Posts Tagged ‘fitness for work’

DPAC End Week of Protest Against Atos

Wednesday, August 31st, 2022

DPAC End Week of Protest Against Atos: In August 2012 Disabled People Against the Cuts and UK Uncut organised the week of action as a protest against the sick spectacle of Atos, the company who pressures its staff to unfairly declare disabled people ‘fit for work’ so as to increase its profits and meet government targets, bathing in the glory of sponsoring the Paralympic games. The week ended with two protests on Friday 31st August.

Closing Atos Ceremony – Triton Square

Protests earlier in the week had included a spoof Paralympic opening ceremony next to Tower Bridge, then decorated with a giant paralympic symbol hanging from its upper level, a vigil at Westminster and a memorial service outside the Atos head office to remember the people who have lost their lives at the hands of Atos Healthcare. There had been protests too in other cities – with 40 protesters as corpses in the road stopping traffic, and at the actual Paralympic opening many of the contestants covered up the Atos name on their lanyards as a protest against their involvement as sponsors.

Among those protesting earlier in the week was Tara Flood, a former Paralympian who represented GB at three Paralympic games and whose gold-medal winning time at the 1992 Barcelona games remains a world record. She reflected the feeling of many disabled people when she stated: “It is a shocking irony that Atos is a main sponsor of London 2012 whilst destroying disabled people’s lives on behalf of the government.”

Over 500 came to Atos’s offices in Triton Square for a peaceful protest at the end of the week on Friday 31st August 2012. It had a festival atmosphere, with music and dancing, poppers, brightly coloured plastic water pistols and some fancy dress along the the usual banners and placards, but there was no mistaking the anger against Atos, evident in the slogans on the placards and chants of ‘Atos Kills!’

The target-driven computer-based work capability assessments delivered by Atos cause extreme hardship and misery to many disabled – and death to some. Last year 1,100 claimants died after Atos tests placed them on compulsory work-related activity to gain benefits, and others found ‘fit for work’ and so left without income have committed or attempted suicide.

Among conditions that Atos tests have found to have no bearing on fitness for work have been fatal heart conditions, terminal breast and kidney cancer and severe MS.

In one long street theatre performance disabled people who truly wanted to be freed of their disabilities were urged by ‘Atos’s own Reverend’ to come forward and go through the ‘Atos Miracle Cure’ archway, and several, mainly in wheelchairs, did so. Nothing seemed to happen to them, and they were disappointed, even after the ‘Rev’ had blessed them and patted them on the head, but then an ‘Atos doctor’ in a white coat came to assess them, and lo! she gave them each a certificate that they were now fit to work, and, even more miraculous, a job. But it was all a con!

By the time the ceremony ended I had left and was making my way to the Department of Work and Pensions offices, Caxton House, in Westminster, having been tipped off that disabled activists had entered and occupied them.

More at Closing Atos Ceremony.

DPAC Occupy Dept of Work & Pensions – Westminster

Traffic was heavy in London – I should have taken the tube. By the time I arrived there were around 20 or so protesters outside with banners in front of the entrance. Behind them were a block of around a dozen police in several rows in the fairly narrow outer lobby, and behind them I could see more police and a few protesters.

Shortly after me more arrived from the event outside the Atos offices, including quite a few in wheelchairs and formed a fairly large crowd, spilling out into the street.

Adam Lotun and spoke briefly about the reasons for the week of actions against Atos and announcing the struggle would continue and as a part of that he would be standing in the Corby by-election.

A few late arrivals tried to push past the police to join those already in the building, but as well as police there were people in wheelchairs and the media in their way and they had little chance of success. The situation became rather confused, but soon police reinforcements arrived and pushed the crowd back a few yards away from the doorway.

10,000 Disabled Dead

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

On 28th September 2013, disabled activists and supporters came to Parliament Square for ‘10,000 Cuts & Counting’, a ceremony of remembrance and solidarity for over 10,000 who died shortly after the degrading Work Capability Assessments run for the government by Atos.

The figure of 10,000 is the number who died in the 3 months following the degrading Atos-administered tests used by the government intended to assess the needs of people receiving benefits related to disability and ill health. The campaigners are not claiming that the test itself killed people, although some have been driven to commit suicide after being failed by Atos, but that such tests administered in the final days of life are unfeeling, unnecessary and persecute the sick and dying.

