A UK Government document setting out guidance for doctors to assess benefit claims has been withdrawn after it was found to include a racist slur.

An investigation by The Independent found that Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) guidance referred to Black people as being of the “N*****d race”.

The document was first issued in 2010 to help assess disability benefit claims but was still in use until just days ago, the newspaper revealed.

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The guidance referring specifically to assessments for osteoporosis was scrapped after The Independent highlighted to officials that it was still in circulation.

It was signed off by the DWP before being distributed to contractor Atos, which runs disability benefit assessments on behalf of the government, who distributed the document to the health professionals it employs.

An MP described the document as “lazy and racist”, while a prominent campaigner said the language used was based on “colonial tropes” suggesting that black people are “subhuman”.

Atos has withdrawn the document and apologised, while the Government said it did not condone the language but admitted it had been used.

The slur came to light through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. The Government was asked to provide copies of guidance given to all Atos doctors assessing benefit claimants.

“The density of bone in the adult depends on peak bone mass and subsequent alteration of bone density due to genetic, mechanical, nutritional and endocrine factors. N*****d race, load-bearing exercise, sex hormones (oestrogen), adequate dietary calcium tend to increases bone mass,” the excerpt said.

After the newspaper raised the use of the word, Atos launched an investigation, confirming that the document that had been handed out in Northern Ireland in 2010 was still in circulation.

It was issued to medics carrying out specific assessments on behalf of the government for Medical Support Services, the company said.

“Literally hundreds of years have passed since this racist term was coined and used as part of a basic, flawed and discredited human classification system,” Bell Ribeiro-Addy, a Labour MP said.

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“Now decades have passed since the mapping of the human genome undoubtedly proved that race is a social construct, not a scientific one.

“Whilst it’s not unusual to find such archaic terms in old scientific texts, it’s lazy and racist to find them reproduced in guidance for government departments in 2023.”

“How much more ink would it have taken to simply say that people of African descent typically have higher bone density?” she added.

“This guidance, which appears to be influencing healthcare professionals to this day, is based on racist and colonial tropes around black people which suggest that people of African heritage are subhuman and should therefore be treated differently from the rest of the population,” Patrick Vernon, equalities campaigner and chair of the Birmingham and Solihull NHS Integrated Care Board, said.

The National: Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-AddyLabour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Image: PA)

“It’s quite clear the UK still has a long way to go for an anti-racist approach to be applied to how officials operate across government departments, as well as the delivery of services like health and social care.”

Atos said that the company would investigate the issue further, with a spokesperson adding: “We are grateful this has been brought to our attention. We regret that this term appeared in osteoporosis training materials for health professionals in one region of the UK – these have now been removed pending further investigation.”

The DWP said that work capability assessments in Northern Ireland are a devolved matter, and therefore the responsibility of the Department for Communities (DfC). However, a spokesperson for the DfC said the DWP was responsible.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We do not condone the language used in this 13-year-old document, which was produced for the use of Atos health professionals in 2010.”