Nov 042012
 

DISABLED PEOPLE AGAINST CUTS (DPAC) CAERDYDD PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE ISSUE
CONTACT – Disabled People Against Cuts Caerdydd, 07855510534
 
STARTS
A disabled person in his 30s will lead a five day hunger strike and vigil outside the ATOS office on St Agnes Road, Gabalfa, Cardiff to protest a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) declaring him fit for work and cutting his benefits.
Christos Palmer, who has both mental and physical health problems, including depression, self-harm and mobility issues, hopes the protest will highlight the suffering of disabled people caused by current government policies.
 
ATOS, the French IT company that carries out the controversial Work Capability Assessments for the DWP has been the subject of widespread condemnation from disability charities and the British Medical Assocation who call for the assesments to be scrapped completely. The firm has been accused of target chasing for cutting the amount of people found eligible for benefits.

Rob Marsh, a protest spokesperson said,
 
“Earlier this year a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary revealed the DWP requires ATOS to reject the benefit claims of 7 out of 8 disabled claimants, resulting in immense suffering, homelessness, or death. The mark of a civilised society is how it addresses the needs of its most vulnerable members. Given what is happening to tens of thousands of disabled people in Britain today, we can no longer claim to be a civilized society.

Our campaign is part of a national campaign that goes by the name “Atos Kills”. This is based on well-documented evidence that approximately 32 disabled people a week died last year after their Atos Work Capability Assessments deemed them “fit to work” and stopped benefits. This year the figure has  risen to 73 deaths per week including suicides”
 
A spokesperson from Disabled People Against Cuts in Cardiff said,

 “While we support the protest aims we are extremely concerned about Christos’s physical and mental wellbeing. He often suffers from extreme fatigue and is housebound on some days. That somebody so unwell has been driven to this shows the desperation that the sick and disabled are being driven to by this government. We are urging him to end his hunger strike”
 
The protest begins on Monday at 8 am and end on Friday afternoon.
ENDS
 
NOTES FOR JOURNALISTS
 
Press are suggested to attend at 12 noon on Monday.
Rob Marsh, Disabled People Against Cuts Caerdydd Spokesperson – 07855510534

The peaceful week long vigil against Atos outside their Gabalfa offices on St. Agnes Road aims to start every day starting at 8am and finishing roughly at 4pm at earliest, from Monday 5 – Friday 9 November, times will vary depending on the weather and other factors. Christos aims to be on hunger strike throughout the protest, supporters are strongly trying to persuade him not to go on hunger strike.
 
Christos Palmer, a former IT technician has been medically diagnosed with both mental and physical health problems, including depression, self-harm and mobility issues.  He has asked that Rob Marsh of Disabled People Against Cuts Caerdydd to be a press spokesperson for the protest
 
According to an FOI (Freedom of Information) response publicised by the Daily Mail journalist Sonia Poulton on October 7, the current weekly average Atos/DWP death toll of people found fit for work after an ESA work capability assessment now stands at 73 people per week.
 
A FOI in April revealed in 2011 an average of 32 dying a week after failing test for new incapacity benefit. More than a thousand ­sickness benefit claimants died last year after being told to get a job.
http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/investigations/2012/04/32-die-a-week-after-failing-in.html
 
There have been numerous horror stories in the media of people with terminal illnesses (in one infamous case even someone in a coma) being declared fit for work by ATOS and having their benefits cut.
 
Recent Stories:
‘A GRIEVING boy of 13 has accused Atos of killing his disabled dad. Kieran McArdle told the Daily Record in a harrowing letter how his father Brian, 57, collapsed and died the day after his disability benefits were stopped. He had been assessed by Atos and deemed “fit for work”’
http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2012/11/01/atos-benefits-bullies-killed-my-sick-dad-says-devastated-kieran-mcardle-13/
 
‘A cancer sufferer, who had her benefits cut by government officials who said she was fit to work, has died’.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-19433535
 
‘I sought this debate in order to raise the case of one of my constituents, Colin Traynor, who was epileptic. He was assessed as fit for work, yet died less than four months later’ (Michael Meacher MP)
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2012-09-13a.532.0
 
Website documenting many of the deaths caused by government welfare reform
http://calumslist.org/

DPAC want to make it very clear that we do not recommend hunger strikes nor do we agree with them. We respect Christos’ choice and understand his reasons, but would be happier with a different method of protest. However, we support Christos’ aims and those of fellow protesters at the Cardiff Vigil.

