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!

Jul 042011
 
hand palm with words'hands off'

hands off our services...

Hands Off Our Care and Support Services, Our Benefits, and Our Futures!

Rally of Birmingham City Council Meeting

5.00pm Tuesday 5 July 2011

Outside Council House, Victoria Square

It is becoming increasingly clear that those who will be hardest hit by austerity cuts are those with least money and resources  –disabled people, mental health service users, carers, older people and those on benefits. In Birmingham the council plans to cut £33.2m from support and care services by raising eligibility thresholds. This will mean five thousand people in the city losing vital support. Cuts include the closure of six older people’s residential homes, increased charges for personal care, and the loss of skilled care workers as services become increasingly reliant on lower paid casual staff. A recent Panorama on the abuse of disabled residents at the Castlebeck unit showed the horrific results of providing social care on the cheap through privatised companies. Yet now the council is also proposing to privatise social work services using social enterprises. This will mean social work is turned into a business and workers forced to compete for contracts.

In addition many of those affected by cuts, disabled people and those with severe and terminal medical conditions, are also being forced to undergo  ‘work capability assessments’ and declared fit for work by the hated multinational Atos Origin which will profit from an outsourced £300 million government contract. This system has already led several claimants to commit suicide.

However, care service users and social and care workers are increasingly questioning why they should pay for a crisis caused not by them but by bankers. And so care staff and their unions in Birmingham are joining forces with disabled people to save our services and campaign against these discriminatory cuts.

In May a High Court judge ruled Birmingham council’s plans were unlawful under the Disability Discrimination Act and these cutback plans were put on hold. This is a fantastic victory but will only be the start of the fight back necessary. To build on this campaigners from Disabled People Against Cuts, Birmingham City Unison,  West Midlands Social Work Action Network, Right to Work campaign and Birmingham Against the Cuts have launched a joint campaign.

unison logoThere will be a month of action in July against austerity measures in Birmingham to coincide with the first UK monitoring report of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Activities will include a lobby of the first full council meeting since the election at 5pm on 5th July in Victoria Square and a public meeting on

20th July at the Unite (TGWU) Offices, 211 Broad Street from right to work logo630pm

We invite you to join us in demanding better public services for service users and those working in them not more cuts and marketisation.

Later in July, there will be a public meeting of all five sponsoring organisations (DPAC, SWAN, RtoW, Birmingham UNISON, and BATC). This will take place as follows

Hands Off Our Care and Support Services, Our Benefits and Our Futures Public Meeting

6.00pm Tuesday 20 July 2011
Transport House Broad Street, Birmingham

The five sponsoring groups are preparing a detailed pamphlet setting out the range of threats to services and benefits for disabled people, from council cuts in services, the privatisation of Social Work, to the cuts in benefits and the new medical assessment process. This will be published at the end of July.

Email us on mail@dpac.uk.net if you would like to take an active part in our campaign.

Jul 012011
 

Steven Sumpter‘s speech for DPAC at the Birmingham rally:

Disabled People Against Cuts stands today in unity with public sector workers and their unions against discriminatory cuts to our education, care and support services.

With such savage, rapid and all-encompassing cutbacks taking place, disabled people’s rights are being pushed back decades.  In education, disabled children will be pushed towards segregated special schools as funding for inclusive education is cut and more Academies set up with their tendency to discriminate against disabled pupils, with the effect that disabled people will not have educational opportunities and will remain marginalised and disempowered. And disabled people also face job losses through cuts to the public sector which employs hundreds of thousands of disabled people across the country.

Here in Birmingham, the Council plans to cut £33.2 million from its care and support budget. 5000 disabled and older people will lose vital services as charges for personal care go up, skilled support workers are made redundant and social work services are privatised. The latest proposal to raise the eligibility threshold still further has been temporarily stopped by a court case but the Council is planning to start its consultation process all over again and to continue to push through changes which will see a further 4000 disabled and older people lose services. Many will have their support provided by the lowest bidder as the Council plans to privatise all jobs in adult care.  Organisations which once defended the rights of disabled people in Birmingham have been reduced –there were once 3 main disabled people’s organisations ,  only one is left with reduced capacity and funding. Cuts to disabled people are felt across the local economy. Cut hours to paid support workers  means wider job cuts and losses to family income.

Birmingham City Council says that its new service offer “is based on the idea that the vast majority of people can use their own resources and skills to care for themselves.”  But independent living is not about disabled people doing things for ourselves, it is about receiving the support we need in order to have the same life chances as other people and to take part in life equally and with dignity. What they are getting at by this “use their own resources”, what they really mean, what they want disabled people to do, is to use our emotional resources to come to accept what they want us to believe is our lot in life, to accept that although there is money for wars and weapons, there is money to make the rich even richer, there is money for chief executive and directors salaries, there is no money for us, no money for as many incontinence pads as we need in a day, no money for personal assistance for us to shower or go out, no money for support to stop us going into crisis; we are meant to accept our lot in life that is to sit in our own piss and shit and dirt for hours and days on end, our lot to stay trapped indoors, isolated and alone, or our lot to lose our homes altogether. It is patronising, offensive and plain wrong to assume that if you take away our support services we will suddenly “make an effort” and find we could have been doing things for ourselves all along.

DPAC will be lobbying the full Council meeting on July 5th at 5pm and having a public meeting on July 20th at the UNITE office on Broad Street to which anyone concerned about cuts to care services is invited.

More photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157626962085905/
Report and photos at the Birmingham Post http://www.birminghampost.net/news/west-midlands-news/2011/06/30/5-000-striking-public-sector-workers-gather-for-rally-in-birmingham-65233-28973270/

May 132011
 

London Triton Sq Party and Picnic 2pm

More photo accounts from Pete Riches Flickr
Photos also from Howard Jones at Demotix
From DPAC Flickr

Cambridge

Protesters  occupied a city-based office building that is home to Atos Healthcare, claiming the firm is “victimising” those with specific needs.

Banners were strung from the roof of the building and dozens of campaigners entered the office building in Hills Road, Cambridge, pledging to stay overnight.

The office was chosen because Atos won a recent Government contract to reassess incapacity benefit claimants and the demonstration was part of UK-wide action.

More at http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/Protesters-occupy-healthcare-building-12052011.htm

Picket and Picnic at Atos Glasgow 12 May 5pm-6pm

Picket and Picnic at Atos Glasgow 12 May 5pm-6pm

More from http://thecrutchcollective.blogspot.com

Over a dozen claimants and supporters managed to get our message out about Atos, that ‘They Rob From The Poor To Give To The Rich’ to hundreds of shoppers and people going home from work outside the Atos offices at 45 Gordon Street in the centre of Glasgow between 5pm and 6pm. Banners proclaimed that ‘Atos Are Making The Sick Pay For The Greedy Bankers Debt. ‘Atos Make A Profit Out Of The Misery Of The Sick’ was screamed out to passersby.

New people signed up to take part in the next anti-Atos demo on Monday 6th June between 6pm and 8pm at the Atos recruitment evening at the assessment centre, Corunna House, 29 Cadogan Street

Friday May 13th at noon outside Waterstones bookshop opposite  bull statue in Bullring centre DPAC was joined by supporters for leafleting and street  theatre ‘ The Computer Says NO’ an adaptation of a Brighton Benefit  Campaign play.

'Atos Kill' DPAC Birmingham

'Atos Kill' protestors DPAC Birmingham

DPAC co founders Linda Burnip, Eleanor Lisney and Bob Williams-Findlay and supporters were at Birmingham  handing out leaflets to interested  shoppers and doing an adaptation of  ‘The Computer Says No’ . The bystanders /audience were supportive and responded with gusto.Visitors who dropped by to say hello included Birmingham People First and from nearby EHRC regional office.

Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/disabledpeopleprotest/sets/72157626712433434/

Apr 262011
 

Right to Work Fight the cutsDPAC logo

Millions are set to be affected by savage cuts to housing, disability, sickness and welfare benefits. Disabled people, those with long term illness, the unemployed, single parents, carers the low waged, part time students, volunteers, homeless people and college students are all likely to see a devastating drop in disposable income with many slipping even further below the poverty line.

Thursday 12th May, 7pm

Speakers: the solicitor from Irwin Mitchell who has just won a case preventing Birmingham City Council changing eligibility criteria for care funding, Linda Burnip, Disabled People Against Cuts; Michael Bradley, Right to Work

Unison offices, 19th floor McClaren Tower, Priory Queensway. B4 7NN

Friday  13th, May, 12 noon

Outside Waterstones bookshop opposite bull statue in Bullring centre join us for leafleting and street theatre ‘ The Computer Says NO’ an adaptation of a Brighton Benefit Campaign play.

Demo at the Daily Mail 14th April

Demo at the Daily Mail 14th April

Apr 082011
 
DEMONSTRATE FOR AN ALTERNATIVE – PCS – Standing up for public services
Assemble: Outside the Civil Service Live Event
Birmingham International Convention Centre
Birmingham B1 2EA

Friday 15th April 9:00am
Francis Maude Minister for civil service and Sir Gus O’Donnell, permanent secretary of the cabinet office will be attending the event to outline the future

Feb 272011
 

Bob Findlay DPAC joined activists in Birmingham today from  major trade unions in the city, including UNISON, GMB, CYWU, UNITE, NUT, UNITE, UCU, NASUWT, PCS, CWU as well as campaigns such as  UK UNCUT, community choirs and residents associations.

About 1,000 people marched through the city against £300 million of cuts which will devastate services and lead to 7,000 workers losing their jobs.

It was said that  there will be cuts of £50 million of adult care budget, 11,000 disabled people to lose their eligibility to funding, and £4 million will be cut off support for disabled pupils in schools.

In an interview with Central television, DPAC co founder Bob Findlay, spoke of disabled people who will “end up prisoners in their own homes”

Demonstration gathered at Birmingham Cathedral and marched through the main shopping streets. As the march reached a branch of Barclays protestors stopped and chanted ‘pay your taxes’. As they reached each of Philip Green’s shops the chant was repeated. BHS shut their doors.

At the same time as the march UKuncut protestors were targetting a number of shops for not paying tax.

Feb 012011
 

Birmingham City Council are implementing £320 million of cuts which will have a drastic and very negative impact on provision of care and support for disabled people.

The eligibility criteria are to moved again to extra-critical only which will exclude huge numbers of disabled people in Birmingham from receiving the support they need to live inclusive and independent lives. We have submitted a FOI request to get more idea of numbers this would involve.

This protest is only a few days before the council meet to vote through the cuts. It is vital that we as disabled people have a presence at this demonstration.

Assemble Victoria Square,  noon Saturday February 26th