Posts Tagged ‘WCA’

Discriminatory Welfare Reforms 2016

Tuesday, November 16th, 2021

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard speaking

Five years ago it was a cold, wet and windy night on Wednesday 16th December as I tried to photograph a protest in Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament by Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle as inside Tory MPs were voting for the Welfare Reform and Act 2016 which abolished the work-related activity component of the Employment and Support Allowance for new claimants from April 2017.

Candle tribute to DPAC co-founder Debbie Jolly

ESA is a benefit for those who have a health condition or disability which limits their ability to work. To claim it people have to undergo a Work Capability Assessment, which either find them fit for work and so not eligible, decides they should go into a group which has to undertake ‘work-related activity’ which might at some later date make them capable of work or puts them into a support group where they are not required to undertake such activities.

Equivalent measures were also introduced for those who have been transferred to Universal Credit, and mean that those who have to undergo work-related activities will get roughly £30 a week less, a huge proportion of their benefits which would go down from £102 to £73 per week. The government claimed that this will “remove the financial incentives that could otherwise discourage claimants from taking steps back to work” and when proposed said it would save £640 million a year by 2020-21.

Andy Greene of DPAC chaired the event

The House of Lords amended the bill to remove the cut, but the amendment was overturned by the Tory majority in the House of Commons.

Green Party co-Leader Jonathan Bartley

The protest came after the report of a United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) inquiry had published a report condemning the ‘grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights’ which had resulted from the UK government welfare reforms.

Claire Glasman of WinVisible speaking

The event also included a vigil with candles and a silence in memory of one of the co-founders of DPAC, Debbie Jolly who had died the previous week. The group was founded to campaign against the unfair Work Capability Assessments in 2010. Unsound in their nature the tests were conducted by largely unqualified staff working with incentives and targets to fail claimanst by commercial companies including Atos.

John McDonnell MP with Rebecca Long-Bailey holding an umbrella

There was a long list of speakers including SNP MP Tommy Sheppard, Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDOnnell, Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley, Claire Glasman of WinVisible and John McArdle of Black Triangle and I tried hard to take photographs and keep my cameras and flash unit and LED light as dry as possible. The LED light was really not powerful enough except at very close distances and there was very little ambient light in the area. I was having problems taking pictures and these were not helped when at a critical point the six AA batteries fell out of the LED unit as I had forgotten to fix the back in place, and rolled across the pavement and into the crowd listening to the speeches. Fortunately those around me picked them up and handed them back to me.

This wasn’t an occasion for great pictures, but I was pleased to have been able to produce a reasonably decent set of images despite the weather and the lousy light.


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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.


April Fools Day

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

The idea of a day – or rather a morning – for largely harmless pranks to be played on others on April 1st seems to have been fairly widespread around many countries, but the seems to be no real explanation of its origin, but it seems to date back as least into the middle ages. The choice of date is suggested by some to have marked the end of the week of celebrations for the New Year, which was traditionally celebrated across Europe on March 25 until the sixteenth century.

There have been some celebrated hoaxes over the years – and those of us who were around in 1957 still remember the spaghetti harvest on the BBC with its narration by Richard Dimbleby, which fooled much of the nation and amused the rest of us. But so many of today’s news stories and government pronouncements throughout the year now seem so bizarre and unbelievable that I now am disappointed when no-one comes on afterwards to shout ‘April Fool!’

On several occasions in recent years I’ve found myself covering protests outside our Atomic Weapons factory at Aldermaston on April 1st and it’s long seemed to me that our government’s policy on nuclear deterrence is at best a complete hoax – but so far no government has stood up to admit this.

But I wrote about Aldermaston a few days ago, so today I’ll look elsewhere and to April 1st 2014, where I photographed three events in central London, one of which was by probation officers, naming then Justice Minister Chris Grayling whose birthday it was an ‘April Fool’, a judgement adequately confirmed by the failure of his reforms of probation and legal aid, and by his performance in later Government Ministries. Who can forget his no-deal Brexit ferry fiasco which resulted in us taxpayers forking out an extra £50 million on termination bonuses including to the firm with no ferries? ‘Failing Grayling’ is a truly well earned epithet.

But the first event on that day was a picket by disablement activists at the Department of Work and Pensions HQ in Westminster, then run by Iain Duncan Smith, another Tory with a rather too consistent record of failure. Among the groups protesting were the Mental Health Resistance Network who successfully took the DWP to court over the discrimination against people with mental health conditions built in to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The DWP lost their appeal against the judgement but had defied the court in failing to address the issue.

