Aug 282012
 

More than twenty people attended the protest at ATOS healthcare’s Arden House assessment centre in Newcastle upon Tyne on 28 August.

As well as disabled people negatively affected by the decisions of ATOS and members of Disabled People Against Cuts, supporters from a number of local anti-cuts groups including Newcastle Anti Cuts Network, Unite the Resistance and Youth Fight for Jobs and Education attended.

A number of people spoke about their personal situations and the negative impact the Work Capability Assessment and the benefits process in general has had on their lives.

Others warned about the impact continuing ‘welfare reform’ will have on those who experience mental health problems, and the impact this pressure and income reduction will have on their families and children.

While there was criticism of the culture and attitude of ATOS and its management towards benefit claimants, someone made the point that ATOS’s workers are members of the PCS trade union who had voted recently for industrial action on the issue of pay.

We approached the centre’s manager and offered to organise a public meeting for disabled claimants and their families where ATOS would be given the opportunity to defend their Work Capability Assessment to those affected by it, but they weren’t keen on this idea.

Local activists are meeting for a coffee at Newcastle Central Library at 1pm on Saturday 1 September to discuss what to do next.

Our leaflet for the protest made the following points:

• The medical assessment company ATOS Origin portray themselves as the friends of disabled people through their sponsorship of the Paralympics, while at the same time working with the Department for Work and Pensions to remove more than a million disabled people off incapacity benefits.

• ATOS Origin’s healthcare division administers a brutal assessment called the Work Capability Assessment that was first introduced in 2008 by New Labour along with the Employment and Support Allowance.

• Even young disabled people with life-limiting conditions that mean they will die in their late teens or early twenties have to fill in an intrusive medical form before a decision is taken as to whether they should be formally assessed or not.

• 70% of ATOS decisions declaring disabled people as ‘fit for work’ are overturned on appeal where somebody is represented.

• Following a unanimous vote at the British Medical Association’s GPs annual conference in May 2012, it is now the policy of Britain’s 44,000 General Practitioner’s to campaign for the scrapping of the Work Capability Assessment.

• The right-wing press point to stories of incapacity and disability benefit fraud based on a sprinkling of cases, but they have been quick to forget about the expenses scandal involving the very MPs who voted for ‘welfare reform’.

• ATOS Origin has made hundreds of millions from running the Work Capability Assessment for the DWP, and has now been awarded the contract to reassess millions of disabled people for the new Personal Independence Payments.

• We call for the Work Capability Assessment and recent Welfare Reform Acts to be scrapped, the DWP’s contracts with ATOS Origin and all private companies to end immediately, and the introduction of a more humane and compassionate welfare system where claimants are assessed and supported according to their abilities and needs linked to policies to create full employment.

 

Aug 282012
 

Reposted from Birmingham Against the Cuts with thanks

 

Report and Photos From Today’s DPAC Demonstration in Birmingham


Around 20 people demonstrated today outside the ATOS assessment centre in Birmingham as part of a week of actionprotesting the Working Capability Assessment (WCA) which is run by ATOS for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and is supposed to assess whether someone on disability benefits is fit for work, but has come under large amounts of criticism for failing to do that – and in the process punishing many disabled people by pushing them off disability benefits onto unemployment benefits and workfare.The week of action is taking place during the Paralympics because ATOS are one of the main sponsors. Their core business is as an IT outsourcing company, but like Capita and Serco they have moved into taking all government outsourcing contracts. The contract to run the WCA is £100m/year – and we pay an additional £50m each yearfor the appeals process to correct the huge number of people that ATOS declare fit for work who go through the appeal process and have the decision reversed – a process that can take over a year.Around 40% of appeal are successful – a figure that rises to 70% for people who have advocates or legal advice. Many people go to CAB for this advice, but Birmingham residents will soon find their access restricted, as funding cuts mean that CAB will probably be closing all but the city centre branch. At the same time, legal aid is being cut for welfare & benefit appeals, firmly closing the door on disabled people accessing legal advice.In a recent Dispatches program, a doctor went undercover to record the training process for ATOS, and was told by his trainer that ESA (the new disability benefit brought in by New Labour in 2008 to replace Incapacity Benefit) and the WCA are designed to remove people from disability benefits, and that they expect ATOS to find 89% of people fit for work.