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  14 Responses to “DISABLED PROTESTOR TO STAGE VIGIL & HUNGER STRIKE OUTSIDE OF ATOS OFFICES IN CARDIFF”

  1. Well done Christos. I was heartened to see the support that turned up at your demo.

    Perhaps a more permanent demo could be arranged when the weather improves. The demo at the Aneurin Bevan Statue seemed to go well. We have to keep on at ’em.

    In the words of your and my MP, who supports our cause, the only way to eat an elephant is by taking one bite at a time. It may take a while but it willl eventually be consumed.

    I have been eating elephant for some years now and my appetite is undiminished.

  2. Mary Kitt says we must insist that a new government disband the WCA but that is 2 and a half years away. How many people will die in that time?
    If I lived in Wales I would go and join Christos that is how strongly I feel about this, yes as Mary states it’s wrong to starve yourself but people in Christos situation have been killing themselves because they simply cannot cope.

    It’s difficult enough surviving with an illness without having to worry about having no money to buy food or being able to pay the rent.
    People are being left with no choice but to claim JSA and are then forced onto work schemes even though they are seriously ill

    I myself was awarded 0 points after the WCA even though I have a chronic illness for which there is no cure. I have appealed but I have no idea how someone with mental health problems could summon the energy and determination to go through the appeal process, the sheer amount of obstacles that are put in your way just to get that appeal in are substantial. The stress and worry, a 28% deduction in my weekly benefit has impacted on my my health and made it much worse.

    How can those working for Atos hold their heads up, everything they do is against their duty as nurses and doctors. They should be banned for life, blood is on their hands – the fact that someone ill is forced to stage a hunger strike is evidence of how severe life is in Britain today.

    While the media obsess about Jimmy Saville, Ash trees and the US election, nothing is being said to the general public about this disgusting abuse of the sick and disabled.
    The silence from the Labour leadership is deafening on this issue, the opposition party? Mp’s are supposed to represent the people of this country, that means listening to the voice of the people not ignoring them.

    My thoughts are with you Christos keep warm and stay safe.
    Good Luck

  3. Mark Hoban said in Parliament today, “the WC Assessment is about assessing people’s ability to work”. Mark, it isn’t. Another Tory MP in today’s debate said that the Coalition was “honest” – it isn’t. I 100% support Chrstos, and do think that whilst such drastic action will not probably make any immediate difference, the publiciity might persuade people to accept what is actually happenning to people who are sick,ill, disabled, vulnerable, those with mental health issues and, let’s be honest, things are only going to get worse with PIP replacing DLA, and the introduction of the Universal Credit.

  4. Christos, you are a shining example of the determination that exists amongst disabled people, and others, when faced with draconian measures such as the WCA. I pledge my solidarity to you in your (our) battle against the vicious forces of neo-liberalism.

  5. Christos, this is a ballsy move on your part. As a fellow disabled bloke I wish you safety and strength for this protest.

  6. Dear Christos

    I really admire your courage and determination- I can understand how you have been driven to take extreme action due to my own awful experiences with ATOS and the DWP. I hope you will keep yourself as warm and hydrated as possible during your hunger strike and vigil as well as getting as much rest as you can.
    My thoughts are with you. I am going to do my utmost to come along on Thursday to support the vigil.
    Thank you for your bravery- we must prevail!

  7. I support you but what you are doing is not right. We must stick together and bring the govt to its knees by voting on the next general election and erradicate these cruel Victorian practices. We must insist that a new govt disband these creuly and inhumane practices

    • The next government will only continue in the same vein. It’s extreme and brave actions such as Christos’ which make a difference. It took one man to start the Arab Spring by setting himself alight at his market stall in protest. We must never forget the power of the individual.

    • We must indeed stick together. But my real concern is that there will be no Party standing in the next general election which will pledge itself to reinstate the benefit cuts.If Labour gets in,it will still cut, but with a smile on its face.There will still be the distinction made between “deserving” and “undeserving” benefit claimants. I would have more faith in Parties if a few of the MPs would really start speaking out about the vile, vicious attacks being made on claimants, especially the new sanctions coming in from December. Good luck, Christos,I hope you don’t add to your existing health concerns by taking this drastic action.

  8. thank you christos your bravery and spirit shows all we are not ready to be treated in this manner by this government
    the time has come for an independant assessment of so called atos assessors before gmc registration is allowed

  9. Thanks everyone for supporting me on this protest, sad that I have to use my body as a weapon against the British Govt. and the DWP/ATOS. I will end my hunger strike on Friday evening with some soup. It’ll take me some time to start eating normally. Sad to say, during this one week of protest, 73 disabled people will die

  10. Can everyone use the hashtag #AtosVigil on twitter when tweeting about this. Thanks.

    Also Facebook page is here https://www.facebook.com/events/430345053681756/

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