Along with the MHRN were campaigners from DPAC and Winvisible and the picket was one of a number around the country demanding that assessments of work capability and personal independence payments be carried out by local GPs rather than the discredited tests by IT companies such as ATOS, which are inadequate by design and deliberately administered to disadvantage claimants, with trick questions and falsification of responses to meet targets set by the companies for the largely unsuitably qualified staff who administer them.

From the DWP in Caxton St it was a short walk to Parliament Square, where Kurds and Alevi were protesting against the attacks on the Kurdish areas in Northern Syria by forces supported by Turkey.

Kurds want justice and autonomy for northern Syria, where the area known as Rojava has a constitution that supports the rights of women and of all its population groups based on widespread community involvement. Many at the protest had flags for the PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) which, like the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) calls for the release of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, held in a Turkish jail since 1999. The PKK was made a proscribed organisation in the UK in 2001 probably at the request of the Turkey, one of our NATO allies, who have a long record of discrimination and attempts to eliminate Kurdish culture and invaded and occupied Kurdish areas of Syria in 2016, implementing a policy of ethnic cleansing of the Kurds.

The largest of the protests on 1st April 2014 was by probation officers and lawyers from the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association and other supporters of the Justice Alliance against the moves to privatise probation and cut legal aid.

Among the speakers at the event were two shadow ministers of justice and other MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, as well as Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, trade unionists, and solicitors as well as several probabtion officers.

Following the rally in Parliament Square, the campaigners marched the short distance to the Ministry of Justice, where Tom Robinson led the singing of “the alternative ‘Happy Birthday’ and unwrapped a couple of presents for InJustice Minister Chris Grayling, a packet of Skittles (as bought by Travon Martin) and a copy of ‘The Book Thief’. Grayling had just announced that he was to stop books being sent to prisoners in UK jails.” A small group then delivered a birthday cake with a tombstone with the message ‘RIP Justice’ to the ministry.

More at:
Probation Officers Strike for Justice
Kurds protest at Rojava attacks
DWP & Atos Work Assessments

Atos & more – 19 Feb 2014

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Seven years ago, 19 Feb 2014 was a big day for protests, particularly as campaign groups Disabled people Against Cuts (DPAC), Black Triangle, Atos Miracles, the Green Party, NUS, Occupy New Network, PCS, Unite and many others were taking part in a National Day of Action against Atos for its institutionally incompetent Work Capability Assessment testing of disabled people which has resulted in many disabled people being unfairly refused benefits.

There were protests at each of the 144 Atos testing centres around the country, including those at Wimbledon, Neasden, Marylebone, Highgate, Ealing, Balham and Croydon in London, but I only photographed them at the Atos offices in Triton Square, just north of the Euston Rd.

Even a report commissioned for the government pointed out serious flaws, and over 40% of appeals after people have had their benefits cut by Atos assessments have been allowed a figure rising to over 70% where the appellants have been assisted in their appeals by benefits experts. These appeals take months, during which people are thrown into abject poverty, and often having won on appeal claimants are within a few weeks again penalised by a new Atos assessment.

Atos apparently get paid more for finding people fit to work, and use simplistic tests and often tricks to do so, with no quality control or penalty for those tests which are overturned on appeal. The protesters called for the company to lose its contracts and be prosecuted for its mishandling of the tests, and for these tests to be abandoned and the Minister responsible, Ian Duncan Smith to be sacked.

Many disabled people have been driven to suicide by these failed tests and the stressful appeals procedures. The government figures for January to November 2011 showed that 10,600 people, an average of 223 a week, died withing six weeks of having been found fit for work by ATOS. The Department of Work and Pensions scandalous response to the public outcry when these figures were released was not to take action to make the improvements that were clearly needed, but simply to refuse to respond to requests for similar information for later years. The campaigners say that assessments of fitness to work should be made by qualified medical doctors, ideally by “the GP who regularly sees and treats the sick or disabled individual in question” who they say “is the only person able to decide if an individual is fit for work.”

Among those I heard speaking outside Atos HQ were MP Dennis Skinner, Paula Peters of DPAC, Among those I heard speaking outside Atos HQ were MP Dennis Skinner, Paula Peters of DPAC, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, journalist Sonia Poulton and the Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty. You can read more about the protest and see more pictures at Atos National Day of Action.