At the event we heard moving personal testimonies by disabled people and a mother of three disabled children, with many damning indictments of the failures of Atos and the Department of Work and Pensions, both failing to understand the needs of the disabled and not treating them with dignity and humanity, and of deliberately discriminatory policies, arbitrary decisions and bureaucratic incompetence.

Parliament Square was covered with 10,000 while flowers, one for each of the dead, and there was 2 minutes of silent remembrance for those who have suffered and died.

The silence was followed by four prayers facing the four sides of the square; prayers facing Westminster Abbey for the families of those who have suffered and disabled people still suffereing or despairing; facing the Supreme Court calling for justice and compassion for those without resources and power and for an end to discrimination and violence against the disabled; towards the Treasury calling on those in national and local government who decide on the use of resources to take into account the effect on people of what they do; and finally towards Parliament, calling for a new deal for disabled people and to put right the evident wrongs in the current system.

Unfortunately the prayers were not heard by those in power. The government’s response? They stopped issuing the figures on which this event was based.

More at 10,000 Cuts – Deaths After Atos Tests.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

ATOS Olympics 2012

Friday, August 27th, 2021

Protesters outside the DWP where DPAC activists have occupied the lobby.

2012 was of course the year that London suffered the Olympics, which had been creating problems in East London since London was awarded the games in 2005. I’d photographed a number of event related to the games, both protests against it and others using it as a theme, as well as taking pictures around its perimeter and views into the site on Stratford Marsh, an area I’d photographed since the 1980s and which features strongly in my 2011 book ‘Before the Olympics‘.

With the games came the Paralympics, held a few days after the end of the main event on 29 August to 9 September 2012. Although these games were generally held to be a great success, and to have considerably raised the profile of disabled sport, there was criticism from many disabled groups about IT company Atos being the technology provider and sponsor of the games.

Atos Olympic medals and Atos Olympic flame

Atos was responsible for the work capability assessments for the Dept of Work & Pensions, and had clearly been both incompetent and discriminatory in this, finding many disabled people incorrectly fit for work to meet targets designed to cut the cost of benefits. Many who appealed the decisions were found to have been incorrectly assessed, but often shortly after this were called for another assessment and again wrongly found fit. It drove some disabled people to suicide.

Some disabled athletes obscured the Atos logo on their passes in protest, while activist groups led by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) organised a week of action against Atos to coincide with the Paralympics, beginning with a spoof Opening Ceremony for the Atos Games in front of Tower Bridge.

DPAC made it clear that this is not a protest against sports or those taking part in the Paralympics, but against the government and Atos:

"We’re not against the Paralympics or the people taking part in it. We’re highlighting the hypocrisy of Atos, a company that soon may be taking disability benefits from the people winning medals for Team GB.

Ever since George Osborne announced he was slashing £18 billion from the welfare budget, the government has paid Atos £100 million a year to test 11,000 sick and disabled people every week, then decide whether they’re ‘fit for work’."
Tara Flood celebrates her second gold medal

One of those taking part in the opening ceremony was Tara Flood a Paralympic swimmer who won a gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Paralympic games as well as 2 silver and 4 bronzes there and in the two other games she took part in. Along with two activists in wheelchairs she got on the podium and was awarded another gold medal and the others silver and bronze.

Paralympian gold medal winner Tara Flood is stripped of her gold medal and blue badge

Then along came an ATOS doctor who administered a fitness for work test, first on Tara. She was found fit to work and the gold medal was cut off and her disabled parking card taken away; the others were also found fit to work, losing their medals and benefits too.

The ATOS Games continued, and on Wednesday 29th I photographed DPAC deliver a coffin to the ATOS offices in Triton Square. Friday 31 saw them again outside the ATOS offices for the Closing Atos Ceremony which included the Atos Miracle Cure, making disabled people fit for work.

As the closing ceremony was coming to an end there was a special announcement that there would be another action elsewhere and eventually we learnt that some disabled activists had entered and occupied the lobby of the DWP.

I jumped on a bus, but should have taken the underground as the traffic was heavy in places, but I still got there before the main crowd who had travelled from the protest at the Atos offices. Police would not let them join the 20 or so who were inside so they protested on the pavement in front of the building. There were speeches and then a lot of minor scuffles when police tried to push the protesters back and I had to leave before the protest ended.

More on My London Diary:
DPAC Occupy Dept of Work & Pensions
Closing Atos Ceremony
Disabled Pay Respect to Atos Victims
Opening Ceremony for the Atos Games

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.