Protest against Atos 19th February London, Euston Head Office

 

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! Joined the London National protest against Atos called by Black Triangle, Disabled People against Cuts and others outside Atos head office.

A lot of new jargon is necessary to understand what is happening to benefits cuts at this time. But the strong message of the protest was that we had all better understand because any one of us could end up unable to work for the long or short term because of an accident, the onset of mental illness, disability or disease.

The £500 million contract from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with the multi national company Atos Healthcare was set up in 2010 with the aim of testing all 1.5 million people on sickness benefits in the UK. The Work Capacity Assessment (WCA) is a computer-led points-based assessment by often medically non-qualified Atos staff to determine whether to move people from Disability Benefits (DI) and put them on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

The Atos process has been found to be cruel, insulting and inhuman and as a result hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people have been wrongly judged to be fit for work and ineligible for government support. Tribunal Appeals against Atos decisions cost the DWP £21 million in 2009 -2010 and rose to £66 million in 2012-2013. Four out of ten appeals against Atos judgements are won.

Worse, some estimated   10,600 people died within six weeks of having support withdrawn after WCA. Since then figures on this ‘culling’ of the sick and disabled have not been published. The National protest was called in part to mourn the deaths of named individuals who have died in recent weeks and flowers were laid and tributes given to ‘the ones we have lost’.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! mobilised against Atos from the start. The protest campaign in Glasgow was hounded by the police and bullied by local Labour Councillors and their hangers-on who could not tolerate criticism of their collusion with Benefits Cuts. Two activists were arrested and charged for the use of a megaphone on a peaceful rolling picket. This case challenges the right of public protest and is continuing through the courts. See glasgowdefencecampaign.blogspot.co.uk

The scandalous record of Atos is now well-known. People report that they have been told they are fit to work because they have ‘travelled on a bus’ ‘put on their coats themselves’ and medical records and doctors’ reports have been ignored or rejected. The government is now, apparently, considering not renewing the Atos contract after 2015. We are certain that this is as a result of the growing   publicity about the conditions of the poor, disabled and sick who have lost the ‘safety-net’ of state welfare. We must continue to fight against all cuts in benefits and social services, and stand against the myth that the working class are responsible for the crisis of British capitalism.

Susan Davidson