pain and anguish do you have to go through before they realise?”

Following the ruling, her benefits were stopped in January and she sought help through the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

Her first appeal against the decision failed, but the second appeal was due to be heard at HM Court Tribunal Service in Cardiff on November 15.

Ms Harris suffered from arthritis in her neck and back due to her slipped discs but her pain was exacerbated after an unsuccessful operation on her neck last year.

She was left in agony every time one of her arms was touched, making everyday tasks a huge challenge.

Bones from her hand had been removed during separate surgery after she had been attacked by a dog she had agreed to look after at her home.

She had previously been a recipient of incapacity benefit but was trying to claim its replacement called an Employment and Support Allowance, first introduced in 2008.

Paying tribute to her sister, a former nurse who lost her husband Brian six years ago, Mrs Norman said she tried to remain positive despite facing an uphill struggle every day.

Mrs Norman said: “She was gregarious and loved dogs, and music and to boogie as much as her back would allow. She was an intelligent girl.”

An inquest into Ms Harris’ death has been opened and adjourned.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “Our sympathy goes out to the family of Mrs Harris during what must be a very difficult time.

“A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence.

“Through a series of independent reviews and by working with medical experts and charities, we have considerably improved the work capability assessment process since 2010 to make it fairer and more accurate.”

An Atos spokeswoman said: “Our sympathies go out to Ms Harris’s family.

“Atos Healthcare carries out assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions and under its guidelines. But we do not make decisions on people’s benefit entitlement, nor are we involved in the appeal process.”

8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 25, 2013 12:56 pm

    Yet another example of a pen pusher thinking they are more medically qualified than a GP or Consultant deciding if someone is ill or not. Yes the lady may have travelled there on a bus, but did they ask her if she was accompanied by a carer or helped in any way to get on and off the bus. Probably not. This Government are designing their policies on Hitlers way of thinking. What next? Are they going to board us all on a train and take us to the gas houses????????????? If a Doctor gives you a sick note stating they have examined you and you are not fit to work, then YOU ARE NOT FIT TO WORK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. November 25, 2013 1:12 pm

    Sincere condolences to Jacqueline’s sister and family….it is sickening to read the responses from DWP, ATOS and so on, they are covering up real malpractice issues. Too many cooks spoiling the broth..that is the high price we taxpayers and genuine cases are paying, an enormous bureaucracy swallowing up accountability, time, responsibility with words, words, words, and unaccounted misuse of expertise and time.

    The process Jacqueline endured – “two minutes assessment” defies human rights values and common sense. It has left us appallingly gobsmacked, astonished, that such an infrastructure be allowed to rumble on, decimating human values and decency.

    How do we enforce that ATOs’ and DWPs’ “passing the buck” attitude tantamount to being accessory to manslaughter?

  3. November 25, 2013 2:29 pm

    I’m thinking been there not once 3 times get to appeal win,called back to ATOS zero points,maybe if I’d murdered a random stranger there would of been outcry this is happening now.

  4. Tricia permalink
    November 25, 2013 3:32 pm

    ‘Britain on the Fiddle’, ‘On Benefits and Proud’ when are we going to see a documentary covering this atrocity instead of the media constantly pumping out programmes claiming those on benefits are all scroungers, cheats and skivers!

  5. Maria Williams permalink
    November 25, 2013 10:58 pm

    This is so sad, particularly considering Mrs Harris had been a nurse herself and cared for people, she was left incapacited and in pain. What do people have to do to prove their inability to be in or find work, cruel heartless system to live under, this department and all who run it ie including the Minister should be held accountable to what eventually happened to cause her death and the others who tragically saw no way out but to take their own lives and we should have a debate about what is going on.

  6. Karen permalink
    November 26, 2013 8:18 am

    I’m confused…How come a Doctor or specialist is over ruled by someone with less to no qualification’s..And Your Doctor writes a sick note (what ever it is now) and that’s over ruled and taken no notice of…I Have just lost my appeal…Don’t know what’s gonna happen or how long I’ll be able to hold on to my house for…..Will loose every thing I WORKED FOR…


  1. Jacqueline Harris- Suicide After Being Found Fit For Work | WorldWright's …
  2. British disabled widow’s suicide after ATOS witch-hunt | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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