A successful demonstration / 22 February 2014
I was privileged to play a small part in the anti-ATOS demonstrations that took place on the19th February across the UK.
At the Brighton ATOS Assessment Centre we had over 80 people, many of us disabled, who turned out to protest against the inhuman methods employed by the French company ATOS when undertaking Work Capability Assessments (WCA) of sick and disabled people on behalf of the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP).
ATOS has been heavily criticised for its handling of this work, causing unnecessary suffering and hardship to people who are already diagnosed as being sick or disabled by the medica profession.
However, our biggest concern was that thousands of people have died following their involvement with this controversial scheme. This is based upon the government's own figures showing that between January and November 2011, 10,600 claimants died within 6 weeks of their claim ending. Many of these people having been found fit for work by ATOS and therefore no longer entitled to benefits.
A government study published in 2012 also found that one-half of the people identified as "fit for work" by ATOS remained unemployed and without income. It is believed that over 20 people who have recently committed suicide fell into the category.
The day after this successful protest the news broke that ATOS were now asking for their contract to be terminated before the renewal date in 2015. You would be forgiven, therefore, for claiming that our actions contributed in some part towards this.
But as others have commented, even though the mighty ATOS has been shown the error of their ways, this does not put an end to the envelopes that will still drop through the doors of disabled people telling them to attend WCA's or stating they are fit to work in jobs that simply do not exist. The DWP will just outsource the contract to another private company and the carnage will continue, albeit with a different face.
Until the present government, along with their draconian policies are gone, then nothing will really change. They will continue to involve private companies who's sole aim is to target vulnerable members of our society, assett stripping our health service, our pensions and making massive cuts to benefits.
As disabled people we have shown that we can organise and work alongside our non-disabled allies to make our voices heard. We can't afford to rest on our laurels. Let this recent protest be just the first of many as we start to hold this government to account and return our society to the caring and supportive fellowship it once was.