The human cost of this target is huge, with 32 people a week dying after being declared fit for work. Many disabled people have died from their illness shortly after being told they are fit for work, including a local man who died of his heart condition just 3 weeks after ATOS told him he was fit to work.

Talk to disabled people about ATOS and the one thing you will hear time and time again is fear. The fear strikes when the letter arrives calling you for assessment. This letter comes even if you have an incurable, unchanging or degenerative condition. The tests can happen annually, and some people even find themselves called for reassessment just weeks after they have had a successful appeal. Or it comes when you receive the ESA50 form to apply for the benefit, a big lump of paper, designed to scare and confuse, intended so that people will not complete it properly. If you’re filling one of these in, do get advice, especially if you have a variable condition.

The fear continues as you wait for the assessment, knowing that doctors advice will be ignored in favour of a ticklist that doesn’t take into account variable conditions, doesn’t mention work and will award no points for manual dexterity if you can use one finger on one hand. (zero points means there is no problem).
Fear stays there until you receive the letter telling you if you are fit for work or not. You might get put in the “support group” where it’s accepted that you aren’t going to be able to work. Or the “Work Related Activity Group” (WRAG), where they say you are fit for work of some kind with the right support (and if there were jobs available, or employers willing to take on someone who will need more time off than other people for medical appointments, or runs the risk of falling very ill very quickly.. but they don’t mention these barriers to employment of course). Or you get told you are fit for work and pushed off to JSA unemployment benefit.
And the fear doesn’t stop then – the wait for the reassessment for those in the support and WRAG groups, the loss of income and support for those kicked off to JSA, the impending prospect of the Work Programme and workfare for those found fit for work (either in the WRAG group or like anyone else unemployed and on JSA), and the sanctions regime that has seen tens of thousands of disabled people lose benefits for up to 6 months.

The fear needs to end, the WCA needs to be suspended now, and altered in a major way so that it is a fair assessment, and ATOS need to be removed from the contract.

You can still take part in the ATOS games and help to make this happen:

Tommorrow (Wed 29th), DPAC will deliver a coffin full of messages from you.

On Thursday 30th: Phone jam! Let’s flood Atos with calls, and generate a Twitter-storm they can’t ignore!

Then on Friday 31st, join DPAC in London where they’re teaming up with UK Uncut for the Closing ATOS ceremony, at ATOS HQ in Triton Square, London from 12:45.

For more information on these events, go to the DPAC website

Thanks for the photos from @BrumProtestor on Twitter.

More photos from Stalingrad O’Neill with thanks!

Aug 282012
 

Report from Swansea

Disabled people, family members and anti-cuts campaigners took a
protest to the Atos assessment centre in Swansea today against the
flawed and hated “work capability assessment” and disability cuts.

On a main road with banners reading “Cuts are Disabling: Fight Every
Cut”, “ATOS: Not fit for purpose”, “Scrap these flawed tests”, “Stop
privatisation of the DWP” we got lots of support from passers by,
including a speaker from the Swansea Bay Racial Equality Council who
spoke in support at the rally.

  swansea Atos Protest

 

 

Oct 032011
 

More from Nottingham Indymedia

People in Nottingham, joined a National Day of Action against ATOS Healthcare and the government’s attack on benefits for people with disability and illness through the ‘Work Capability Test’ and Welfare Reform Bill.

Protesters assembled in Hockley, Nottingham city centre, to head over to protest at the ATOS assessment centre on Stoney Street.

This organisation has the government contract to re-assess claimants for the disability allowances.  But folks claim that all they are doing is shifting people from this benefit to other lesser benefits like Job Seekers Allowance. Irrespective of the claimants abilities.

On arrival at the office, people gathered arround the entrance, displaying banners and handing out leaflets. Protestors, including many in wheelchairs and some partially-sighted then entered the office. Claimants and supporters then exchanged stories of what assesment by Atos had meant to them.