I left the Atos protest briefly to cover three further events. The first at the Iraqi consultate in Kensington was a solidarity vigil by the wife and daughter of Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen held and tortured in Iraq by US and Iraqis since his arrest in 2004, and now in Abu Ghraib. They were accompanied by two supporters at one of their regular vigils calling for his release. You can read more about the vigil and the case at Solidarity vigil for Shawki Ahmed Omar.



Next was a picket at the Irish Embassy close to Marble Arch to demand the immediate release of Margaretta D’Arcy, imprisoned for protesting against illegal US flights from Shannon Airport, and now in Mountjoy Women’s Prison, Dublin. More about this at Free Margaretta D’Arcy picket.



Third was a protest called by my own union the NUJ at the Egyptian Embassy in Mayfair, for press freedom in the country and calling for the release of all jailed journalists, including the four Al Jazeera journalists. More at NUJ demands Egypt release jailed journalists.


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.


16th January 2013

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

Probably the best way to describe my work on Wednesday 16th January would be varied, and that’s one of the things that attracts me to photographing protests on the streets of London. I was never quite sure what I would find or what would happen, and every protest brought its own problems in terms of photography, and also sometimes in how to write about them.

I started the day with Pussy Riot, or rather with protesters in solidarity with them on an International Day of Solidarity with Maria Alyokhina, attending a court hearing today over her plea for her sentence to be suspended so she can raise her son until he is 14. She was one of three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot sentenced for their performance of an anti-Putin “punk anthem” in a Moscow Orthodox cathedral in February, and was sent to a prison camp in Siberia for two years.

I had expected rather more protesters than the small group I found there, as the case had attracted considerable publicity, but perhaps it was too early on a cold January morning to attract many. It isn’t either a very good place to protest, as the actual embassy is hidden away a few yards down a private road roughly opposite where protests (and photographer) are strictly forbidden. But I also left fairly promptly after the time set for the start of a protest, and numbers may have grown later.

Pussy Riot London Solidarity Demonstration


There were more people, including quite a few that I knew, at a rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand. Many were disabled, with a few in wheelchairs, but more who have mental health conditions, along with a number of pensioners, trade unionists from the court branch of the PCS and other supporters and the protest was organised by disabled activist groups including DPAC and the Mental Health Resistance Network.

Inside the court a tribunal was hearing a judicial review into Work Capablility Assessments on the grounds they violate the Equality Act, not being accessible for those with mental health conditions, and several of those speaking at the rally had personal stories to tell of how they had suffered as a result.

Mental health conditions are often spasmodic, which may result in claimants on a good day not seeming very ill and on a bad day being unable to attend an assessment – which results in them being automatically judged fit for work. Few of those carrying out the tests had sufficient knowledge and experience in the area of mental health to be able to sensibly conduct the assessment, and medical records were often not taken into consideration.

It seems totally ridiculous for benefits which people need because of their medical conditions not to be assessed on the basis of reports by the doctors who have examined and know their patients, but we have a system that instead tries to deny benefits on the basis of often arbitrary ‘tests’ by unqualified staff.

Equality Protest Against ATOS Work Assessments


Another protest was taking place outside the courts, which I hadn’t been aware of, and it had a very different atmosphere which I found rather chilling.

There was something very organised about it, with people dressed in red and all the placards carefully printed and it lacked the kind of spontaneity. Although it was a protest against the use of drugs to treat mental illness, some of those taking part gave the impression that they had been drugged.

Drugs are certainly misused in the treatment of people with mental health issues, though I think there are occasions when they are an important part in improving people’s health. And certainly they are over-used as a way to avoid treating the real causes of some people’s problems which come largely from poverty, lousy housing and terrible jobs. But there seemed to be something very wrong in some of the assertions that were being made.

I hadn’t heard of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, and was not really surprised when I looked it up on the web and found it described on Wikipedia as ‘a Scientology front group which campaigns against psychiatry and psychiatrists‘ established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology.

And as I wrote when I put these pictures on line:

it seems unfair to dismiss all of psychiatry as their banner did as ‘Junk Science and Dangerous Drugs‘ and I find it impossible from personal experience to deny the existence of medical conditions such as depression – or to dismiss the utility of some drugs in the treatment of mental conditions.

Stop Psychiatry Drugging Kids