Police and protestors

After about 30mins, 4 police cars containing 7 or 8 police officers arrived at the building. After talking to Atos management, then proceeded to read out the section of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, concerning ‘aggravated tresspass’.   This included the bit about obstructing or disrupting a lawful activity and workers there feeling intimidated by all these folks in wheelchairs in the outer office!  As you would expect, this was greeted with a certain amount of credulity!! Anyway the threat was clear.  Leave within minutes or all would be arrested.
++++++

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1994/33/section/69

69 Powers to remove persons committing or participating in aggravated trespass.

(1)If the senior police officer present at the scene reasonably believes—

(a)that a person is committing, has committed or intends to commit the offence of aggravated trespass on land [F1...in the open air]… ; or

(b)that two or more persons are trespassing on land [F2...in the open air]… and are present there with the common purpose of intimidating persons so as to deter them from engaging in a lawful activity or of obstructing or disrupting a lawful activity,

he may direct that person or (as the case may be) those persons (or any of them) to leave the land.

(2)A direction under subsection (1) above, if not communicated to the persons referred to in subsection (1) by the police officer giving the direction, may be communicated to them by any constable at the scene.

(3)If a person knowing that a direction under subsection (1) above has been given which applies to him—

(a)fails to leave the land as soon as practicable, or

(b)having left again enters the land as a trespasser within the period of three months beginning with the day on which the direction was given,

he commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale, or both

Note:

[F1...in the open air] [F2...in the open air]

these words removed by the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 sect 59 …… Hence now, anywhere!

++++++

Most then leave, but one man in a wheelchair and another, did remain and where then arrested.  One was then lead off in handcuffs to the Bridwell Police Station for processing. I was expecting the man in the wheelchair might have been dragged out in handcuffs and manhandled about [Joddy McIntyre style], but seeing my photo-opportunity they might have created, ‘street bailed’ the individual and he was allowed to leave un-molested.

Atos being true to form [with police assistance] thus showed themselves to be the bullying organisation, many of the most vulnerable people amongst us already knew………

Atos Origin have £300 million contract with the Con-dem Government to continue carrying out ‘work capability assessments’. It is claimed assessments are to test what people can do rather than what they can’t. The real purpose is to strip benefits from as many people as possible. This testing system has already led to people with terminal illnesses and severe medical conditions being declared fit for work and having benefits cut. GP’s are ignored in favour of decisions made by Atos Origin’s computer. Plans announced for the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance have also revealed that this intrusive testing is likely to be extended to everyone on some form of disability or health related benefit. To date around 40% of appeals against Atos Origin’s decisions have been successful.

Atos have now extended their harassment of sick and disabled by using legal threats to silence websites which have been critical of them, see the Benefit Claimants Fightback website below for more details. http://benefitclaimantsfightback.wordpress.com/

JCP and Atos Origin superglued shut

http://nottingham.indymedia.org/articles/1893

Superglue Atos: The glue in question :-)

http://nottingham.indymedia.org/tumbles/1895

Oct 012011
 

I haven’t been able to get the full story yet but it seems that around 30 protesters occupied the Nottingham Atos medical assessment centre shortly after 12pm today in protest at the company’s role in forcing people with medical conditions into work. Two people were arrested for aggravated trespass including one person in a wheelchair that the police were unable to fit into their van. He was charged on the spot and bailed whilst the other was taken to the Bridewell police station. A solidarity protest was held outside which was swelled in the evening by 30 cyclists from the Nottingham critical mass. Just as we arrived at around 6.30 the arrestee was released to much bell ringing and applause!

Prisoner freed!

Today’s critical mass was well attended with 2 sound systems and we had a good old tour around town before heading to the Sumac for a special post-CM people’s kitchen. Drivers’ tempers were a little bit more frayed than usual thanks to the hot day but the mass was good humoured and fun. Our show of solidarity to the anti-Atos people was definitely a highlight – especially as we were there to see the man released.

From Nottingham indymedia

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